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Insurance Underwriters: Keeping The Company Profitable

Written by Michele Wilmonen. Posted in Definitions Last Updated: 05/02/2011

An insurance underwriter is responsible in deciding what risks the insurance company should take on that won’t result in a large claim that has to be paid out later.

An Underwriter Looking Over Numbers

Underwriters analyze data to determine if an applicant is a good insurance risk.

While agents are essential to gaining clients for an insurance company so that the company can make money, it is the insurance underwriters who keeps the insurance company from making bad insurance investments and losing money on clients.

Underwriters are a vital part of an insurance company and a larger part of peoples insurance than they realize as the only parts of the insurance company that most people have dealings with are their agent and a customer service agent. While there are underwriter’s in all fields of insurance, we are going to concentrate on what an auto insurance (personal and commercial) underwriter does.

What is an Underwriter?

An underwriter is an employee of an insurance company that decides whether the company should insure certain people and situations. First, they gather all of the information about the person applying for insurance, such as their driving record with the Department of Motor Vehicles, their CLUE report that contains their claims history with past insurance companies and also their credit report.

Next, they look at the information and statistics of the field they have their business in (for commercial insurance), the area that they live in (for weather claims, theft rates, ect) and any other pertinent information that may need.

Finally, after they have gathered all of the information that they need, an underwriter makes a decision as to the level of risk that this potential insured presents to the company. Level of risk just means how likely the applicant would end up filing a claim that the insurance company would have to pay out on and also the extent and monetary value of how much would end up being paid out for a claim.

If the risk is low, the underwriter approves the application and the premium. If the risk is too high, the underwriter denies the application and the person applying for insurance either has to make certain changes before they are approved or they move on and apply with another insurance company.

While no one can ever predict the chance of a claim being filed, it is very important that an underwriter be vigilant and make the best decisions possible in who the insurance company insures or it could cost the insurance company a lot of money in claims later down the road.

What Is Required To Be An Underwriter?

The requirements to become an underwriter all depends on the insurance company. One requirement that is usually seen with all companies though is that the applicant has at least a Bachelor’s Degree and experience working with computers. Other education that is helpful to obtain a position and also advance in the field once you are hired there are courses through the Insurance Institute of America and also The American Institute for Chartered Property and Casualty Underwriters.

Where Are Underwriters Located?

Underwriters are usually located in the main corporate and regional offices of insurance companies, but as technology continues to advance, more and more they can also work from their homes. Because everything is being stored on computers all that an underwriter now needs is a computer and a desk to be able to do their job.

For simple underwriting situations, underwriters can even be a piece of computer software that makes a decision based on the records of the person applying for insurance and also the statistics.

Insurance Agents: What They Do For You

Written by Michele Wilmonen. Posted in Definitions Last Updated: 05/01/2011

Insurance agents have the option of being an independent agent or exclusive agent and have the option of selling many different types of insurance.

Insurance Agent at her Desk

Your insurance agent is there to help you with your insurance needs.

The simple definition of an insurance agent is someone that sells insurance products. There are insurance agents in just about every city and town across the nation and they can be independent agents and sell for a number of different insurance companies or they can be agents that sell just for one company.

Agents are not bound to selling just one type of insurance either; they can also sell different insurance products just as long as they are licensed in the states that they sell in.

Independent Agents

An independent insurance agent is just what it sounds like – an insurance agent that is an independent entity not attached to any insurance company in particular. Independent agents pick and choose what insurance companies that they want to sell and can sell for a number of different companies all at the same time.

The benefit of being an independent agent is that you can offer your potential clients a number of different insurance companies to quote so that they can chose which one to go with. This option gives an independent agent the upper hand in selling to new clients and also in being able to keep clients that are already on their books, when they are not happy with the insurance company that they are currently with.

Exclusive Agents

Opposite of the independent insurance agent are the agents that exclusively sell just one insurance company’s products. They are not employees of the insurance company that they sell for, but more like independent sales agents that only have one thing to sell. These agents specialize in one company and are more familiar with the ins and outs of the single company that they sell for, more so than the independent agent that sells for multiple companies.

Agents Sell Different Insurance Lines

While we concentrate on auto insurance here at carinsuranceguidebook.com, insurance agents have a broader insurance approach. An agent that is licensed to sell auto insurance can also be licensed to sell home, commercial, crop, fleet insurance, specialty and health insurance. The more insurance lines that they are able to write for, the more money they can make.

How do You Become an Agent?

To sell insurance as an agent you have to first be licensed in the state that you are planning on selling insurance in. Each state has different rules, regulations and procedures for you to follow in order to get your insurance license. The one thing that is the same in every state is that you are required to pass a licensing test before you can be licensed to sell insurance in that state.

To find out what these requirements are contact your state insurance commissioner or visit their website for more information. If you are already working for an insurance agency, the agent that you are working for can also be a good resource for information on how to obtain your license.

Customer Service Representative (CSR)

Written by Michele Wilmonen. Posted in Definitions Last Updated: 04/26/2011

A CSR, also known as a Customer Service Representative, can be found in both your insurance agent’s office and also with your insurance company to help you with your basic insurance needs.

CSR Talking on Phone

A CSR has access to most of your policy and claim information to help you.

When you call your insurance company or insurance agent’s office the first person that you usually speak to is a Customer Service Representative or CSR.

Never heard of that term before?

CSR is just an abbreviation for a customer service representative and other than being used heavily in the fields that employ them, the term CSR is rarely heard in every day conversation.

Where You Find a CSR

Customer Service Representatives are found throughout the insurance industry. They work in your insurance agent’s office and they work directly for your insurance company. Wherever there may be contact with you, the customer, there is usually a customer service representative.

You will usually find the CSR sitting in the front part of the insurance agent’s office. With an insurance company, the CSR is the one that answers the phone to assist you first. In both cases they are there to try and assist you with what they can and re-direct you to a higher up person for the items that they can’t.

What a CSR Can Help You With

A CSR can help you with everything that does not require a license to sell insurance. This means they can answer your insurance questions, give you insurance quotes, help you file a claim, talk to you about your billing and take payments on your insurance policy. What they cannot do is actually sell you insurance or give you coverage counseling without the assistance of a licensed agent.

Some CSRs are licensed so that they can assist you with everything. Whether they are licensed or not depends on if the agency they are working with needs them to be licensed in addition to the licensed agents they already have so that the CSR can offer additional assistance to clients.

A CSR that works directly with an insurance company is only licensed when the company’s business plan includes offering insurance sales directly through them to help their independent insurance agents that sell their coverage or to forego selling through agents and just selling insurance directly.

What is a CSR Paid?

The regular pay of a CSR can be in one of two forms; hourly wages or salaried. How they are paid depends on where they work and how that insurance company or agency pays their employees. Most CSR’s are on hourly wages as their hours can vary and it is easier to figure out pay if you pay by the hour.

Also the CSR is usually the first position to have their hours decreased if the agency or the insurance company is in need of decreasing their expenses. Again it is easier to cut hours with an hourly wage earner than it is to rework the wages of a salaried employee.

If a CSR is licensed, in addition to their normal base salary, they could also earn a small commission for the insurance that they sell. The amount again depends on the insurance company and in the case of an agency, how much of the commission that the agent wishes to part with.

Car Insurance Card for Proof of Insurance

Written by Michele Wilmonen. Posted in Definitions, Research Last Updated: 04/23/2011

Car insurance cards are the compact version of your insurance policy and should be kept in your vehicle at all times to provide proof that you have valid insurance.

Evidence of Insurance

Not all proof of auto insurance comes in the form of a card.

A car insurance card is your verification of proof that you have insurance coverage in place on your vehicle and are carrying the minimum amount of insurance required by your state.

Insurance cards come in many different shapes and sizes and are needed for a wide array of reasons. But, one thing that is the same no matter what is that just like your driver’s license, you have to have it with you whenever you drive your vehicle.

What’s On an Insurance Card?

The front on an insurance card contains all of the important information that pertains to you and your coverage. It includes the name of the company that you are insured with, your vehicle information, the name of the person that holds the policy, policy number and your policy effective dates.

The back of the card can vary from company to company, but usually contains how to contact your insurance company with questions about your policy or how to file a claim. It could also list the steps that you need to go through in the event of accident, to keep everyone safe from any additional harm and to gather the information that you need for an insurance claim.

What Insurance Card?

Not every insurance company sends out an actual insurance card. The insurance card is simply proof of insurance and can take many forms; the phrase insurance card has just become a universal term for all small sized verifications of insurance.

Some companies provide two 4”x4” pieces of paper that are separated from the rest of the paperwork in the insurance packet. Others have a single insurance verification that is the same width as the rest of the insurance packet but only 1/3 the length. No matter the size, it is important to pull the verification out of the packet and keep it with you when you drive.

Why Do I Need a Car Insurance Card?

Your car insurance card is your proof that you have at least the minimum liability insurance that is required to be able to drive in your state. This verification is needed first and foremost in the case you are pulled over for a traffic violation. The officer that pulls you over is also going to check that you are carrying the minimum insurance on your vehicle or you will be getting a second ticket.

Insurance cards provide the needed information that needs to be exchanged with the other party in the case of a case accident. They are also required when you want to drive a vehicle that is not yours, such as test driving a new vehicle from a car lot or if you are renting a car.

Where Should I Keep My Card?

A good number of people keep their insurance card in their wallet thinking that this is the best place to put it as they always will have it with them. But what happens if you have multiple drivers in the house or you allow someone else to drive your vehicle?

Insurance coverage follows the vehicle you are insuring, not the driver so it is best to actually keep your insurance car with the vehicle.

What is an Accident?

Written by Todd Clay. Posted in Definitions Last Updated: 03/22/2011

Comprehensive, at-fault and not-at-fault auto accidents are all the different categories that help define a car accident.

A Tow Truck Needed for this Accident

A tow truck may be needed if you role-play a real accident.

We have all heard someone say that they have been in a car accident at one time or another.  But, what is an accident?

Is it just damage to their car, someone getting hurt or even just damage done to someone else’s property?  Per the Webster Miriam dictionary, the term accident means “an unforeseen and unplanned event or circumstance”.

In the world of insurance, these unplanned events fall under three different categories; Comprehensive Accidents, Not-At-Fault Accidents and At-Fault Accidents.

What it a Comprehensive Accident?

There is a difference between a comprehensive claim and a comprehensive accident.  A comprehensive claim is when you file with your insurance company that you have a rock chip or a broken windshield.  A comprehensive accident is when you hit an animal or even in some cases when the animal hits you.

Most comprehensive accidents happen when you are driving along the road and a deer jumps out in front of your vehicle and you hit it.  Even though this is technically a collision as you have “collided” with the animal, the insurance companies file this under your comprehensive coverage.  This is good for you because most people carry a lower deductible on their comprehensive coverage than they do for collision coverage, meaning you will pay less out of pocket to get your vehicle fixed.

What is a Not-At-Fault Accident?

Accidents that are covered under the collision portion of your policy fall into two categories; you are either at fault for the accident or you are not-at-fault.  A not-at-fault accident is when you are hit by someone or something else.  These types of accidents do not get counted against you on your driving record or on your insurance record.

What is an At-Fault Accident?

An at-fault-accident is just what it sounds like: you are the one that caused the accident.  These types of accidents go on both your driving record and your insurance record. This means you will most likely see not only the points go up on your driving record, but you will also see your insurance premium go up.  If you have too many of these types of accidents, your insurance company may cancel your coverage because you are too high of a risk for them to insure.

Even if you are not the main cause of the accident you could still be found at some percentage of fault in the states that have what are called Comparable Fault Laws.  These laws assign fault to both drivers if it is found that both drivers both did something to contribute to the accident.

For example, in a comparable fault state if you hit someone that pulled out in front of you, you could still be assigned a certain percentage of fault if you did not do everything you could to avoid the accident.  It could be that you weren’t paying attention and didn’t apply the brakes soon enough or that you were going too fast.  The percentage of fault that you are assigned will determine how much your insurance company has to pay for the amount of damages to your vehicle and how much the other company has to pay for your vehicle.

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