Most states require a minimum amount of liability insurance coverage when you own a home or vehicle, though liability laws vary by state. Understanding a few basic principles and common terms can help when you’re signing up for an auto or homeowners policy as well as if (or when) an incident arises.

Insurance Premium — The premium is the amount of money you pay for your policy. These payments can usually be made monthly, quarterly, semiannually or annually.

Lapse — If you don’t pay your premiums on time, you’ll experience an interruption in coverage known as a lapse. This increases your “risk” to an insurance provider. Going without insurance for any amount of time will affect your rates when you shop for your next policy.

Deductible — The deductible is the amount of money you’ll be expected to pay out of pocket before an insurance company will cover or reimburse you for any damages. Generally speaking, the lower the deductible, the higher the premium cost.

Exclusions — Just because you have a homeowners policy doesn’t mean all items, conditions and circumstances are covered. Some natural disasters, such as floods, are commonly excluded, and claims related to damage as a result of neglect can be denied. Study your homeowners insurance policy thoroughly to understand what is and is not covered.

Collision Coverage — Where basic auto liability insurance offers protection if you cause damage to another person’s car or property, collision coverage focuses on the policyholder’s vehicle. This may include damage due to an accident with another car or a stationary object as well as damage brought on by an uninsured motorist or hit-and-run driver.

Comprehensive Auto Coverage — This option insures your vehicle against damage in situations other than a car accident, such as vandalism, theft or a falling limb during a storm.