Insurance Terms 

The following is a list of key insurance terms and definitions to assist you in understanding your coverage.

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W

A

Accidental Death Benefit - In a life insurance policy, benefit in addition to the death benefit paid to the beneficiary, should death occur due to an accident. There can be certain exclusions as well as time and age limits.

Actual Cash Value - Cost of replacing damaged or destroyed property with comparable new property, minus depreciation and obsolescence. For example, a 10-year-old sofa will not be replaced at current full value because of a decade of depreciation.

Adjustable Rate - An interest rate that changes based on changes in a published market-rate index.

Agent - individual who sells and services insurance policies in either of two classifications:

  1. Independent agent represents at least two insurance companies and (at least in theory) services clients by searching the market for the most advantageous price for the most coverage. The agent's commission is a percentage of each premium paid and includes a fee for servicing the insured's policy.
  2. Direct or career agent represents only one company and sells only its policies. This agent is paid on a commission basis in much the same manner as the independent agent.

Aggregate Limit - Usually refers to liability insurance and indicates the amount of coverage that the insured has under the contract for a specific period of time, usually the contract period, no matter how many separate accidents might occur.

Annuity - An agreement by an insurer to make periodic payments that continue during the survival of the annuitant(s) or for a specified period.

Approved or Not Disapproved for Surplus Lines - Indicates the company is approved (or not disapproved) to write excess or surplus lines in this state.

Assets - Assets refer to "all the available properties of every kind or possession of an insurance company that might be used to pay its debts." There are three classifications of assets: invested assets, all other assets, and total admitted assets. Invested assets refer to things such as bonds, stocks, cash and income-producing real estate. All other assets refer to non-income producing possessions such as the building the company occupies, office furniture, and debts owed, usually in the form of deferred and unpaid premiums. Total admitted assets refer to everything a company owns. All other plus invested assets equals total admitted assets. By law, some states don't permit insurance companies to claim certain goods and possessions, such as deferred and unpaid premiums, in the all other assets category, declaring them "nonadmissable."

Automobile Liability Insurance - Coverage if an insured is legally liable for bodily injury or property damage caused by an automobile.

B

Benefit Period - In health insurance, the number of days for which benefits are paid to the named insured and his or her dependents. For example, the number of days that benefits are calculated for a calendar year consists of the days beginning on Jan. 1 and ending on Dec. 31 of each year.

Broker - Insurance salesperson that searches the marketplace in the interest of clients, not insurance companies.

Broker-Agent - Independent insurance salesperson who represents particular insurers but also might function as a broker by searching the entire insurance market to place an applicant's coverage to maximize protection and minimize cost. This person is licensed as an agent and a broker.

C

Capital - Equity of shareholders of a stock insurance company. The company's capital and surplus are measured by the difference between its assets minus its liabilities. This value protects the interests of the company's policy owners in the event it develops financial problems; the policy owners' benefits are thus protected by the insurance company's capital. Shareholders' interest is second to that of policy owners.

Captive Agent - Representative of a single insurer or fleet of insurers who is obliged to submit business only to that company, or at the very minimum, give that company first refusal rights on a sale. In exchange, that insurer usually provides its captive agents with an allowance for office expenses as well as an extensive list of employee benefits such as pensions, life insurance, health insurance, and credit unions.

Casualty - Liability or loss resulting from an accident.

Casualty Insurance - That type of insurance that is primarily concerned with losses caused by injuries to persons and legal liability imposed upon the insured for such injury or for damage to property of others. It also includes such diverse forms as plate glass, insurance against crime, such as robbery, burglary and forgery, boiler and machinery insurance and Aviation insurance. Many casualty companies also write surety business.

Claim - A demand made by the insured, or the insured's beneficiary, for payment of the benefits as provided by the policy.

Coinsurance - In property insurance, requires the policyholder to carry insurance equal to a specified percentage of the value of property to receive full payment on a loss. For health insurance, it is a percentage of each claim above the deductible paid by the policyholder. For a 20% health insurance coinsurance clause, the policyholder pays for the deductible plus 20% of his covered losses. After paying 80% of losses up to a specified ceiling, the insurer starts paying 100% of losses.

Collision Insurance - Covers physical damage to the insured's automobile (other than that covered under comprehensive insurance) resulting from contact  with another inanimate object.

Combined Ratio After Policyholder Dividends - The sum of the loss, expense and policyholder dividend ratios not reflecting investment income or income taxes. This ratio measures the company's overall underwriting profitability, and a combined ratio of less than 100 indicates an underwriting profit.

Commercial Lines - Refers to insurance for businesses, professionals and commercial establishments.

Commission - Fee paid to an agent or insurance salesperson as a percentage of the policy premium. The percentage varies widely depending on coverage, the insurer and the marketing methods.

Comprehensive Insurance - Auto insurance coverage providing protection in the event of physical damage (other than collision) or theft of the insured car. For example, fire damage or a cracked windshield would be covered under the comprehensive section.

Concurrent Periods - In hospital income protection, when a patient is confined to a hospital due to more than one injury and/or illness at the same time, benefits are paid as if the total disability resulted from only one cause.

Coverage - The scope of protection provided under an insurance policy. In property insurance, coverage lists perils insured against, properties covered, locations covered, individuals insured, and the limits of indemnification. In life insurance, living and death benefits are listed.

Copayment - A predetermined, flat fee an individual pays for health-care services, in addition to what insurance covers. For example, some HMOs require a $10 copayment for each office visit, regardless of the type or level of services provided during the visit.

Copayments are not usually specified by percentages.

Coverage Area - The geographic region covered by travel insurance.

Creditable Coverage - Term means that benefits provided by other drug plans are at least as good as those provided by the new Medicare Part D program. This may be important to people eligible for Medicare Part D but who do not sign up at their first opportunity because if the other plans provide creditable coverage, plan members can later convert to Medicare Part D without paying higher premiums than those in effect during their open enrollment period.

D

Death Benefit - The limit of insurance or the amount of benefit that will be paid in the event of the death of a covered person.

Deductible - Amount of loss that the insured pays before the insurance kicks in.

Defense Base Act Insurance: Required insurance per FAR 52.228-3 for all federally funded public works contracts overseas (OCONUS). Provides contractually required protection for the contractor’s civilian employees for medical expenses, lost wages, disability, and or death, including War Hazard, arising from work related injury or occupational illness. 

Direct Writer - An insurer whose distribution mechanism is either the direct selling system or the exclusive agency system.

Dividend - The return of part of the policy's premium for a policy issued on a participating basis by either a mutual or stock insurer. A portion of the surplus paid to the stockholders of a corporation.

E

Earned Premium - The amount of the premium that as been paid for in advance that has been "earned" by virtue of the fact that time has passed without claim. A three-year policy that has been paid in advance and is one year old would have only partly earned the premium.

Elimination Period - The time which must pass after filing a claim before policyholder can collect insurance benefits. Also known as "waiting period."

Employers Liability Insurance - Coverage against common law liability of an employer for accidents to employees, as distinguished from liability imposed by a workers' compensation law.

Errors & Omissions Insurance - Also known as Professional Liability Insurance protects your organization from claims if your client holds you liable for errors, or failure to deliver work as promised in the contract. 

Exclusions - Items or conditions that are not covered by the general insurance contract.

Exposure - Measure of vulnerability to loss, usually expressed in dollars or units. 

F

Floater -A separate policy available to cover the value of goods beyond the coverage of a standard renters insurance policy including movable property such as jewelry or sports equipment.

G

General Liability Insurance - Insurance designed to protect business owners and operators from a wide variety of liability exposures. Exposures could include liability arising from accidents resulting from the insured's premises or operations, products sold by the insured, operations completed by the insured, and contractual liability.

Grace Period - The length of time (usually 31 days) after a premium is due and unpaid during which the policy, including all riders, remains in force. If a premium is paid during the grace period, the premium is considered to have been paid on time. In Universal Life policies, it typically provides for coverage to remain in force for 60 days following the date cash value becomes insufficient to support the payment of monthly insurance costs. 

H

Hazard - A circumstance that increases the likelihood or probable severity of a loss. For example, the storing of explosives in a home basement is a hazard that increases the probability of an explosion.

Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) - Prepaid group health insurance plan that entitles members to services of participating physicians, hospitals and clinics. Emphasis is on preventative medicine, and members must use contracted health-care providers.

I

Indemnity - Restoration to the victim of a loss by payment, repair or replacement.

Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America (IIABA) - Formerly the Independent Insurance Agents of America (IIAA), this is a member organization of independent agents and brokers monitoring and affecting industry issues. Numerous state associations are affiliated with the IIABA.

Inflation Protection - An optional property coverage endorsement offered by some insurers that increases the policy's limits of insurance during the policy term to keep pace with inflation.

Insurable Interest - Interest in property such that loss or destruction of the property could cause a financial loss.

Insurance Adjuster - A representative of the insurer who seeks to determine the extent of the insurer's liability for loss when a claim is submitted. Independent insurance adjusters are hired by insurance companies on an "as needed" basis and might work for several insurance companies at the same time. Independent adjusters charge insurance companies both by the hour and by miles traveled. Public adjusters work for the insured in the settlement of claims and receive a percentage of the claim as their fee. A.M. Best's Directory of Recommended Insurance Attorneys and Adjusters lists independent adjusters only.

L

Least Expensive Alternative Treatment - The amount an insurance company will pay based on its determination of cost for a particular procedure.
Liability - Broadly, any legally enforceable obligation. The term is most commonly used in a pecuniary sense.

Liability Insurance - Insurance that pays and renders service on behalf of an insured for loss arising out of his responsibility, due to negligence, to others imposed by law or assumed by contract.

Licensed - Indicates the company is incorporated (or chartered) in another state but is a licensed (admitted) insurer for this state to write specific lines of business for which it qualifies.

Lloyd's - Generally refers to Lloyd's of London, England, an institution within which individual underwriters accept or reject the risks offered to them. The Lloyd's Corp. provides the support facility for their activities.

Loss Control - All methods taken to reduce the frequency and/or severity of losses including exposure avoidance, loss prevention, loss reduction, segregation of exposure units and noninsurance transfer of risk. A combination of risk control techniques with risk financing techniques forms the nucleus of a risk management program. The use of appropriate insurance, avoidance of risk, loss control, risk retention, self insuring, and other techniques that minimize the risks of a business, individual, or organization.

M

Medical Evacuation & Repatriation Insurance: Covers expenses to transport you to a capable medical facility in case a local medical center isn’t able to provide adequate treatment

Medical Loss Ratio - Total health benefits divided by total premium.

Member Month - Total number of health plan participants who are members for each month.

Mortgage Insurance Policy - In life and health insurance, a policy covering a mortgagor with benefits intended to pay off the balance due on a mortgage upon the insured's death, or to meet the payments due on a mortgage in case of the insured's death or disability.

N

Named Perils - Perils specifically covered on insured property.

National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) - Association of state insurance commissioners whose purpose is to promote uniformity of insurance regulation, monitor insurance solvency and develop model laws for passage by state legislatures.

Nonstandard Auto (High Risk Auto or Substandard Auto) - Insurance for motorists who have poor driving records or have been canceled or refused insurance. The premium is much higher than standard auto due to the additional risks.

Noncancellable - Contract terms, including costs that can never be changed.

O

Occurrence - An event that results in an insured loss. In some lines of business, such as liability, an occurrence is distinguished from accident in that the loss doesn't have to be sudden and fortuitous and can result from continuous or repeated exposure which results in bodily injury or property damage neither expected not intended by the insured.

Other Income/Expenses - This item represents miscellaneous sources of operating income or expenses that principally relate to premium finance income or charges for uncollectible premium and reinsurance business.

Out-of-Pocket Limit - A predetermined amount of money that an individual must pay before insurance will pay 100% for an individual's health-care expenses.

Own Occupation - Insurance contract provision that allows policyholders to collect benefits if they can no longer work in their own occupation.

P

Participation Rate - In equity-indexed annuities, a participation rate determines how much of the gain in the index will be credited to the annuity. For example, the insurance company may set the participation rate at 80%, which means the annuity would only be credited with 80% of the gain experienced by the index.

Peril - The cause of a possible loss.

Personal Accident InsuranceProvides your employees and beneficiaries with financial compensation in the unfortunate event of an accident during an international trip or living and working overseas. It offers 24 hour cover for Accidental Death and Dismemberment (AD&D), Disablement and pays for Medical Expense, Medical Evacuation and Repatriation. Personal Accident benefits are payable in addition to DBA or Workers Compensation benefits.

Personal Injury Protection - Pays basic expenses for an insured and his or her family in states with no-fault auto insurance. No-fault laws generally require drivers to carry both liability insurance and personal injury protection coverage to pay for basic needs of the insured, such as medical expenses, in the event of an accident.

Personal Lines - Insurance for individuals and families, such as private-passenger auto and homeowners insurance.

Point-of-Service Plan - Health insurance policy that allows the employee to choose between in-network and out-of-network care each time medical treatment is needed.

Policy - The written contract effecting insurance, or the certificate thereof, by whatever name called, and including all clause, riders, endorsements, and papers attached thereto and made a part thereof.

Political Evacuation & Salary Continuation Insurance: Designed to protect international organizations and their staff from unforeseen financial consequences associated with the evacuation of personnel due to political instability or military confrontation.

Pre-Existing Condition - A coverage limitation included in many health policies which states that certain physical or mental conditions, either previously diagnosed or which would normally be expected to require treatment prior to issue, will not be covered under the new policy for a specified period of time.

Preferred Auto - Auto coverage for drivers who have never had an accident and operates vehicles according to law. Drivers are not a risk for any insurance company that writes auto insurance, and no insurance company would be afraid to take them on as risk.

Preferred Provider Organization - Network of medical providers who charge on a fee-for-service basis, but are paid on a negotiated, discounted fee schedule.

Premium - The price of insurance protection for a specified risk for a specified period of time.

Premium Balances - Premiums and agents' balances in course of collection; premiums, agents' balances and installments booked but deferred and not yet due; bills receivable, taken for premiums and accrued retrospective premiums.

Q

Qualified High-Deductible Health Plan - A health plan with lower premiums that covers health-care expenses only after the insured has paid each year a large amount out of pocket or from another source. To qualify as a health plan coupled with a Health Savings Account, the Internal Revenue Code requires the deductible to be at least $1,000 for an individual and $2,000 for a family. High-deductible plans are also known as catastrophic plans.

Qualifying Event - An occurrence that triggers an insured's protection.

R

Reinsurance - In effect, insurance that an insurance company buys for its own protection. The risk of loss is spread so a disproportionately large loss under a single policy doesn't fall on one company. Reinsurance enables an insurance company to expand its capacity; stabilize its underwriting results; finance its expanding volume; secure catastrophe protection against shock losses; withdraw from a line of business or a geographical area within a specified time period. 

Renewal - The automatic re-establishment of in-force status effected by the payment of another premium.

Replacement Cost - The dollar amount needed to replace damaged personal property or dwelling property without deducting for depreciation but limited by the maximum dollar amount shown on the declarations page of the policy.

Risk Class - Risk class, in insurance underwriting, is a grouping of insureds with a similar level of risk. Typical underwriting classifications are preferred, standard and substandard, smoking and nonsmoking, male and female.

Risk Management - Management of the pure risks to which a company might be subject. It involves analyzing all exposures to the possibility of loss and determining how to handle these exposures through practices such as avoiding the risk, retaining the risk, reducing the risk, or transferring the risk, usually by insurance.

S

Secondary Market - The secondary market is populated by buyers willing to pay what they determine to be fair market value.

Standard Auto - Auto insurance for average drivers with relatively few accidents during lifetime.

State of Domicile - The state in which the company is incorporated or chartered. The company also is licensed (admitted) under the state's insurance statutes for those lines of business for which it qualifies.

Stop Loss - Any provision in a policy designed to cut off an insurer's losses at a given point.

Subrogation - The right of an insurer who has taken over another's loss also to take over the other person's right to pursue remedies against a third party.

Surplus - The amount by which assets exceed liabilities.

T

Term Life Insurance - Life insurance that provides protection for a specified period of time. Common policy periods are one year, five years, 10 years or until the insured reaches age 65 or 70. The policy doesn't build up any of the non-forfeiture values associated with whole life policies.

Tort - A private wrong, independent of contract and committed against an individual, which gives rise to a legal liability and is adjudicated in a civil court. A tort can be either intentional or unintentional, and liability insurance is mainly purchased to cover unintentional torts.

Total Loss - A loss of sufficient size that it can be said no value is left. The complete destruction of the property. The term also is used to mean a loss requiring the maximum amount a policy will pay.

Transit and Cargo Insurance: Covers goods in transit across high-risk regions by land, air or sea. Our War and Terrorism extension provides transit coverage against acts of war.

U

Umbrella Policy - Coverage for losses above the limit of an underlying policy or policies such as homeowners and auto insurance. While it applies to losses over the dollar amount in the underlying policies, terms of coverage are sometimes broader than those of underlying policies.

Underwriter - The individual trained in evaluating risks and determining rates and coverages for them. Also, an insurer.

Underwriting - The process of selecting risks for insurance and classifying them according to their degrees of insurability so that the appropriate rates may be assigned. The process also includes rejection of those risks that do not qualify.

Unearned Premiums - That part of the premium applicable to the unexpired part of the policy period.

Usual, Customary and Reasonable Fees - An amount customarily charged for or covered for similar services and supplies which are medically necessary, recommended by a doctor or required for treatment.

Utilization - How much a covered group uses a particular health plan or program.

V

Valuation - A calculation of the policy reserve in life insurance. Also, a mathematical analysis of the financial condition of a pension plan.

Vehicle Fleet Insurance: Offers borderless coverage with physical damage, collision, theft, and liability coverage against every vehicle-related transportation hazard.  

W

Waiting Period - The time which must pass after filing a claim before policyholder can collect insurance benefits.

Waiver of Premium - A provision in some insurance contracts which enables an insurance company to waive the collection of premiums while keeping the policy in force if the policyholder becomes unable to work because of an accident or injury. The waiver of premium for disability remains in effect as long as the ensured is disabled.

War and Terrorism & Political Violence Insurance: Coverage extension can be added to several types of polices to protect personnel, assets and liabilities from  the political violence risks such as civil unrest, war, riots, strikes, and acts of terrorism. 

Whole Life Insurance - Life insurance which might be kept in force for a person's whole life and which pays a benefit upon the person's death, whenever that might be.

Worldwide Stand Alone Property Insurance: Rest assured with multiple lines of property, including buildings, contents, computer equipment, machinery, stock, business income, and cargo.

With more than six decades working with international clients, Clements Worldwide is well-versed in offering expatriate insurance. Our international insurance solutions provide comprehensive coverage perfect for those living and working abroad. 

Expat Insurance Guide

Call us today at +1.202.872.0060 or 800.872.0067 or e-mail request@clements.com to discuss your insurance needs.