Thursday, April 21, 2011

Deductible Basics

When a covered insurance claim happens the insured, in many cases, will be responsible for the first few dollars of most losses. The amount they are responsible for is called the deductible. More often than not, deductibles are only associated with property damage of the insured’s own possessions whether that is a vehicle that was damaged or damage to their contents, their buildings or even their loss of income. On some occasions you may see deductibles on liability claims but not in many.

Deductibles can come in many different forms on insurance policies. You can have a given dollar amount, say $500. Often times you see this type of deductible on home insurance or business property insurance. Some deductibles might be a percent of the loss like 1% or 10%. Sometimes you will see this type of deductible on a home or business but many times it will be associated specifically with earthquake coverage. Deductibles can be vanishing deductibles. As the insured racks up years of no losses, their deductible gradually drops each year until eventual it is $0.

In most cases the deductible is per claim. This means that each time you have a claim you pay a deductible. It isn’t like your typical health insurance policy where you have an out of pocket deductible for the year and once you meet that limit you are done with the deductible. In property and casualty, if you have a $500 flat per claim deductible you will pay $500 each time you have a claim no matter how many you have in a given year.

Deductibles can be a helpful cost savings tool. They can be raised to help drop premiums but the insured needs to understand that by raising deductibles they have taken on a bit more of the burden of possible claims.

It is important for insureds to understand what their deductible is so that they can be prepared to financially meet its requirement if a claim were to happen. I mention this more in connection with a percentage deductible. The insured should know if the percent is on the cost of the claim or on the coverage limit. For example, if a person had a $200,000 house and an insurance policy with a 5% deductible (on the coverage limit) it would be best to know that you have a $10,000 deductible before you have a claim. Someone that doesn’t know their policy might think that it is 5% per the cost of the claim.

Deductibles are just one of many facets to an insurance policy. Be sure to familiarize yourself with your policy and policy coverages and consult your independent insurance when ever you have any questions.