Assuming the Risk and Damages through Underwriting Jobs

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As part of their underwriter jobs, property and casualty agents and brokers sell policies that help individuals and companies cover expenses and losses from such risks as fire, burglary, traffic accidents, and other emergencies.

These salespeople also may be known as fire, casualty, or marine insurance agents or brokers. Sometimes, they are called property and casualty underwriters. Likewise, the story of the development of property and casualty insurance parallels the history of human economic development. This insurance was first found in the marine field. A single shipwreck could put a ship owner out of business. It became essential to share this risk. Organized maritime insurance began in the seventeenth century at Lloyd’s coffeehouse in London. Descriptions of individual’s ships, their cargoes, and their destinations were posted. Persons willing to share the possible loss, in return for a fee, signed their names below these descriptions indicating what percentage of the financial responsibility they were willing to assume. Those who signed were known as underwriters.

As experience was acquired, predictions of loss became more accurate and rates standardized. To provide protection for larger risks in underwriting jobs and services, individuals had organized the companies. The first marine insurance company in the United States, the Insurance Company of North America was founded in Philadelphia in 1792. This company still survives. Other types of insurance developed in response to people’s need for protection. Insurance against loss by fire became available after the disastrous lesson of the London Fire. The first accident insurance policy in the U.S. was sold in 1863. Burglary insurance, protection against property taken by forced entrance, which covers other forms of stealing, was first written in 1899. Around the turn of the century, the development of the horseless carriage led to the automobile insurance industry. The first automobile policy was sold in 1898. This area of the insurance field grew rapidly. Growth of business and industrial organizations necessitated protection for employees injured on the job. The first workers’ compensation was sold in 1910. Insurance companies have always been alert to new marketing possibilities. In the last few decades, increasing emphasis has been placed on ‘package’ policies offering comprehensive coverage. Typical is the homeowner’s policy which, in addition to fire protection, covers losses from explosions, windstorms, hail, smoke, aircraft and other vehicles, riots, and civil commotion. In the mid-1950s, a group of private firms provided the first insurance on the multimillion dollar reactors used in atomic energy plants.

Recently, however, certain social changes have brought about major shifts in the policies of property and casualty companies. Because of the rising rate of vandalism, burglaries, and thefts such as shoplifting, many companies either refuse to insure against these occurrences or else have raised rates to a prohibitive level. Theft, fire, and burglary, insurance have become financial impossibilities for many small merchants in urban areas. Universities and large corporations must pay very high premiums to obtain protection against increasing vandalism.

With their underwriter careers, property and casualty insurance salespersons work under one of three types of contracts. An agent serves as the authorized representative of one or several companies. In general, the policies the agent writes are limited to those offered by these companies. A broker has no connection with a company but orders policies for customers through several agents or directly from the companies. Special agents or office agents represent the company that employs them. They write only policies offered by their company. In many cases, special agents work out of a regional office that handles other insurance functions such as claims investigation or claims adjusting. Where special or office agents are salaried employees of a company, agents and brokers are self-employed. Often agents or brokers will employ additional salespeople or solicitors on a salary or on commission.

In the underwriter employment, all three types of sales workers operate in a similar fashion. Each one orders or issues policies, collects premiums, renews and changes existing coverage, and assists clients with reports of losses and settlement of claims. Backed by the resources of the companies that they represent, individual agents may issue policies insuring for loss or damage for everything from furs and automobiles to ocean liners or factories. Agents are authorized to issue a “binder” to provide complete protection for customers between the time they sign the policy applications and its approval by the granting company. Naturally, the agent must be selective in the risks accepted under a binder. When a risk is refused by a company or its agent, the customer may become hostile to the broker. Some agents or brokers specialize in one type of insurance such as automobile. All agents or brokers, however, must have knowledge of the kind of protection required and the exact differences offered by each company they represent.

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