Insurance involves pooling funds from many insured entities to pay for the losses that only some insureds may incur. The insured entities are therefore protected from risk for a fee, with the fee being dependent upon the frequency and severity of the event occurring. In order to be an insurable risk, the risk insured against must meet certain characteristics.
Insurance as a financial intermediary is a commercial enterprise and a major part of the financial services industry, but individual entities can also self-insure through saving money for possible future losses. Insurance is a means of protection from financial loss in which, in exchange for a fee, a party agrees to guarantee another party compensation in the event of a certain loss, damage, or injury. It is a form of risk management, primarily used to hedge against the risk of a contingent or uncertain loss. An entity which provides insurance is known as an insurer, insurance company, insurance carrier, or underwriter. A person or entity who buys insurance is known as a policyholder, while a person or entity covered under the policy is called an insured. Policyholder and insured are often used as but are not necessarily synonyms, as coverage can sometimes extend to additional insureds who did not buy the insurance. The insurance transaction involves the policyholder assuming a guaranteed, known, and relatively small loss in the form of a payment to the insurer (a premium) in exchange for the insurer’s promise to compensate the insured in the event of a covered loss. The loss may or may not be financial, but it must be reducible to financial terms. Furthermore, it usually involves something in which the insured has an insurable interest established by ownership, possession, or pre-existing relationship.
The insured receives a contract, called the insurance policy, which details the conditions and circumstances under which the insurer will compensate the insured, or their designated beneficiary or assignee. The amount of money charged by the insurer to the policyholder for the coverage set forth in the insurance policy is called the premium. If the insured experiences a loss which is potentially covered by the insurance policy, the insured submits a claim to the insurer for processing by a claims adjuster. A mandatory out-of-pocket expense required by an insurance policy before an insurer will pay a claim is called a deductible, or if required by a health insurance policy, a copayment. The insurer may hedge its own risk by taking out reinsurance, whereby another insurance company agrees to carry some of the risks, especially if the primary insurer deems the risk too large for it to carry. Any risk that can be quantified can potentially be insured. Specific kinds of risk that may give rise to claims are known as perils. An insurance policy will set out in detail which perils are covered by the policy and which are not. Below are non-exhaustive lists of the many different types of insurance that exist. A single policy may cover risks in one or more of the categories set out below. For example, vehicle insurance would typically cover both the property risk (theft or damage to the vehicle) and the liability risk (legal claims arising from an accident). A home insurance policy in the United States typically includes coverage for damage to the home and the owner’s belongings, certain legal claims against the owner, and even a small amount of coverage for medical expenses of guests who are injured on the owner’s property.
Business insurance can take a number of different forms, such as the various kinds of professional liability insurance, also called professional indemnity (PI), which are discussed below under that name; and the business owner’s policy (BOP), which packages into one policy many of the kinds of coverage that a business owner needs, in a way analogous to how homeowners’ insurance packages the coverages that a homeowner needs.