Insurance Sub Topics


  • In 2019, total property/casualty and life/annuity assets totaled $9 trillion
  • By June 2020, insurance companies and their foundations donated $280 million to fight COVID-19; auto insurers returned $14 billion in premiums due to reduced driving during the pandemic
  • In 2020, 2.9 million people in the U.S. worked in the insurance industry, including brokers and agents and other insurance related businesses

There are many classes of insurance available. These classes are known in the industry as lines of insurance. The most commonly known classification of insurance is the personal lines consisting of life, health, auto, and homeowners’ or renters’ coverage. Common business insurance includes property and casualty, loss of income, legal and medical malpractice, and other professional liability insurance.

Some insurance companies specialize in kidnap & ransom insurance, or high-risk activities like skydiving or aviation. That said, almost any person or business can find an insurer willing to write insurance for almost any risk, if the potential client is willing to pay the (premium) price.

Insurance in the U.S. is a broad topic. For those who want to explore the topic further, we invite you to use our free research tool to find an insurance agent near you who can offer competitive rates and inform you about what insurance products best suit your needs.

How did we get insurance?

Insurance protection is pervasive in the U.S. today. That wasn’t always the case. The first insurance company was formed during the Colonial period in 1735, but The Friendly Society established in Charleston, South Carolina went out of business a short five years later in 1740.

Benjamin Franklin started the first fire insurance company in 1752 that was operational continuously from that date. The name of the company was the Philadelphia Contributionship for the insurance of Houses from Loss of Fire, and it is still in business today as the Philadelphia Contributionship.

The first life insurance company was called the Presbyterian Minister’s Fund in 1759. Despite these early examples, insurance was much less common in the U.S. until the 20th century. By 1989, there were 2,270 life insurance companies in America.

General liability coverage began as an agreement among several companies who faced a similar risk of liability. They pooled their money together and any company that was party to the agreement could use the funds in case of a liability claim.  With the passage of time, insurance carriers took up the standard and began to offer general liability insurance.

In 1886, the Endicott and Macomber Agency in Boston issued the first liability policy. For the next 30 years, liability policies were known as employer’s liability coverage.

In 1898, the Traveler’s Insurance Company issued the first automobile policy. In 2021, there are more than 2,500 insurers who write auto coverage. In 2021, State Farm is the largest auto insurance company with a 16% share of the market.

From the first fire policies to the many lines of insurance and combined insurance packages available in the U.S. today, it has been quite a journey. In the 21st century, it seems that every day brings new products and consumers expect those products to do what they say they will do and do it safely. As American industries developed new products and lines of business that could result in injuries, the insurance industry responded with products liability insurance for manufacturers.

Who are the largest insurance companies in 2021?

The insurance agency known as A.M. Best produces a listing of the top property and casualty insurance companies in the U.S. The companies rank 1-10 based on their net premiums in 2019. Based on that criterion, the top ten largest insurance companies in the U.S. are:

  1. State Farm Group — $655,100,4551
  2. Berkshire Hathaway — $53,754,763
  3. Progressive — $37,578,689
  4. Allstate — $34,036,467
  5. Liberty Mutual — $32,268,379
  6. Travelers — $27,214,083
  7. USAA — $22,981,339
  8. Chubb INA Group — $18,249,079
  9. Nationwide — $17,992,806
  10. American International Group (known as AIG) — $14,826,888

According to Investopedia, the largest life insurance companies in the U.S. ranked by the direct life insurance premiums written in 2020 are:

  1. New York Life — $11.69 billion
  2. Northwestern Mutual — $11.30 billion
  3. Metropolitan — $10.49 billion
  4. Prudential — $10.06 billion
  5. Lincoln National — $8.l37 billion
  6. Mass Mutual — $7.92 billion
  7. State Farm — $4.97 billion
  8. Aegon — $4.86 billion
  9. John Hancock — $4.73 billion
  10. Minnesota Mutual — $4.69 billion

For all practical purposes, the U.S. government is the largest health insurer through its social healthcare programs of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Medicaid is technically run by the states pursuant to federal guidelines.  The National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ (NAIC) report in 2018 listed the following health insurance companies as the top ten insurers based on total direct premiums written in 2018 (excluding the U.S. government’s social programs):

  1. United Healthcare — $156.9 billion
  2. Kaiser Foundation — $93.2 billion
  3. Anthem — $67.2 billion
  4. Humana — $56 billion
  5. CVS — $55.4 billion
  6. HCSC — $36.9 billion
  7. Centene Corp. — $36.3 billion
  8. Cigna — $29.3 billion
  9. Wellcare — $20.5 billion
  10. Molina — $18.5 billion

The top five homeowners’ insurance carriers in the U.S. are:

  1. State Farm
  2. Allstate
  3. USAA
  4. Liberty Mutual
  5. Farmers

The top five homeowners’ insurance carriers above account for in excess of 45% of the market share.

The top ten auto insurer’s in the U.S. as of July 2021 based on market share are:

  1. State Farm — 16%
  2. Geico — 13%
  3. Progressive — 12%
  4. Allstate — 9%
  5. USAA — 6%
  6. Liberty Mutual — 5%
  7. Farmers — 4%
  8. Nationwide — 3%
  9. American Family — 2%
  10. Travelers — 2%

The overlap between coverage lines by the various insurers is evident when reviewing the foregoing lists.

Are homeowners’ or renters’ policies required in most instances?

Homeowners’ or renters’ insurance policies are not required by law, but that does not mean you don’t need to buy them. If you are buying a house with a mortgage, mortgage lenders require property and casualty insurance on the property covered by the loan.

If you buy a condominium, the homeowners’ association may require that you carry insurance with liability coverage in case of claims by third parties injured on the property or to cover expenses state laws require condo owners to share. Typically, these are condo policies or renters’ policies.

According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), in 2021 only 37% of renters buy renters’ insurance. This is the case even in a market where renting instead of buying is on the upswing. The average annual cost of renters’ insurance is $180 which works out to about $15 a month. Still, renters often have limited budgets and the short-term view says contents insurance is not on that list. As you might expect, however, the long-view is that a loss due to fire or other damage may end up costing thousands of out-of-pocket dollars to repair or replace personal belongings and to cover the expenses of a hotel for temporary living quarters.

What do homeowners’ policies cover?

Most homeowners’ policies cover combined property damage and general liability coverage. The property damage helps pay for repair or replacement to your building and your belongings in the event they sustain damage due to fire or theft. Homeowners’ insurance protects the walls, floor, and roof of your home, other structures on your property (like decks, garages), and your personal belongings (the contents).

The general liability portion of the homeowners’ insurance package covers damages for injuries to visitors to your property or damage to their personal property. General liability coverage is more popularly known as “slip and fall” coverage.

What do renters’ policies cover?

When a person rents a home from another person or company, the owner retains the responsibility for repairs and replacement to the building in the event of damage by fire or other hazard covered by the owner’s policy.

Renters, on the other hand, want to protect their belongings in the event they sustain damage in a fire or other hazard. They also want protection against theft, for temporary living expenses if the disaster forces them to move while repairs happen. They need coverage for unexpected medical and legal bills that result from to bodily injury or property damage to visitors in their rented home.

Renters’ policies may also include valuable jewelry or fine art. The insured may add these coverages through amendments to their coverage. Insurance companies call these amendments endorsements. Renters can also buy insurance against major disasters, such as flood and earthquake coverage.

Rental coverage can be paid on a replacement cost basis which treats personal belongings as if they are new. Alternatively, rental coverage may pay on an actual cash value basis which take depreciation into account when paying to repair or replace contents.

Is auto insurance required in most states?

Yes, every state except New Hampshire mandates that car owners buy at least a minimum amount of automobile liability insurance. About half of the states require uninsured/underinsured motorists bodily injury coverage limits. A few more required uninsured/underinsured motorist property damage coverage. About 20% of the states require personal injury protection

The minimum insurance requirements vary from state to state. For instance, Alabama requires liability limits of$25,000 bodily injury per person, $50,000 bodily injury per accident, and $50,000 property damage per accident. Alabama does not require medical payments or personal injury protection which pays for medical expenses of drivers and passengers as well as lost wages and other expenses that do not qualify as health insurance.

Some states refer to personal injury protection (PIP) as “no-fault” coverage. Two states, Maine and Pennsylvania require “medical payments” coverage. This coverage only covers medical expenses, not lost wages or other expenses.

At the other end of the spectrum, Maryland’s minimum liability limits are $30,000 bodily injury per person, $60,000 bodily injury per accident, $15,000 property damage per accident. In addition, Maryland requires $30,000 uninsured m/underinsured motorist protection per person, $60,000 uninsured/underinsured motorist protection per accident and $15,000 uninsured/underinsured motorist property protection per accident.

Auto insurance coverage also offers incidental coverages such as rental car reimbursement and reimbursement of towing charges, roadside assistance in the event of a breakdown, and glass replacement without a deductible to repair or replace broken windshields and other windows.

Can pet owners buy pet insurance?

Yes, happily, because veterinarians say that one out of three pets will need emergency vet care in their lifetime.

Owners buy pet insurance as a hedge against their pet experiencing an unexpected illness which can result in costly veterinarian fees.

In general, people pay a monthly fee for a pet insurance policy that outlines the things the policy covers as well as important items like the deductible amount, the reimbursement rate and the out-of-pocket expense limit. Pet insurance reimburses the pet owner and does not pay the vet directly.

What is travel insurance?

Travel insurance helps preserve policy owners from financial losses that can happen while the person travels. Coverage includes reimbursement for lost luggage, last-minute cancellations, medical emergencies while out of the country and medical evacuations.

Travel insurance is not necessary for every trip. Travel insurance policies also generally contain exclusions for pregnancy, abortion, AIDS, venereal disease, mental illness, anxiety, or illness from nuclear radiation.

What are insurance annuities?

An annuity in the insurance context is a contract sold by a state-licensed insurer who is also licensed in securities if they are in the business of selling variable annuities.

People may choose to buy an annuity to turn a lump sum payment into a reliable cash flow over time. Retirees often choose to buy annuities or pensions to provide a guaranteed payment stream over their lives or over a specified time period.

Annuities come in various types determined by the way the annuity pays out the income stream, such as fixed, variable, immediate and deferred annuities.

How many people buy life insurance?

A 2018 study from the Life Insurance Marketing and Research Association (LIMRA) states that about 60% of Americans buy life insurance coverage. Some buy individual policies (45%) while others (33%) have coverage through employer-sponsored group life policies and some people have both (22%).

People buy life insurance for various reasons. Many believe life insurance should cover only the primary earner in a family. For others, life insurance will pay off the home mortgage or other personal expenses in the event of death. For still others, life insurance may pay for the children to attend college if the wage earner dies.

Are there different types of life insurance?

Yes. Insurance companies sell life insurance in four basic types:

  • Whole life (also known as permanent life insurance) — covers the insured person until they die; has a cash value component from which the insured can withdraw funds
  • Term life — a temporary life insurance arrangement that costs less than permanent life insurance and has a specified term of years (ten, twenty, thirty years, etc.) If the insured outlives the policy term, the company owes no benefit and keeps the money.
  • Universal life — a permanent coverage similar to whole life, but more flexible with regard to changes to the amount of death benefit and the Universal life cash value component earns interest at market rates
  • Variable Universal life — a version of Universal life that gives the insured more options with respect to the investment of the cash value component, allows insured to take out loans from the cash value or use it as collateral for a loan

What is a critical illness policy?

Critical care illness insurance pays a single sum benefit to the insured to help defray the insured’s expenses from the first diagnosis of a critical illness. In general, these policies have a 30-day waiting period.

Critical illness healthcare policies give insureds the flexibility to spend the money where they need it most. The benefits are not typically taxable as income. The lifetime benefits may be as low as $10,000 or as high as $50,000 (in multiples of $10,000).

Critical illness healthcare policies pay the lump sum benefit for the following qualifying illnesses:

  • Cancers that are life-threatening
  • Carcinoma
  • Coma
  • Coronary bypass
  • Heart attacks
  • Loss of hearing, speech, or eyesight
  • Paralysis
  • Renal failure
  • Stroke
  • Transplants of a major body organ

People who have high deductible health plans sometimes purchase critical illness policies to help with out-of-pocket expenses.

What is the difference between a critical illness policy and long-term care coverage?

Long-term care insurance policies defray the cost of care for chronic medical conditions. Long-term care policies reimburse insureds for expenses paid for care in the home, nursing home, assisted living facility, or adult day care.

To qualify for long-term care coverage, the insured person must not be able to do two out of six activities of daily living (also known as ADLs). The six ADLs include dressing, eating, bathing, transferring, toileting, and dealing with incontinence. Insureds pay the expenses for long-term care services out of their own pockets for several months before the long-term care policy reimburses them.

On the other hand, critical illness policies pay the lump sum benefit to insureds as soon as the diagnosis says they suffer from a qualifying critical illness. Once the illness meets the qualification standard, the insured receives a lump sum payment from the policy to use for whatever purpose they desire.

What’s the difference between critical illness insurance and disability insurance?

Critical illness insurance pays as soon as the insured receives a diagnosis of illness with a qualifying critical illness.

A disability insurance policy works quite differently from critical illness coverage. Disability insurance pays income to the insured person if they become unable to work and earn income because they meet the eligibility requirements for a disability.

Both Social Security and private insurance may provide disability coverage to people who meet the eligibility requirements.

Disability insurance does not relate to illness from a qualifying disease. Disability relates to the loss of income due to the physical inability to work.

If general liability covers “slip-and-fall” cases, what does commercial general liability cover?

In general, state laws do not mandate that companies buy commercial general liability coverage. That does not mean it’s not a good thing to have. This is just one form of what’s referred to as business insurance, which can also include payroll insurance and professional insurances like malpractice insurance.

In some business sectors, companies often require a certificate of general liability coverage before they will enter into a business relationship with another company. One example is the construction industry where general contractors often require proof of commercial general liability insurance from subcontractors and even require that the subcontractors name the general contractor as a named insured on their policies.

Commercial general liability protects small business owners from the following liability claims:

  • Bodily injury — to customers or others on the property
  • Property damage — accidents to customer’s property by employees
  • Advertising injury — defamation of third parties in interviews
  • Copyright infringement — using someone else’s intellectual property without permission
  • Harm to reputation — words attributed to the business that harms a third party’s reputation

General liability coverage includes the duty to defend the insured and the duty to indemnify the insured for losses. The duty to indemnify refers to the duty to pay the amount of the liability when the insured is found liable for damages, up to the coverage limitations and other policy conditions. An average “slip-and-fall” claim may cost a business $20,000. A harm to reputation claim may cost $50,000. Comprehensive general liability also covers court costs, settlements, and court judgments.

Are there typical exclusions to a comprehensive general liability policy?

In general, comprehensive general liability does not cover:

  • Commercial auto accidents (business auto policy covers that)
  • Employee injuries or illness resulting from their employment (workers’ compensation covers that)
  • Damage to the insured’s own property (covered by property insurance)
  • Errors and omissions that cause mistakes in services (need separate E&O insurance)
  • Claims in excess of policy limits (need an excess policy with higher limits)
  • Intentional illegal acts
  • Damage from pollutants
  • Contractual liability
  • Aircraft, autos, and watercraft whether owned, operated, rented, or loaned to the insured

Small business may obtain separate liability policies for the above events not covered under the comprehensive general liability policy. In some cases, such as aircraft coverage, the coverage may require surplus lines carriers to undertake the risk.

What is a combined single limit of liability?

General liability coverage often has separate limits of liability for bodily injury and property damage. For example, auto policies have separate limits for bodily injury, per person and per accident. Then they have a separate limit for property damage per person and then per accident.

A combined single limit of liability means that any combination of bodily injury and property damage is subject to the same limit of liability. So, in an auto policy, the combined single limit may contain a single dollar amount of $300,000 for all claims.

What are surplus lines of insurance?

Surplus lines of insurance refers to financial risks that a regular insurance company finds too high to insure.  Surplus lines are available to individuals and to companies. Naturally, the premiums for surplus lines insurance are considerably higher than regular premiums because the risk is also higher.

The surplus lines insurance is a $40.2 billion industry. Surplus lines enjoy a 7.6% share of the total property casualty industry. The principal area for surplus lines is commercial insurance with approximately 13.9% share of that commercial market. Surplus lines provide supplemental coverages to the regular insurance market when it will not or cannot write the risk.

One big difference between surplus lines of insurance and regular insurance is the risk of a surplus carrier going out of business. Surplus carriers are not protected by a guaranty fund. In regular insurance companies, if a company goes bankrupt there are state guaranty funds that protect the policyholder’s claim for payment against the bankrupt company. The state guaranty funds receive contributions from regular insurance companies and the funds are available to pay claims if one of the companies goes bankrupt.

Lloyd’s of London is the top insurer of surplus lines. Other surplus lines carriers include:

  • AIG
  • Markel
  • R. Berkley Insurance
  • Berkshire Hathaway Insurance
  • Chubb INA
  • Fairfax Financial
  • Liberty Mutual

Surplus lines include the following types of coverage:

  • Flood insurance, as an alternative to the National Flood Insurance Program
  • Nursing homes and assisted living facilities
  • Vacant properties (distressed properties)
  • Builder’s risk properties (for damage caused while under construction)
  • Older, high dollar homes
  • New business startups
  • New technology firms
  • Catastrophic data breaches
  • Catastrophic storms
  • Pioneer companies in research
  • Hazmat properties
  • Art collections

Is aviation insurance a surplus line?

In the same way that automobile owners and boat owners need protection from property damage, so do owners of airplanes and other flying machines. Aircraft owners need separate aviation insurance because standard general liability policies exclude damages that result from the “ownership, maintenance, or use of airplanes.”

Businesses that use private aircraft as part of their business operations must secure aircraft liability insurance or a separate policy for non-owned aircraft. Depending on the specifics of the company’s aircraft use, an excess policy might not be out of the question.

Aircraft policies often include coverage for damage to third parties such as damage to an aircraft’s hull and medical payments. Aircraft policies are individually designed for each owner and each aircraft. That is one reason why they are part of the surplus lines segment. Surplus lines insurers may also combine aircraft hull and medical payments’ coverage with airport liability, products liability, or hangar liability for the storage facility.

Aircraft owners may also obtain coverage for the personal belongings of the passengers onboard. Aircraft insurance may also include coverage for search and rescue expenses. Aircraft built at home rather than one purchased pre-assembled from an airplane manufacturer often results in higher premiums. The risk is considered higher.

Non-owners or renters of aircraft may buy insurance in the event that their operation of the plan causes damage to the aircraft.  And organizations, like flying clubs, may buy aircraft insurance for those club members who share use of the aircraft. Whether it’s a business that needs aircraft insurance for a fleet of corporate planes or a pilot training business, the surplus lines carriers willingly underwrite aircraft insurance for the right premium.

What is insuretech?

It seems that companies everywhere are looking for ways to improve efficiency. Since about 2010, the insurance industry is no different in that respect. Insuretech makes use of the newest advances in technology to achieve improved efficiency. One of the goals is to price insurance products in a way that makes the company more profitable.  Examples of insuretech ideas are:

  • Data analysis of big data streams
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) and deep learning to train and handle broker tasks
  • Blockchain
  • Drones
  • Robo-advisers
  • Internet of Things (IoT)
  • Tailor-made policies that mix and match coverage for the perfect fit
  • Social insurance, the startup trend to bring the social aspect back to insurance – an all for one and one for all attitude

Insuretech companies face resistance from current insurance carriers that insuretech startups need the more traditional insurance companies to underwrite and manage catastrophic risks. They also face regulatory issues in addition to the hesitation of traditional insurers to work with them.

In 2020, the global insuretech market was USD$2.72 billion. Industry watchers anticipate the insuretech will grow at a rate of 48% between 2021-2028. Funding for U.S. insuretech companies reached $2.44 billion in 2020, an increase of 60% over the last three years.

Digital capabilities of insuretech firms reduce application for insurance times by a stunning 99.9%.

Insuretech helps companies eliminate duplicative operations and save money, leading to an expected reduction in one million jobs over the next few years.

Robotic processes are now in use by 30% of insurance companies to automate and speed up the claims review process.

By 2025, studies indicate that 95% of the exchanges between customers and insurers will take place between customers and chatbots. That change is possible because insuretech innovations simplify both the quotation process and the claims process.

Insurance companies that have insuretech capabilities will make better use of their customer data. Insuretech technology based on AI machine learning will make 90% of customer data available for business intelligence, while traditional insurance companies will only see value from 10% of their customer data.

Fraud costs the insurance industry $40 billion each year. Insuretech technology using AI detects fraud better than its human counterparts by comparing new claims to existing data. In addition, analytics enhanced with visual capability can evaluate auto and property damage using video and images. This capability allows the insuretech to determine the accuracy of suggested damage amounts.

A few of the insuretech applications currently available are:

  • Lemonade — a three-minute process that assesses the claim, compares it to the policy terms, runs fraud algorithms and determines the disposition of the claim.
  • Hippo — a drone app that inspects property damage and takes photos and video of the damage for a remote adjuster with faster results than traditional claims inspections
  • John Hancock — uses data from customer wearables and tracking devices to customize life insurance policies
  • Shift Technology — developed an AI fraud detection app that is 75% accurate

Insuretech marks the inception of innovative technology in the insurance sector that will not only increase efficiency of back-office operations but also identify new business opportunities.

How does an insurance company decide whether to pay a claim?

From a claims administration standpoint, the answer depends on the type of insurance. In a claim against a life insurance policy, the company requires a death certificate for the insured individual. A claims examiner determines whether the death was accidental. Life policies may pay different amounts if the death was accidental.

In a claim against an insurance company for property damage, claims adjusters will view the property damage. Claims adjusters determine whether the loss is one covered under the policy. The company may also use appraisers to determine the value of the property after the damage. The claims adjuster may talk to legal counsel if the claim warrants such a discussion.

In cases of bodily injury, claims adjusters may talk to the insured’s doctors or employer to determine whether the cause of the injuries is covered under the policy terms. Adjusters take pictures of the damage, gather information from interviews and witness statements. The claims adjusters determine how much the insurance should pay on a particular claim, if anything.

When the claims adjusters finish their jobs, a claims examiner reviews each claim. After the claims examiner approves the claim, the claims adjuster negotiates the claim settlements, and authorizes payments to the insureds or to third parties.

If a claim has the potential for fraud, insurance investigators will review the circumstances. Investigators generally work on arson cases, bodily injury accidents that look staged, and determine whether medical treatments in a particular bodily injury case were unnecessary. One example occurs in connection to workers’ compensation injuries. If an investigator suspects fraud, he may conduct observe the claimant’s physical activities to see if they indicate more physical ability than is possible given the injury claim.

Need to explore further?

The insurance industry is a multi-billion dollar segment of the U.S. economy. Insurance affects activities in personal lives as well as commercial property insurance and general liability coverage.

For those who want to explore the topic further, we invite you to use our free research tool to find an experienced insurance agent who can answer your specific insurance questions, or find insurance quotes in your local area.