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Don’t Use That Kind of Language Around Me: Insurance Cuss Words

Author: Chris Boggs

Growing up, you knew which words you could say and not say; and if you didn't, that slap in the back of your head from your mom and/or dad made it clear a recently-uttered word was inappropriate. As we got older (mid-to-late teens), we got bolder and would test our parents to get their reaction when we used those "four-letter" words. Sometimes you got away with it, sometimes it was like being 12 again.

As we morphed into adulthood, our mom wasn't there to give us that unapproving look (or head slap), so some of us developed a bad language habit. I did – until I heard someone else using the same language. I thought to myself: "If I sound like that much of an idiot, I have to stop using that language."

Recently I've noticed insurance practitioners doing a LOT of cussing. No, I don't mean using the traditional words that got us in trouble as kids, I am referring to insurance cussing. Yes, there are certain words and phrases used by many insurance practitioners that should not be used in polite company, mainly because they are just plain inappropriate and DIRTY. Allow me to present the three most common examples of insurance cussing:

Blanket Additional Insured: In the ISO world, there is no such thing as a blanket additional insured endorsement. Yes, there are "Automatic" additional insured endorsements; but no "blanket" endorsement. The difference is connotation. "Blanket" conveys the idea that everyone is covered as an additional insured; the reality of "automatic" is that additional insured status is granted when specific conditions are met. While this appears semantic, in the ears of a client or certificate holder, there is a big difference.

All Risk: Hopefully this property term long ago disappeared from your lexicon; but if it didn't, promise me the phrase "all risk" will never again cross your lips. As you know, Judge Wapner, Judge Judy or whichever judge you follow has a very hard time when someone is told their property policy is written on an "all risk" basis. To the court, this means everything that happens is covered; which we all know is a lie.

Over the years, the industry has tried to tone down this term, preferring euphemisms such as, "open cause of loss," "open peril" or even "risk of direct physical loss." While these were less offensive, non-insurance professionals (like lawyers and judges) gave these terms broader meaning than the industry intended. Now we refer to this breadth of coverage as "causes of loss - special form." But even this non-descriptive term can be misunderstood – depending on the form.

Full Coverage: I don't know where to begin explaining the impropriety of this phrase. Although we think we know what is meant by this phrase, what is actually understood when the phrase "full coverage" is spoken?

Insurance practitioners understand "full coverage" to mean an auto is covered for liability, medical payments and physical damage (collision and other-than-collision) and maybe even uninsured and/or uninsured/underinsured coverage. But how full is full?

Analyzing "how full is full," does "full coverage" mean that you will be paid replacement cost if something happens to your car – with no deductible? It must, because depreciated value wouldn't qualify as "full coverage."

Do you get my drift? Insureds don't actually have full coverage, even if they have liability, medical payments, uninsured AND underinsured motorist, physical damage coverage and any other optional coverage. The coverage they have is something less than "full."

So, if I can't call it "full coverage," what do I call it? That's a reasonable question. I'm not sure you will think my answer is reasonable – you don't group the coverages into one term because you can't. You layout each coverage for the insured, explaining what limits, limitations and deductibles apply. Because there are limits, deductibles, exclusions and conditions, the insured will never have "full coverage."

Breaking Bad Habits

Why do I make such a big deal about cleaning up our language; because words have meaning. When you use bad language like detailed here, your clients, or some other party, may think they are getting something they are not. Disappointment is a function of expectation; when others think they are getting protection they aren't, a court date may be in your future.

Never use these phrases in professions conversations or writings – unless you are making a point. When you hear anyone use these terms, punch them in the mouth and correct them. OK, I'm just kidding, no punching; but do correct their phraseology and provide them with the appropriate terminology.

Last Updated: September 29, 2017

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