What is property and casualty insurance?

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Property and casualty insurance is a term describing the two forms of broad coverage that financially protect you if the property you own is damaged, lost, or stolen (“Property”) or if you are responsible for causing injury to another person or damage to his or her property (“Casualty”).

Property and casualty insurance can be purchased by an individual to protect personal assets from damage or depletion as a result of a third party liability claim. Businesses can also purchase property and casualty insurance for the same reasons. By definition, certain types of policies, such as life or health insurance, are not considered property and casualty insurance.

What is property and casualty insurance?

Property and casualty (P&C) insurance isn’t a single type of insurance. It’s an umbrella term that describes many types of insurance policies, including auto, homeowners, renters and condo insurance. As the name suggests, P&C insurance contains two parts — property coverage and casualty coverage:

  • Property coverage includes things like your house, car, clothing, furniture, electronics and valuables. If your personal property is damaged or destroyed by a covered peril, your personal property coverage will pay to repair or replace them.
  • Casualty insurance covers your liability. For instance, if a delivery driver slips and falls on your icy driveway, the liability portion of your home insurance will pay for your legal fees if the driver takes you to court. If you cause a car accident, your car insurance liability coverage helps you pay for the other driver’s expenses.

Although property coverage and casualty coverage are technically different types of insurance, they aren’t sold separately because most common insurance policies bundle them together. Even the most basic homeowners, auto and renters insurance policies include both property and casualty coverage.

Types of P&C insurance

There are many types of insurance that fall under the P&C insurance umbrella. All of these policies include personal property and liability coverage.

Auto insurance

Car insurance covers the damages to your vehicle after an accident. If your car is stolen, your insurance will help you pay for a replacement. It also covers your liabilities as a driver. If you hit another car, your liability insurance will help pay for the other driver’s damages, including vehicle repairs and medical expenses.

Home insurance

Home insurance financially protects the personal items inside your home, like clothing and furniture — as well as the home’s structure itself, from common perils. For example, if your entire wardrobe was destroyed in a fire, your personal property coverage would help cover the cost for new clothes. Home insurance also covers liabilities. If a guest was injured on your property and you were found responsible, your legal fees would be covered up to the policy limits.

Condo insurance

Condo insurance is similar to home insurance in that it covers your personal items as well as liability to others. Condo insurance also covers damage to your condo unit. However, because of the unique ownership arrangement, a master policy purchased by the condo association covers damage to the building itself while condo insurance has limited coverage for the interior walls and improvements to the condo, not covered by the master policy.

Renters insurance

Like home insurance, renters insurance also covers your personal property and liabilities. If an electrical fire burns some of your furniture, your insurance policy will help you replace the damaged items with new ones. The same goes for liability. If you accidentally damage someone’s property and they decide to sue you, the casualty portion of your renters insurance will pay for the cost. Unlike condo or home insurance, renters insurance policies do not cover damage to the exterior or interior of the dwelling.

Landlord insurance

Landlord insurance is another common type of P&C insurance. The property portion of landlord insurance covers the building itself. If a windstorm damages the roof of an apartment building you own, you could file an insurance claim to finance the repairs. It also covers your liabilities if a tenant gets injured on the property and it’s your fault.

Business insurance

Businesses purchase property and casualty insurance for the same reason as individuals. The business insurance policy provides financial protection for damage and losses to the business property and assets. Casualty coverage is typically broader and protects against claims from third parties injured on the premises but also for damages caused away from the business facilities by company products or services performed. Additionally, such policies may also include unique protections for a business such as business interruption coverage.

Power sports insurance

If you have a boat, ATV, golf cart or snowmobile, this type of policy can be beneficial. Power sports insurance policies cover the cost of repairs to your vehicle from damages, and provide financial liability coverage for the operator. For instance, if you accidentally rode your snowmobile through someone’s backyard fence, the casualty portion of your power sports insurance would pay for the repairs.

Umbrella insurance

Umbrella insurance is a broad form of liability coverage that extends your limits of casualty coverage and is applicable to both personal and business coverage. Umbrella coverage can be an important part of any insurance plan particularly in modern society with increasingly unpredictable lawsuits with large damage claims. Normal limits don’t always come close to addressing this risk, but for an additional cost, you can raise limits on all phases of your liability coverage with an umbrella policy.

How does P&C insurance work?

P&C insurance works like any other type of insurance. If your personal property is damaged or destroyed by a covered peril, you can file a claim with your insurance company to get reimbursed for the losses. The same goes for liability claims, where someone is suing you for damages, and is seeking compensation for their losses.

In either scenario, you are only covered up to your policy’s property limit and casualty limit. For example, if your house burns down and you lose everything you own, you will only be compensated for the losses up to your policy’s personal property coverage limit. Valuables and electronics are usually subject to specific coverage limits, which tend to be low.

When you purchase any type of P&C insurance, make sure your coverage limits are appropriate for your situation. For instance, if you have $200,000 worth of belongings in your home, your coverage limit should match that. If your coverage limit is too low, you risk paying money out-of-pocket towards a loss.

Frequently asked questions

What is the difference between property and casualty insurance?

Property insurance covers your assets and belongings. Casualty insurance covers your liabilities as a homeowner, renter or driver.

What are the types of P&C insurance?

There are a variety of types of P&C insurance. Some of the most common ones are car insurance, home insurance, renters insurance, condo insurance, landlord insurance and power sports insurance.

Who needs P&C insurance?

If you have any type of insurance policy, you probably already have P&C insurance. For instance, every covered driver, homeowner and rental tenant has a type of insurance that falls under the P&C umbrella.

Written by
Rick Hoel
Insurance Contributor
Rick Hoel is an international business attorney and legal and insurance writer for Bankrate.com, Reviews.com and Accessibility.com. Over the last several years, he has covered topics dealing with personal and commercial insurance and technology and the law. Rick is General Counsel and Director of Risk Management and sits on the Board of Power Stow Americas Inc., a subsidiary of Power Stow A/S in Denmark, the world leader in the supply of tracked conveyor systems to the airline industry.
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