Insurance

Life Insurance in India made its debut well over 100 years ago

Life insurance

Life insurance in India made its debut well over 100 years ago. Life insurance is a contract that pledges payment of an amount to the person assured (or his nominee) on the happening of the event insured against.

Life insurance or life assurance is a contract between the policy owner and the insurer, where the insurer agrees to pay a sum of money upon the occurrence of the insured individual’s or individuals’ death or other event, such as terminal illness or critical illness. In return, the policy owner agrees to pay a stipulated amount called a premium at regular intervals or in lump sums.

Contract of Insurance

A contract of insurance is a contract of utmost good faith technically known as uberrima fides. The doctrine of disclosing all material facts is embodied in this important principle, which applies to all forms of insurance. At the time of taking a policy, policyholder should ensure that all questions in the proposal form are correctly answered. Any misrepresentation, non-disclosure or fraud in any document leading to the acceptance of the risk would render the insurance contract null and void.

Protection

Savings through life insurance guarantee full protection against risk of death of the saver. Also, in case of demise, life insurance assures payment of the entire amount assured (with bonuses wherever applicable) whereas in other savings schemes, only the amount saved (with interest) is payable.

Aid to Thrift

Life insurance encourages ‘thrift’. It allows long-term savings since payments can be made effortlessly because of the ‘easy installment’ facility built into the scheme. (Premium payment for insurance is monthly, quarterly, half yearly or yearly).

Liquidity

In case of insurance, it is easy to acquire loans on the sole security of any policy that has acquired loan value. Besides, a life insurance policy is also generally accepted as security, even for a commercial loan.

Tax Relief

Life Insurance is the best way to enjoy tax deductions on income tax and wealth tax. This is available for amounts paid by way of premium for life insurance subject to income tax rates in force. Assesses can also avail of provisions in the law for tax relief. In such cases the assured in effect pays a lower premium for insurance than otherwise.

Money When You Need It

A policy that has a suitable insurance plan or a combination of different plans can be effectively used to meet certain monetary needs that may arise from time-to-time. Children’s education, start-in-life or marriage provision or even periodical needs for cash over a stretch of time can be less stressful with the help of these policies. Alternatively, policy money can be made available at the time of one’s retirement from service and used for any specific purpose, such as, purchase of a house or for other investments. Also, loans are granted to policyholders for house building or for purchase of flats (subject to certain conditions).

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.

In respect of insurance of property, it is important that the cover is taken for the actual value of the property to avoid being imposed a penalty should there be a claim. Where a property is undervalued for the purposes of insurance, the insured will have to bear a ratable proportion of the loss. For instance if the value of a property is Rs.100 and it is insured for Rs.50/-, in the event of a loss to the extent of say Rs.50/-, the maximum claim amount payable would be Rs.25/- (50% of the loss being borne by the insured for underinsuring the property by 50%). This concept is quite often not understood by most insured.

Personal insurance covers include policies for Accident, Health etc. Products offering Personal Accident cover are benefit policies. Health insurance covers offered by non-life insurers are mainly hospitalization covers either on reimbursement or cashless basis. The cashless service is offered through Third Party Administrators who have arrangements with various service providers, i.e., hospitals. The Third Party Administrators also provide service for reimbursement claims. Sometimes the insurers themselves process reimbursement claims.

Accident and health insurance policies are available for individuals as well as groups. A group could be a group of employees of an organization or holders of credit cards or deposit holders in a bank etc. Normally when a group is covered, insurers offer group discounts.

Liability insurance covers such as Motor Third Party Liability Insurance, Workmen’s Compensation Policy etc offer cover against legal liabilities that may arise under the respective statutes Motor Vehicles Act, The Workmen’s Compensation Act etc. Some of the covers such as the foregoing (Motor Third Party and Workmen’s Compensation policy) are compulsory by statute. Liability Insurance not compulsory by statute is also gaining popularity these days. Many industries insure against Public liability. There are liability covers available for Products as well.

There are general insurance products that are in the nature of package policies offering a combination of the covers mentioned above. For instance, there are package policies available for householders, shop keepers and also for professionals such as doctors, chartered accountants etc. Apart from offering standard covers, insurers also offer customized or tailor-made ones.

Suitable general Insurance covers are necessary for every family. It is important to protect one’s property, which one might have acquired from one’s hard earned income. A loss or damage to one’s property can leave one shattered. Losses created by catastrophes such as the tsunami, earthquakes, cyclones etc have left many homeless and penniless. Such losses can be devastating but insurance could help mitigate them. Property can be covered, so also the people against Personal Accident. A Health Insurance policy can provide financial relief to a person undergoing medical treatment whether due to a disease or an injury.

Industries also need to protect themselves by obtaining insurance covers to protect their building, machinery, stocks etc. They need to cover their liabilities as well. Financiers insist on insurance. So, most industries or businesses that are financed by banks and other institutions do obtain covers. But are they obtaining the right covers? And are they insuring adequately are questions that need to be given some thought. Also organizations or industries that are self-financed should ensure that they are protected by insurance. 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.

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