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It's a Gamble

The cost of being underinsured might just defeat the purpose of insurance.

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This story appears in the January 2003 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

An often overlooked part of business insurance policies that have no reporting provisions is the "coinsurance" clause, which stipulates what percentage of the total value of your property must be insured for you to be fully reimbursed for a loss, even a partial one. If you fail to insure for the required amount, you may be penalized when you file a claim, says Jerry Milton, an insurance industry consultant in Orange Beach, Alabama. "In essence, coinsurance forces you to insure to value," says Milton. "If you don't, you become coinsured and share in the loss."

Milton says the standard penalty formula is "had" over "should" times the loss. What that means, he explains, is the amount of coverage you had is divided by the amount you should have had, then multiplied by the amount of the loss to determine how much the company will pay.

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