First-Loss Policy: Definition, Purpose, Examples

What Is a First-Loss Policy?

A first-loss policy is a type of property insurance policy that provides only partial insurance. In the event of a claim, the policyholder agrees to accept an amount less than the full value of damaged, destroyed, or stolen property. In return, the insurer agrees to not penalize the policyholder for under-insuring their goods or property—for example, by not raising rates on renewal premiums.


  • A first-loss policy is a type of property insurance policy that provides only partial insurance.
  • In the event of damage, the policyholder does not seek compensation for losses below the pre-established first-loss level.
  • A first-loss insurance policyholder should benefit from paying a lower premium for partial protection against property losses.
  • Unfortunately, a first-loss policy may leave an individual underinsured and forced to pay for some damages out-of-pocket.

Understanding the First-Loss Policy

First-loss policies are most commonly used as theft or burglary insurance to insure against events where a total loss is extremely rare (i.e., the burglary of all goods contained in a large store). In a first-loss policy claim event, the policyholder does not seek compensation for losses below the first-loss level. Premiums are calculated proportionately, meaning they are not based on the full value of total goods or property.

First-loss insurance is also considered first when filing any claims if someone carries more than one policy for a given threat to their property. The coverage provided can actually be more comprehensive, which can be important for costly assets that might otherwise be difficult or impossible to insure. 

Other types of property insurance, such as water damage coverage or insurance against theft-related losses at home can also be insured on a first-loss basis. A first-loss policy may have lower premiums than a policy that covers your property’s full value.

Important: First-loss policies may come with a large deductible, in which the insurance would cover the difference between your deductible and the maximum benefit you chose.

Advantages and Disadvantages of First-Loss Policies

Pros of First-Loss Policies

First-loss insurance policies are generally more affordable than traditional full-coverage policies because they provide coverage for a specific amount. As a result, policyholders pay lower premiums compared to comprehensive policies that cover the full value of their assets. This allows policyholders to select the coverage amount based on their needs and risk exposure.

Like other forms of insurance, first-loss insurance is an effective risk management tool for businesses or individuals. However, unlike other forms of insurance, processing claims under a first-loss insurance policy is usually faster and more straightforward. Since the coverage is limited to a specific amount, the claims process is less complex and requires less documentation compared to comprehensive policies.

First-loss policies can also complement existing insurance coverage. For instance, they can be used as an additional layer of protection on top of primary insurance policies to address specific risks or to fill gaps in coverage. Policyholders ultimately have the flexibility to choose the deductible amount they are comfortable with and premium they want to pay with a first-loss policy.

Cons of First-Loss Policies

The primary downside of a first-loss insurance policy is somewhat obvious. This type of coverage is has a limited coverage amount. The policy only provides coverage up to the predetermined first-loss limit which might be insufficient to cover the full extent of a significant loss or catastrophic event. If the loss exceeds the chosen limit, the policyholder is responsible for covering the remaining expenses out of pocket.

Since first-loss policies are designed to cover specific assets or risks, they do not offer comprehensive protection for all assets or liabilities. This may leave certain assets or risks uninsured or underinsured.

For businesses or individuals with varying risks and assets, managing multiple first-loss policies or combining them with other types of insurance might be necessary. Unfortunately, coordinating different policies can become complicated and may require expert advice to ensure comprehensive protection. In some cases, missed gaps may leave assets uninsured or underinsured.


  • May be more affordable than other forms of coverage
  • Allows for insured to tailor their coverage
  • May reduce overall claim complexity compared to other forms of coverage
  • Protects against certain types of risk


  • Has a limited coverage amount
  • May leave assets uninsured or underinsured
  • May result in the insured still having to pay out of pocket
  • May increase overall claim complexity based on how claims interact with each other

Tips for Determining First-Loss Insurance Limit

When evaluating whether a first-loss insurance policy is for you, start by identifying the assets, properties, or risks that you want to protect. For each identified risk, conduct a risk analysis to evaluate the potential financial impact of a loss. You’ll want to evaluate not only the likelihood of the risk occurring but also the severity of the potential loss.

Some of the decision-making revolves around self-reflection, and you should assess your risk tolerance level. Your risk tolerance will influence the level of coverage you desire and the first loss limit you feel comfortable with. For example, consider whether you’d personally rather pay a higher premium for more coverage or a lower premium for less.

When looking at your assets, consider the current market value of the items you want to insure. High-value assets may require higher first loss limits, while lower-value assets may need more modest coverage. If you are a business owner, consider potential business interruption costs when setting the limit.

Insurance agents or brokers with expertise in first loss insurance can provide valuable insights. They can help you navigate the decision-making process and guide you in selecting the appropriate coverage levels. They can also help you reevaluate your policy periodically to adjust your first-loss limit to ensure it remains suitable for your evolving needs and risk exposure.

Example of First-Loss Insurance

Consider this example of a typical situation in which this type of insurance might be in effect. If a store owner held $2.5 million worth of goods in their store but figured that the most they could lose at any one time due to theft or burglary would be approximately $50,000, they might obtain a first-loss policy for that amount.

In the event that the store was burglarized and the owner lost more than $125,000 worth of stock, they would only be compensated for $50,000 of the loss, as stated under the first-loss policy.

How Is First-Loss Coverage Different from Traditional Insurance?

Traditional insurance policies provide coverage for the full value of assets or risks, while first-loss insurance offers coverage only up to a specified limit. It is more tailored and cost-effective, but policyholders must prioritize their coverage based on risk exposure.

Can First-Loss Insurance Policies Be Combined With Other Coverage?

Yes, first-loss insurance policies can be combined with other insurance coverage to create a comprehensive risk management strategy. This approach allows policyholders to address different risks effectively.

Can I Adjust the First-Loss Limit Over Time?

Yes, policyholders can adjust the first-loss limit to reflect changes in their risk profile or asset values. This flexibility allows for tailored coverage that aligns with evolving needs.

How Do I Obtain a First-Loss Insurance Policy?

To obtain a first-loss insurance policy, individuals or businesses can contact insurance providers or brokers specializing in this type of coverage. They will guide you through the process of assessing risks and selecting appropriate coverage limits for your unique situation.

The Bottom Line

First-loss insurance policies offer coverage up to a specified limit, allowing policyholders to prioritize protection for high-value assets or specific risks. They are cost-effective, customizable, and suitable for individuals or businesses with diverse risk exposures.

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