Whenever a company offers its services, it's generally quick to note that it's bonded, licensed, and insured (when it applies and if they are) but I was never certain what that actually meant. Until now, all I knew is that you should only hire someone if they're bonded, licensed (if applicable) and insured. Often times someone who isn't will be cheaper, but you will have to accept all of the responsibility if something bad happens and, as Murphy's Law clearly states – if something bad can happen, it will.
Being bonded means that a bonding company has secured money that is available to the consumer in the event they file a claim against the company. The secured money is in the control of the state, a bond, and not under the control of the company. Let's say that you hire a cleaning company and they end up stealing your Nintendo Wii. Well, you would file a claim against the company and, after an investigation, would be paid out by this bond.
This is slightly different but similar to what it means for an employee to be bonded. Being bonded in that case means that a bonding company has investigated your background and finds that you're trustworthy and “good” enough to insure. In general, this is generally done when an employee has to handle large amounts of money or handle valuable property like jewelry or art. There is a very extensive and deep background check involved and what the employer gets is insurance that you won't steal. If you do, then the bonding company pays out the amount of the theft. By being bonded, it shows that the employee is trustworthy enough for a bonding company to insure you up to a certain amount. Now, a company that is bonded means that a bonding company has funds
For certain professions, a license is necessary to show that you're competent and permitted to conduct business in the city, municipality, or state in which the license was issued. For example, home improvement contractors will have to be licensed to perform certain types of work and that license number will be printed on every advertisement they print. You can take that license number and look up their performance history in most states through the Better Business Bureau.
This is probably the most commonly understood of the three (second to being licensed) and this refers to what happens if someone gets hurt on the job. Let's say a company is fixing your roof and a roofer falls off and hurts him or herself. If the company isn't insured, then the claim gets filed against your homeowner's insurance (bad). If the company is insured, then the claim gets filed against the roofing company's insurance.
In summary, it's important that anyone you work with is licensed, bonded, and insured. There's no reason why you should have to work with someone who isn't all three, unless being licensed doesn't apply. Once you know that they are, research and confirm that they are being truthful. I can say that I'm bonded, but unless I provide the documentation and you can verify it, I'm not actually bonded.