Insurance is a risk management technique primarily used to hedge against the risk of a contingent, uncertain loss that may be suffered by those individuals or entities who have an insurable interest in scarce resources, by transferring the possibility of this loss from one interested person, persons, or entity to another. The scarce resources referred to here fall into three divisions: human resources, financial resources, and capital, or tangible resources. In the context of insurance, scarce resources are also known as “exposures,” because they are “exposed” to perils, those things, or forces, which cause destruction or reduction, in the usefulness, or value, of an exposed resource. Human resources are thus exposed to perils such as illness or death; financial resources to legal judgements that may result from negligent acts, and capital resources to physical perils such as fire, theft, windstorm, and vandalism, to name but a few. A hazard is the cause of a peril. It is that thing or condition which increases the likelihood of a peril. Thus perils and hazards are identified by the exposure that they threaten. For example a slippery roadway could be viewed as a financial hazard, capital hazard, or human hazard by automobile owners, and rightly so, since this condition increases the likelihood of an automobile accident that might result in an unfavorable legal judgement, automobile damage, and bodily injury.
In the context of commercial trade, insurance is further defined as the equitable transfer of the risk of a loss, from one entity to another, in exchange for consideration, payment, in the form of a risk premium. The insurance premium develops at an actuarily-determined rate. This rate is a factor used to determine the amount of premium to charge for a certain limit, and type, of insurance on the scarce resource. The premium can further be viewed as a guaranteed, known, relatively small financial loss to the insured, paid to the insurer, in exchange for the insurer’s promise to compensate (indemnify) the insured in the case of a loss to the insured resource(s). The insured receives a contract, called the insurance policy, which details the conditions and circumstances under which the insured will be indemnified.