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What is Insurance?


Insurance, in law and economics, is a form of risk management primarily used to hedge against the risk of potential financial loss. Insurance is defined as the equitable transfer of the risk of a potential loss, from one entity to another, in exchange for a premium and duty of care.


Principles of Insurance

The timing or occurrence of the loss must be uncertain.

The rate of losses must be relatively predictable: In order to set premiums (prices) insurers must be able to estimate them accurately. If the coverage is unique, the insured will pay a correspondingly higher premium. Lloyd's of London often accepts unique coverages. (e.g., the insuring of Tina Turner's legs and Jennifer Lopez's bum)

The losses must be predictable on a macro level: Insurers need to know how much they would be required to pay when the insured-for event occurs. Most types of insurance have maximum levels of payouts, but not all do, notably health insurance.

The loss must be significant: The legal principle of De minimis dictates that trivial matters are not covered. Furthermore, rational insurance uses existing insurance when the transaction costs dictate that filing a claim is not rational.

The loss must not be catastrophic: If the insurer is insolvent, it will be unable to pay the insured. In the United States, there is a system of Guaranty Funds run at the state level to reimburse insured people whose insurance companies have become insolvent. This program is run by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC). To avoid catastrophic depletion of their own capital, insurers almost universally purchase reinsurance to protect them against excessively large accumulations of risk in a single area, and to protect them against large-scale catastrophes.


Indemnification

An entity seeking to transfer risk (an individual, corporation, or association of any type) becomes the 'insured' party once risk is assumed by an 'insurer', the insuring party, by means of a contract, defined as an insurance 'policy'. This legal contract sets out terms and conditions specifying the amount of coverage (compensation) to be rendered to the insured, by the insurer upon assumption of risk, in the event of a loss, and all the specific perils covered against (indemnified), for the term of the contract.

When insured parties experience a loss for a specified peril, the coverage entitles the policyholder to make a 'claim' against the insurer for the amount of loss as specified by the policy contract. The fee paid by the insured to the insurer for assuming the risk is called the 'premium'. Insurance premiums from many clients are used to fund accounts set aside for later payment of claims - in theory for a relatively few claimants - and for overhead costs. So long as an insurer maintains adequate funds set aside for anticipated losses, the remaining margin becomes their profit.

 

All text of this article available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License (see Copyrights for details).


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