Insurance Glossary

Below a list of terms and their definitions to better help you navigate the sometimes confusing world of insurance. If you have any questions please let us know.

Reproduced with the permission of the A.M. Best Co.

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Acceleration Clause
The part of a contract that says when a loan may be declared due and payable.
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.
Active Participant
Person whose absence from a planned event would trigger a benefit if the event needs to be canceled or postponed.
Activities of Daily Living
Bathing, preparing and eating meals, moving from room to room, getting into and out of beds or chairs, dressing, using a toilet.
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.
Actuary
A specialist in the mathematics of insurance who calculates rates, reserves, dividends and other statistics. (Americanism: In most other countries the individual is known as "mathematician.")
Adjustable Rate
An interest rate that changes, based on changes in a published market-rate index.
Adjuster
A representative of the insurer who seeks to determine the extent of the insurer's liability for loss when a claim is submitted.
Admitted Assets
Assets permitted by state law to be included in an insurance company's annual statement. These assets are an important factor when regulators measure insurance company solvency. They include mortgages, stocks, bonds and real estate.
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.
Annual Administrative Fee
Charge for expenses associated with administering a group employee benefit plan.
Annual Crediting Cap
The maximum rate that the equity-indexed annuity can be credited in a year. If a contract has an upper limit, or cap, of 7 percent and the index linked to the annuity gained 7.2 percent, only 7 percent would be credited to the annuity.
Annuitization
Process by which you convert part or all of the money in a qualified retirement plan or nonqualified annuity contract into a stream of regular income payments, either for your lifetime or the lifetimes of you and your joint annuitant. Once you choose to annuitize, the payment schedule and the amount is generally fixed and can't be altered.
Annuitization Options
Choices in the way to annuitize. For example, life with a 10-year period certain means payouts will last a lifetime, but should the annuitant die during the first 10 years, the payments will continue to beneficiaries through the 10th year. Selection of such an option reduces the amount of the periodic payment.
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 for Reinsurance
Indicates the company is approved (or authorized) to write reinsurance on risks in this state. A license to write reinsurance might not be required in these states.
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 nonincome 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."
Attained Age
Insured's age at a particular time. For example, many term life insurance policies allow an insured to convert to permanent insurance without a physical examination at the insured's then attained age. Upon conversion, the premium usually rises substantially to reflect the insured's age and diminished life expectancy.
Authorized Under Federal ProductsLiability Risk Retention Act (Risk Retention Groups)
Indicates companies operating under the Federal Products Liability Risk Retention Act of 1981 and the Liability Risk Retention Act of 1986.
Automobile Liability Insurance
Coverage if an insured is legally liable for bodily injury or property damage caused by an automobile.