Chapter XX - Insurance Fire Accident Page 02
A man may insure in a dozen life insurance companies, and each must pay the amount of the policy on his death, but not so with fire companies.
A man owning a house worth, say ten thousand dollars, can insure it in ten companies, each taking a risk of eight thousand dollars.
If this house burns down the man does not receive eighty thousand dollars. The actual loss is calculated and the companies divide it up, each paying its part.
Fire companies, while anxious to issue policies on every insurable house, are more than willing that their business rivals should do the same, as in the event of fire the burden of loss will not be borne by one.
After every fire the company's agent examines the damage and estimates what is saved. On this the payment is based.
A building is classed as real estate, but personal property is just as liable to be destroyed by fire.
Fire policies can be secured on goods, furniture, machinery, live stock and other things, and the method is about the same as where buildings are insured, but as a rule the premiums are higher, for such things are apt to be ruined by smoke and water, when the building in which they are stored may not be much injured.
Men can associate for any legal purpose, and mutual protection against loss by fire is one of these.
In many neighborhoods throughout the country, but particularly in the eastern states, there are mutual insurance companies, usually composed of a number of men who know each other and who agree to share the losses of a member, in proportions agreed to in advance.
This form of insurance is cheap and effective, but the field of its operations is necessarily limited.
The stock companies start with a fixed capital, each member receiving stock in proportion to the amount contributed.
The capital and the interest from it, after paying the necessary expenses, is invested, and reinvested, till it often reaches a large sum.
At the end of every fiscal year, usually June 30th, the expenses and the losses paid are deducted from the earnings and the net gain may be divided as dividends.
Often there are not only no dividends, but a great conflagration, like that of San Francisco, may wipe out all the earnings, all the reserve and even the capital itself, leaving the company bankrupt and heavily in debt.
Great calamities cannot be foreseen. No actuary has yet appeared to forecast the acts of Providence, but on the whole our fire insurance companies are well managed and prosperous.
We have insurance against storms, against the breaking of plate glass and even against loss from burglars, but the best known of the minor insurance societies are those known as "accident companies."
Accident policies are of many kinds, and there is no reason why the companies, under their charters, should not extend their risks indefinitely.
Accidents against property are insured much as is destruction from fire, but the nature of the accident as "hail," "explosions," "tornadoes" and "insect destruction" must be specified in the policy.
The most popular form of accident policy is that which is sold to travellers, and which can usually be had at the office where one buys his ticket.
The method here is simple, and the purchase may be made in a minute. "I want a policy for $1,000 for ten days," you say to the clerk. He tells you the amount, you pay and get your ticket, and there you are.
Prudent men have a stamped and addressed envelope ready. Into this they push the policy, and the wife gets it. No, it does not startle her. It is just Harry's prudence and she is used to that.