Redlining is the practice of denying insurance coverage in specific geographic areas, supposedly because of a high likelihood of loss, while the alleged motivation is unlawful discrimination. Racial profiling or redlining has a long history in the property insurance industry in the United States. From a review of industry underwriting and marketing materials, court documents, and research by government agencies, industry and community groups, and academics, it is clear that race has long affected and continues to affect the policies and practices of the insurance industry.
There are many factors that go into determining your car insurance rates. Some, like your age and gender, are out of your control. Others, like where you live and your marital status, are somewhat in your control. Finally, there are several factors that affect your auto insurance rates, like the insurance company you choose to work with, your driving record, your credit score, the kind of car you drive, and the amount of coverage you choose, that are completely within your control.
Insurance may also be purchased through an agent. A tied agent, working exclusively with one insurer, represents the insurance company from whom the policyholder buys (while a free agent sells policies of various insurance companies). Just as there is a potential conflict of interest with a broker, an agent has a different type of conflict. Because agents work directly for the insurance company, if there is a claim the agent may advise the client to the benefit of the insurance company. Agents generally cannot offer as broad a range of selection compared to an insurance broker.
Claims and loss handling is the materialized utility of insurance; it is the actual "product" paid for. Claims may be filed by insureds directly with the insurer or through brokers or agents. The insurer may require that the claim be filed on its own proprietary forms, or may accept claims on a standard industry form, such as those produced by ACORD.
In managing the claims handling function, insurers seek to balance the elements of customer satisfaction, administrative handling expenses, and claims overpayment leakages. As part of this balancing act, fraudulent insurance practices are a major business risk that must be managed and overcome. Disputes between insurers and insureds over the validity of claims or claims handling practices occasionally escalate into litigation (see insurance bad faith).
Personal injury or bodily injury protection, which is often a part of full coverage car insurance, covers medical costs for you, your passengers, or other people injured in an accident. This type of coverage is required by most states, but keep in mind that the legal requirement may be too low for real world application. As medical costs soar, a policy that only pays out $30,000 is not likely to be enough, and you will be responsible for any difference between what your policy pays and what the actual medical costs are. It’s tempting to skimp on this coverage, but that can be a costly mistake.
Cost is another major consideration you’ll have when choosing the best car insurance company for you. After all, you need insurance you can afford. While you should compare rates from several companies, make sure you’re comparing rates for your situation. Insurance companies can charge drastically different rates depending on a person’s age, gender, driving record, credit history, ZIP code, the number of miles they drive per year, the value of their car, and other factors. It makes no sense to compare rates for a 16-year-old male from one company with the rates for a 60-year-old female from another – especially if you’re neither a 16-year-old male nor a 60-year-old woman. It’ll take some time to gather quotes to compare rates, but rates can vary by several hundred or even a few thousand dollars per year from company to company. The time you spend can pay off in the end. When comparing rates, make sure you consider any car insurance discounts you may qualify for.
Insurers will often use insurance agents to initially market or underwrite their customers. Agents can be captive, meaning they write only for one company, or independent, meaning that they can issue policies from several companies. The existence and success of companies using insurance agents is likely due to improved and personalized service. Companies also use Broking firms, Banks and other corporate entities (like Self Help Groups, Microfinance Institutions, NGOs, etc.) to market their products.
An entity seeking to transfer risk (an individual, corporation, or association of any type, etc.) becomes the 'insured' party once risk is assumed by an 'insurer', the insuring party, by means of a contract, called an insurance policy. Generally, an insurance contract includes, at a minimum, the following elements: identification of participating parties (the insurer, the insured, the beneficiaries), the premium, the period of coverage, the particular loss event covered, the amount of coverage (i.e., the amount to be paid to the insured or beneficiary in the event of a loss), and exclusions (events not covered). An insured is thus said to be "indemnified" against the loss covered in the policy.
A history of chronic disease or other potential health issues with an individual or family, such as heart disease or cancer, may result in paying higher premiums. Obesity, alcohol consumption, or smoking can affect rates as well. An applicant typically goes through a medical exam to determine whether he has high blood pressure or other signs of potential health issues that may result in premature death for the applicant and increased risk for the insurance company. People in good health typically pay lower life insurance premiums.
Insurance can influence the probability of losses through moral hazard, insurance fraud, and preventive steps by the insurance company. Insurance scholars have typically used moral hazard to refer to the increased loss due to unintentional carelessness and insurance fraud to refer to increased risk due to intentional carelessness or indifference. Insurers attempt to address carelessness through inspections, policy provisions requiring certain types of maintenance, and possible discounts for loss mitigation efforts. While in theory insurers could encourage investment in loss reduction, some commentators have argued that in practice insurers had historically not aggressively pursued loss control measures—particularly to prevent disaster losses such as hurricanes—because of concerns over rate reductions and legal battles. However, since about 1996 insurers have begun to take a more active role in loss mitigation, such as through building codes.
Life insurance premiums depend on the age of the insured party. Because younger people are less likely to die than older people, younger people typically pay lower life insurance costs. Gender plays a similar role. Because women tend to live longer than men, women tend to pay lower premiums. Engaging in risky activities increases insurance costs. For example, a racecar driver faces an increased risk of death and, as a result, may pay high life insurance premiums or be denied coverage.
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