Life insurance is a pretty vivid reminder that "it's not all about you." It's something you have to have, but the benefit goes to your loved ones -- or perhaps, your creditors. Non-life insurance is a little more equitable, because you get to share in the benefits. Sometimes called general insurance or property and casualty coverage, it insures everything in your life except...your life. If you're ever injured, or if your home or car is wrecked, it's your non-life coverage that comes to the rescue.
Non-life insurance is a broad category, including on both people and things. Insurance companies and company-owned agencies typically specialize in one or the other, though individual brokers and brokerages have the option of dealing in multiple types of coverage. For example, a large brokerage might contain people specializing in life and disability, group and health plans, auto and homeowner's insurance, or liability coverage for professionals. Smaller brokerages are more likely to specialize in one or two lines of business. If your own broker doesn't sell everything you need, you can probably score a referral to another broker who's got what you want.
Coverage on You
Death isn't necessarily the worst thing that could happen to your household. Imagine the effects of a chronic, debilitating illness or a crippling accident. Not only is your income lost, but you become a financial liability. Health coverage, disability insurance, critical-illness insurance and many other products provide protection against these risks. Group plans, through an employer or other organization, can often provide a comprehensive package of these coverages at less than the cost of buying them separately. If you're in a professional partnership, "key-person" disability coverage can protect you and your partners if one becomes unable to work.
Home and Auto
Of course, coverage that protects you personally is only part of the picture. Car insurance is mandatory almost everywhere, and you need coverage on your home as well. Car policies run a wide range. If you drive an old "beater," a simple liability policy -- to protect other drivers -- is the legal minimum. Policies for more valuable cars cover damage from collisions, while comprehensive insurance adds theft coverage and damage from other causes. Homeowner's coverage will pay to rebuild or repair a home after major damage, though the aftermath of a standout party might not qualify. Specific hazards such as flooding and natural disasters might require separate coverage.
Those major categories of coverage are just the tip of the iceberg. There are lots of specialized types of non-life coverage. Professional liability is a thriving field, with malpractice insurance for doctors and errors and omissions coverage or "E&O" for lawyers and insurance agents themselves. Specialized policies cover risks such as tornadoes, hurricanes and earthquakes in affected areas. You can purchase policies on a boat or RV, or your world-class collection of Depression glass. Some companies even offer insurance against identity theft. Chances are, you can find a policy to cover almost any risk you might face.
Fred Decker is a trained chef and certified food-safety trainer. Decker wrote for the Saint John, New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal, and has been published in Canada's Hospitality and Foodservice magazine. He's held positions selling computers, insurance and mutual funds, and was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.