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Insurance is a form of risk management primarily used to hedge against the risk of a contingent, uncertain loss. Insurance is defined as the equitable transfer of the risk of a loss, from one entity to another, in exchange for payment. An insurer, or insurance carrier, is a company selling the insurance; the insured, or policyholder, is the person or entity buying the insurance policy. The amount to be charged for a certain amount of insurance coverage is called the premium. Risk management, the practice of appraising and controlling risk, has evolved as a discrete field of study and practice.

The transaction involves the insured assuming a guaranteed and known relatively small loss in the form of payment to the insurer in exchange for the insurer's promise to compensate (indemnify) the insured in the case of a financial (personal) loss. The insured receives a contract, called the insurance policy, which details the conditions and circumstances under which the insured will be financially compensated.

Life Insurance

Life insurance is a contract between an insurance policy holder and an insurer, where the insurer promises to pay a designated beneficiary sum of money (the "benefits") upon the death of the insured person. Depending on the contract, other events such as terminal illness or critical illness may also trigger payment. The policy holder typically pays a premium, either regularly or as a lump sum. Other expenses (such as funeral expenses) are also sometimes included in the benefits.

The advantage for the policy owner is "peace of mind", in knowing that the death of the insured person will not result in financial hardship for loved ones and lenders. Life policies are legal contracts and the terms of the contract describe the limitations of the insured events. Specific exclusions are often written into the contract to limit the liability of the insurer; common examples are claims relating to suicide, fraud, war, riot and civil commotion.

Life-based contracts tend to fall into two major categories:

Protection policies -designed to provide a benefit in the event of specified event, typically a lump sum payment. A common form of this design is term insurance.

Investment policies -where the main objective is to facilitate the growth of capital by regular or single premiums. Common forms are whole life, universal life, Endowment plans, money back plans.

General Insurance

Insurance other than ‘Life Insurance’ falls under the category of General Insurance. General Insurance comprises of insurance of property against fire, burglary etc, personal insurance such as Accident and Health Insurance, and liability insurance which covers legal liabilities. There are also other covers such as Errors and Omissions insurance for professionals, credit insurance etc. Non-life insurance companies have products that cover property against Fire and allied perils, flood storm and inundation, earthquake and so on. There are products that cover property against burglary, theft etc. The non-life companies also offer policies covering machinery against breakdown, there are policies that cover the hull of ships and so on. A Marine Cargo policy covers goods in transit including by sea, air and road. Further, insurance of motor vehicles against damages and theft forms a major chunk of non-life insurance business.

Most general insurance covers are annual contracts. However, there are few products that are long-term. It is important for proposers to read and understand the terms and conditions of a policy before they enter into an insurance contract. The proposal form needs to be filled in completely and correctly by a proposer to ensure that the cover is adequate and the right one.