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What Is Insurance?

Insurance is a contract, represented by a policy, in which an individual or entity receives financial protection or reimbursement against losses from an insurance company. The company pools clients' risks to make payments more affordable for the insured.

Insurance policies are used to hedge against the risk of financial losses, both big and small, that may result from damage to the insured or her property, or from liability for damage or injury caused to a third party.

How Insurance Works

There is a multitude of different types of insurance policies available, and virtually any individual or business can find an insurance company willing to insure them—for a price. The most common types of personal insurance policies are auto, health, homeowners, and life. Most individuals in the United States have at least one of these types of insurance, and car insurance is required by law.

Law commonly refers to a system of rules created and enforced through social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior, with its precise definition a matter of longstanding debate. It has been variously described as a science and the art of justice. State-enforced laws can be made by a group legislature or by a single legislator, resulting in statutes; by the executive through decrees and regulations; or established by judges through precedent, usually in common law jurisdictions. Private individuals may create legally binding contracts, including arbitration agreements that adopt alternative ways of resolving disputes to standard court litigation. The creation of laws themselves may be influenced by a constitution, written or tacit, and the rights encoded therein. The law shapes politics, economics, history and society in various ways and serves as a mediator of relations between people.

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Insurance law is the practice of law surrounding insurance, including insurance policies and claims. It can be broadly broken into three categories - regulation of the business of insurance; regulation of the content of insurance policies, especially with regard to consumer policies; and regulation of claim handling.

Common law jurisdictions in former members of the British empire, including the United States, Canada, India, South Africa, and Australia ultimately originate with the law of England and Wales. What distinguishes common law jurisdictions from their civil law counterparts is the concept of judge-made law and the principle of stare decisis - the idea, at its simplest, that courts are bound by the previous decisions of courts of the same or higher status. In the insurance law context, this meant that the decisions of early commercial judges such as Mansfield, Lord Eldon and Buller bound, or, outside England and Wales, were at the least highly persuasive to, their successors considering similar questions of law.