Tools and ResourcesGlossary

When you're thinking about buying insurance, it's important to understand the language. For instance, what is a deductible? What does "premium" mean? What's the difference between an agent and an adjuster?



Terms

If you're looking for helpful, easy-to-understand information on some common insurance concepts, you've come to the right place. Click the appropriate letter of the alphabet below for info on insurance-related terms.

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401(k) plan

A type of tax-qualified retirement savings account, offered through an employer, into which employees can put a percentage of earned wages.

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529 college savings plan

An education savings plan, sponsored by a state or institution, designed to help families set aside funds for future college costs. Any earnings in a 529 college savings plan are tax-deferred.

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Accident

An unforeseen event or circumstance that may result in damage or injury.

Accident forgiveness

A program offered by some insurance companies in which customers may not lose a discount or incur an accident surcharge following an at-fault accident.

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Accelerated Benefits

Usually having to do with terminal illness or catastrophic circumstances, this feature allows access to a portion of a life insurance policy's death benefit, or payout.

Actuary

A professional who analyzes historical data, statistics and other facts to estimate future risk.

Additional living expenses coverage

A type of protection in a homeowners insurance policy that helps pay for reasonable extra costs that arise when a policyholder is displaced because of a covered peril.

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Adjuster

An insurance professional who investigates coverage and the facts of a loss to determine the compensation an insurance company pays its insured, or a third-party claimant. Also known as a field adjuster, an independent adjuster or a claims examiner.

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Agent

A representative of an insurance company who sells insurance policies, is licensed by the state and is required to complete continuing education classes.

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All other perils not enumerated

All causes of loss not listed on an insurance policy.

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All-terrain vehicle (ATV) insurance

Insurance designed to cover off-road, all-terrain classes of vehicles.

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Amendment

A change to the provisions of an insurance policy contract.

Annuity

A type of insurance vehicle issued by an insurance company where contributions and earnings are tax-deferred. There are several types of annuities: fixed, variable, immediate, deferred, indexed and equity linked. As an annuity owner, you have control over how long the annuity is invested, when you receive benefits and how often you are paid.

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Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS)

An automated vehicle braking system that helps prevent a vehicle's wheels from locking up in order to help improve driver control. ABS automatically pumps the brake system to avoid wheel lockup. Most recent-model commercial and personal autos come equipped with ABS.

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Asset

Any item a person owns or is paying for over time. This can include real estate, personal property, automobiles or other personal possessions. In addition to such tangible items, assets can also be intangible, such as patents or copyrights the insured may own.

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Asset allocation

The strategy of investing your money among several different areas, such as stocks, bonds and cash instruments, to balance risk and return in your portfolio based on your goals, risk tolerance and time horizon. Asset allocation programs do not assure a profit or protect against loss in a declining market.

At-fault

The driver who caused an accident, either fully or partially.

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Auto loan calculator

An automated tool that helps estimate auto loan payments. Some companies such as financial and consumer credit institutions offer auto loan calculators on their websites for consumers so they can estimate their car payments by entering variables such as vehicle cost, interest rate and the length of the loan.

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Automatic deposit

A regularly scheduled electronic deposit to an account. Also known as direct deposit.

Auto safety ratings

An analysis of how vehicles stand up under various types of crash testing. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) are two organizations that conduct and track vehicle crash-test data and provide vehicle safety ratings that detail the ability of vehicles to withstand various types of collisions.

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Beneficiary

The person or organization designated to receive proceeds under the terms of a life insurance policy, college savings plan or annuity.

Benefit

The proceeds or payout from a life insurance policy, supplemental health policy or an annuity. Typically paid to the policy holder or the beneficiary.

Blind spot

A portion of the roadway completely or partially obscured to the driver, often by part of the vehicle's body.

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Boat insurance

Financial protection for a watercraft. Some insurers will add endorsements to a homeowners insurance policy to cover boats; others will require a separate boat insurance policy.

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Bond

A security representing the debt of the company or government issuing it. When a company or government issues a bond, it borrows money from you and you would then be considered a bondholder; it then uses the money to invest in its operations. In exchange, the company or government promises to repay you (the bondholder) the amount you invest, plus interest, at a set point in time called a maturity date.

Broad-form collision coverage (Michigan)

A type of auto insurance offered in the state of Michigan. If you are more than 50 percent at fault in an accident, your insurance could help pay, except you must pay the deductible. If you are 50 percent or less at fault in an accident, your insurance pays, and you do not have to pay the deductible.

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Bundling

The act of obtaining more than one type of insurance policy from the same insurance company. Policyholders usually bundle insurance policies to take advantage of discounts offered by the insurance company. Bundling can apply to obtaining two or more policies, for example, homeowners insurance and auto insurance, or a business owners insurance policy covering both liability and property, to obtain savings.

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Car payment calculator

See "Auto loan calculator".

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Related terms: auto loan calculator

Carrier

Term used to refer to the company that issues your insurance policy.

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Cash investment

A short-term, generally liquid, investment into which you invest cash and typically receive a return in 90 days or less. Examples include money market funds and certificates of deposit (CDs).

Ceiling

A restriction put on certain financial products indicating the highest level of earning permitted for a specified period. For example, if an annuity has a 3.75 percent ceiling, the most it can earn during the specified period is 3.75 percent, even if the market return was higher.

Certificates of deposit (CD)

A savings vehicle offered by a financial institution that earns a fixed rate of interest over a specified period of time. CDs are insured by the FDIC and are used as short-range or mid-range savings options.

Certified Pre-Owned Vehicle

A used, usually late-model, vehicle that has been inspected for damage, had necessary repairs and is endorsed by a manufacturer or other authorizing body. These vehicles typically carry a limited warranty and as a class are generally under a certain age and mileage.

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Claim

A request to an insurance company for recovery for a loss.

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Claimant

An individual, business or legal representative presenting a third-party insurance claim against an individual or his or her insurance carrier.

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Collision

An event in which a vehicle comes into contact with another vehicle or an object, either stationary or moving.

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Collision Coverage

An auto insurance coverage that typically helps pay to repair or replace your insured car after a covered accident

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Commercial use

A classification for vehicles used mainly for business purposes. Commercial use does not apply to vehicles used for commuting to and from a place of business. If business-related use makes up the majority of the vehicle's driving, it is typically considered a commercial use (or business use) vehicle.

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Compounding interest

Interest paid on both the principal and the accumulated unpaid interest.

Comprehensive coverage/Comprehensive physical damage coverage

Typically helps pay for covered damages to your insured car resulting from a peril other than a collision, such as theft, windstorm or flood, to name a few.

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Contributions

The amount of money you put into a savings plan, such as a 401(k) or IRA for retirement, or a 529 plan for college.

Contributory Negligence

A standard of law in which a party cannot collect damages for a loss for which he or she is in any way at fault, even if someone else's fault is greater. Only a few states apply this standard.

Conversion allowance

A credit the insurance company provides when converting a term life insurance policy to a permanent policy. In many instances, it can also help build the initial cash value amount in the new permanent policy.

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Coverage

The protection provided in an insurance policy.

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Covered loss

Loss or legal liability for which an insurance company will pay benefits pursuant to the terms and conditions of a policy.

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Covered peril

An event causing damage to your home or property that is covered by your insurance. Fire, lightning, and wind and hail damage are some examples of covered perils.

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Damage

Harm or injury to an individual or property.

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Deductible

The portion of a covered loss you pay before the insurance company becomes responsible for payment under the policy.

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Related terms: premium

Driver

One who operates a motor vehicle.

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Driver's education

A formalized program of classroom and behind-the-wheel training for vehicle operators. Many states require minors to pass both sections of the training prior to taking the written and behind-the-wheel tests for a driver's license.

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Dwelling protection coverage

Insurance for covered losses stemming from physical damage to a home, subject to certain limitations.

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Earthquake coverage

A type of insurance protection for damages caused by an earthquake. This is generally not offered as part of a typical homeowners insurance policy and must be purchased as an endorsement, or rider, or as a separate earthquake policy.

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Effective date

The date on which insurance coverage begins.

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Emergency road services

This additional insurance pays a set amount of money toward certain types of assistance, such as towing, jump-starts and changing flat tires.

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Emissions Inspection

A test conducted on an automobile to determine how much pollutant the automobile expels. Some states and/or local authorities test cars for carbon emissions each year prior to license plate renewal.

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Employment practices liability coverage

Liability insurance that covers an employer for wrongful acts arising from the employment process. Often, claims involve allegations of wrongful termination, discrimination, whistleblowing or sexual harassment. This coverage is sometimes available on a stand-alone basis or as an endorsement to a directors and officers (D&O) liability policy.

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Endorsement

A provision that changes an insurance policy. Endorsements amend or change coverage in some manner, usually by broadening or restricting coverage.

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Estate

The general term used to refer to all the assets an individual owns, such as real estate, art collections, jewelry, investments and life insurance.

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Estimate

An evaluation of the cost to repair or replace damaged property covered on an insurance policy.

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Excluded Driver

A driver who is specifically excluded from coverage under an auto insurance policy.

Exclusion

Listed causes of loss, property, locations or endeavors that are not covered under an insurance policy. Insureds may be able to buy coverage for excluded perils separately or by endorsement.

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Family liability protection coverage

Personal liability insurance coverage that helps protects the insured and family living with them against claims and lawsuits if he or she injures others or damages their property in an accident.

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Fender Bender

Typically refers to a minor auto collision which results in little, if any, damage to property.

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Financed Car

A car purchased with a loan. In the case of a financed car, the loan holder (the bank or the finance company) typically requires the vehicle owner to purchase collision and comprehensive coverage.

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Fire department charges coverage

A type of insurance protection that helps pay reasonable fees for fire department services related to a covered fire, up to a specified limit

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Flood Damage Title

A branded certificate of title issued, by a state, alerting consumers of a vehicle's flood or water damage history. Criteria for issuing such a title vary by state.

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Forms

The type of coverage and endorsements used on a policy. Forms are named, dated and numbered to provide continuity throughout an insured's policy.

GAP coverage

Guaranteed Asset Protection coverage. A type of insurance that typically covers the difference between what your car is worth and what you still owe on it, in the event that your car is declared a total loss due to an accident or theft.

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Garaging location

The place where an insured regularly parks a car, which may be a location different from the address where the insured lives. The garaging location can affect insurance premium costs.

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Graduated Driver Licensing

A practice implemented by many states granting progressing stages of automobile operator permission to new drivers in the hope of improving driver safety. Under such a system, a teenager, usually around the age of 16, may obtain a provisional driver's license that allows him or her to drive, but with certain restrictions on hours and passengers. When a driver makes it through the probationary period, which varies in length by state, he or she then receives full driving privileges. Driver licensing laws vary by state.

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Guest Medical Protection

Can help pay for reasonable and necessary medical expenses if someone is injured in an accident in your residence.

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Home inventory

A list of personal property created by a homeowner.

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Home insurance

Insurance that protects the home and personal property of the policyholder against damage from certain perils, or causes of loss, and covers the homeowner's personal liability for covered injuries or damages to others.

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Hybrid Electric Vehicle

An automobile operating on two or more sources of energy, usually gasoline and electricity. Typically, the electric motor operates when the car is stopped, thus using less gasoline.

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In force

A term used to mean the policy's coverage is in effect.

Insured

One who is covered by an insurance policy. Also called an assured in some instances, the two terms are synonymous.

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Junk Title

A branded certificate of title that is issued by a state department of motor vehicles when the vehicle is not safe for use on the road. A vehicle with a junk title typically has no resale value except as a source of parts and can usually not be re-titled for road use without overcoming significant state inspection hurdles.

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Landlord insurance

A type of insurance purchased by property owners that covers risks typical to landlords.

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Lessee

One who leases or rents property but does not own it. In real estate, such a person is commonly known as a tenant.

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Liability coverage

Typically helps protect you for damages to others that you're legally obligated to pay.

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Lien holder

A person or organization with a legal claim, or lien, against a property, typically because that person or organization has loaned money or performed services for the owner of the property. The lien holder generally has the right to seize the associated property if payment is unsatisfactory and can impose certain restrictions on the borrower, such as insurance requirements on a vehicle.

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Life insurance

Provides payment to a beneficiary that can be the basis of financial stability and security after the death of the insured.

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Limits

A coverage limit determines the most an insurance company will pay for a covered loss under a particular coverage. Some limits apply to each person or occurrence, or to an item or group of items.

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Loss

Value of damage to a person or property.

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Loss of business income coverage

A type of business insurance protection that covers the loss of business revenue due to a covered peril that causes the business to shut down or limit operations. This coverage is subject to certain time and other limitations and helps provide income until the insured business owner can get the damage repaired and get the business back into operation.

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Mortgage Calculator

An automated tool that helps estimate mortgage payments. Some companies such as financial and consumer credit institutions offer calculators on websites where mortgage shoppers can quickly estimate their loan payment by entering variables such as home cost, interest rate and length of the loan.

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Mortgagee Clause

A provision on a homeowners insurance policy that lists any lenders, or mortgagees, on a home. Should the insured void the policy by some act, such as arson, this clause can help protect the lender's investment.

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Motorcycle insurance

A type of financial protection that covers the owner of a motorcycle against financial loss arising from use of or damage to the vehicle.

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Motor Vehicle Repair Estimate

A document that provides a description of the services performed, parts used to repair, and the estimated cost for parts and labor necessary to repair the vehicle.

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Motor Vehicle Insurance

Insurance that covers risks associated with cars, trucks, motorcycles, and other road vehicles. The definition of a motor vehicle may vary by state. A policy may include liability coverage (which helps cover damages caused as a result of the driver's negligence); comprehensive and/or collision coverage, for damage to the motor vehicle itself; medical payments coverage; and/or uninsured motorist coverage.

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Mysterious disappearance (off premises)

An event in which one loses a piece of personal property while away from the covered home. Coverage would likely be triggered if the only possible explanation for the loss was theft.

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Net worth

The difference between assets and liabilities. This number, which applies to both individuals and businesses, is a key measure of how much an entity or a person possesses. In business, net worth is also known as book value or shareholders' equity.

No-fault insurance

A type of car insurance under which the insurer will help pay to cover damages incurred by an insured as a result of an accident, regardless of fault.

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Open peril

A term describing an insurance policy that covers losses caused by any peril unless it is specifically excluded or limited in the policy. Also known as "all-risk."

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Peril

Any hazard that can cause a loss to a home, business or vehicle.

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Permanent life insurance

A type of policy that does not expire during the life of the insured and combines a death benefit with a savings portion that can build cash value. It is typically more expensive than term life insurance.

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Personal injury protection

Typically provides coverage for an insured person, covered family members and covered passengers for certain reasonable and necessary expenses, such as medical and hospital expenses, income continuation, loss of services, and funeral expenses for bodily injury caused by a covered accident, regardless of who was at fault.

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Personal property coverage

Insurance that provides protection against covered losses for damage to personal property.

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Policy

A written contract for insurance between you and your company.

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Related terms: premium, deductible

Premium

The amount paid to procure coverage from an insurance company.

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Related terms: deductible, policy

Primary Driver

The person indicated on an auto insurance application as the person who will drive the insured vehicle most often.

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Primary residence

The location where a policyholder lives most of the time.

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Principal

The amount of money you invest.

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Proof of insurance card

A document from an insurance company with policy information, such as the name of the policyholder, the insured property, the policy number and the name of the insurance company providing coverage, that may be used as evidence of insurance.

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Property damage liability coverage

A term used to describe a type of liability coverage that helps financially protect the insured against damages he or she accidentally cause to another person's property. This type of coverage is typically found in various types of insurance policies, including homeowners, renters and auto

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Renters insurance

A type of property insurance for individuals who rent or lease a home, condo or apartment. Such policies typically include coverage for personal property and liability.

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Replacement cost

A provision in an insurance policy that enables the customer to apply for the full cost of replacing the damaged items.

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Rider

See "Endorsement."

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Risk

An exposure of loss or harm to your property, or your potential legal responsibility.

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Salvage title

A branded, state-issued title to a vehicle indicating that, in the past, it had damage exceeding a certain percentage of its value. A state will issue such a title to a vehicle after it is repaired and passes a safety inspection, so as to warn potential new owners of its previous damage.

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Salvage vehicle

A vehicle for which a state has issued a salvage title. Such a title is generally issued when a vehicle is repaired and passes a state-recognized safety inspection after being declared a "total loss" by an insurance company, typically due to damage whose cost to repair would exceed a certain percentage of the vehicle's worth. A salvage title alerts potential buyers of the vehicle of its past damage.

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Scheduled personal property coverage

Extended optional insurance coverage for high-value appraised personal property that can be added to a homeowners, renters or condo policy.

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Second home

A residence that is not the homeowner's primary residence.

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Stackable coverage

A type of uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage in which policyholders can "stack," or combine the limits of the uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage they purchase for each of their insured vehicles to help cover the cost of damage from an accident caused by an uninsured or underinsured driver. For example, if you have uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage with limits of $100,000 on two policies on your two vehicles, and you're injured when an uninsured motorist hits one of your vehicles, if your policy is "stackable," your costs would be covered up to the combined limit of $200,000. Coverage for stacking varies by policy and by state law. States allowing stacking may allow insurers to limit stacking through policy wording.

Stacking

An ability, allowed by some states, to combine the uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage limits from multiple cars owned and insured by the same family. For example, if you had limits of $100,000 uninsured/underinsured motorist bodily injury coverage on the policies for each of your two cars and were injured in a crash caused by an uninsured motorist while driving one of your cars, you could add the limits from your two policies together to help pay for the damages — to a combined limit of $200,000.

Stock

An investment that represents ownership in a corporation.

Term life insurance

An affordable type of policy that provides coverage for a limited period of time, or "term."

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Trust

A legal arrangement whereby control over property is transferred to a person or organization (the trustee) for the benefit of someone else (the beneficiary). Trusts are created for a variety of reasons, including tax savings and improved asset management.

Uninsured motorist coverage

A type of auto insurance coverage that helps protect an insured in the event they are involved in an accident with a vehicle driven by someone without liability insurance. It is required in some states.

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Will

A legal document containing a person's wishes for his or her property and assets upon death. Unlike trusts, wills are subject to probate proceedings and become public at time of death.

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