If the word insurance makes people’s eyes glaze over, the thought of reading an insurance policy puts them into a catatonic state. Just as understanding the basics of insurance is not difficult, neither is reading an insurance policy.
First of all, insurance policies nationwide tend to be comprised of standard boilerplate language – this is to keep apples with apples and oranges with oranges throughout all insurance companies and all types of insurance. This boilerplate language also pretty much steers away from typical “legalese” so all wording within the policies is plain and simple. Boilerplate forms doesn’t mean that all policies are the same – they are not – but like coverages, etc., are explained in the same way so if you can read one policy, you can reasonably read another.
The first place you should start is with the Declaration Page, commonly referred to as the “Dec Page“. In fact, if you don’t get any further than this, this part of your policy is very important for you to be familiar with for all the reasons. What is the “Dec” page? The Dec Page is a summary of what your policy is providing for you and includes your policy number, the specific named insured, the effective and expiration date of the policy, what is being covered, how much it is being covered for, what it is costing you in total and per individual coverages, your agent’s name and contact information and will show any loss payee (lien-holder) if applicable. If this is an automobile policy, the Dec page will also list the vehicles and drivers being covered. In short, the Declarations Page is a wealth of information that you should give some study to until you feel comfortable with it. This accomplishment alone will make you feel more enlightened in regard to what your insurance policy is all about.
The next step is to look at every heading in the policy, one by one. You will see things like Agreement, Definitions, specified Coverages, Insuring Agreement per the specified Coverage, Exclusions, Limit of Liability, Out of State Coverage, Other Insurance, etc. These are not scary words, right? Two very important sections are Definitions and Exclusions – found in various places in the policy– and if you don’t go over any others, you need to read these. Definitions will tell you who is considered an insured, etc., and the information listed will remove assumptions from your thinking and clarify what is what. Exclusions are assumption busters, as well. It is not written in Greek and you really need to know what exclusions apply to your policy. Ignorance is not bliss when you have a claim!
Too often, too many of us buy insurance for the lowest premium. Let’s use an auto policy as an example. People buy what is mandatory by the state (and by the bank, if the vehicle is financed) and look only at the premium. With the cost as the only focus, these people have no clue what their policy does cover. Then they have a loss that is not covered because they did not elect to take the particular coverage that would apply and they are angry.
The solution to this frustration is to READ YOUR POLICY. Know what coverages you have elected and what they are for; know the exclusions under your policy; know your responsibilities to the company in the event of a loss. Failure to know these things will most assuredly result in disappointment and unnecessary frustration in the event of a claim.