Insurance companies typically are staffed with level-headed, mild-mannered folks. But sometimes, the behavior of policyholders can drive insurers a little batty.
For example, insurers collectively cringe when their customers try to save a buck by cutting corners on coverage.
"Insurance exists to protect your assets," says Janet Ruiz, California representative for the Insurance Information Institute. "Trying to see how little you can get by with can be very shortsighted and dangerous."
Here are five types of people -- courtesy of the Insurance Information Institute -- that cause insurers to tear their hair out – and why their behavior may be a poor investment in the long run.
1. Homeowners without earthquake insurance.
The United States experiences about 20,000 earthquakes annually, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).
These quakes are more likely to strike certain states than others. States along the U.S. West Coast and in the middle of the country near the New Madrid seismic zone are especially vulnerable. However, only 7 percent of homeowners have an earthquake insurance policy.
And yet, no one is safe. Temblors have been centered in 39 states, and all 50 states have experienced damage associated with earthquakes, according to the III.
So, skimping on coverage here is a mistake.
Ruiz notes that earthquake insurance costs more in places like California that experience quakes frequently.
"It's less expensive if you live farther away from fault lines," she says.
2. U.S. drivers without auto insurance.
Auto insurance not only covers your car, but also damage to the cars -- and bodies -- of other drivers on the road.
And yet, over 12 percent of Americans drivers decide not to purchase a policy each year.
The rate of uninsured drivers varies widely across the states. For example, just 4 percent of Massachusetts drivers skip coverage, according to the Insurance Research Council. But in Oklahoma, that number leaps to 26 percent.
In terms of sheer numbers of those uninsured, California (4.1 million uninsured), Florida (3.2 million) and Texas (1.6 million) lead the pack.
In almost every state, it's illegal to drive without liability auto insurance, which covers damage you may cause to other people and vehicles. The lone exception is New Hampshire, where drivers aren't obligated to carry coverage.
Ruiz says drivers should carry a minimum of $100,000 of bodily injury protection per person and $300,000 per accident, and notes that damages after an accident "may cost far more than the minimum limits mandated by most states."
3. Homeowners without flood insurance.
Wildfires, earthquakes, hurricane winds and tornadoes all can cause tremendous damage to your home.
But flooding is the most common natural disaster in the United States. In fact, it's associated with 90 percent of all natural disasters that occur annually, according to the III – and only 13 percent of American homeowners have flood insurance.
"All homeowners need to consider purchasing flood insurance," says Carole Walker, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association.
Some people skip flood insurance in the belief that the federal government will bail them out after a flood.
But unprecedented rains in Colorado in 2013 underscored the folly of such a strategy, Walker says. The flooding damaged hundreds of uninsured homes, and homeowners discovered that federal aid and loans didn't cover the cost to rebuild, she says.
In addition, up to 25 percent of flood claims are the result of damage in lower-risk flood areas, Walker says.
She adds that homeowners who live in low-risk areas may qualify for preferred risk policies that are less expensive.
Americans without long-term care insurance
When you're in the bloom of youth -- or even simply feeling spry in middle age -- it's tough to imagine a day when you will need help feeding, bathing or generally just taking care of yourself.
But live long enough, and odds are pretty good it will happen. A person who turns 65 today will have almost a 70 percent chance of needing long-term care services at some point, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human services.
Long-term care insurance can help cover the cost of such care. Yet just 13 percent of Americans have a long-term care policy.
Even younger people should consider this coverage, says Marvin Feldman, president and CEO of Life Happens, a nonprofit that helps educate people about the need for life, disability and long-term care insurance.
"Anyone who has been in an accident or suffers from a debilitating illness may also require round-the-clock care," he says.
In fact, he notes that 40 percent of people who receive long-term care are under the age of 65.
5. Americans without disability insurance
Few people like to think about the need for disability insurance -- just 29 percent of Americans purchase such policies.
"Simply put, if you have a job, you most likely need disability insurance," Feldman says.
The U.S. Social Security Administration says more than 25 percent of 20-year-olds will experience a disability sometime during their working lives.
According to Feldman, 90 percent of disabilities are caused by illnesses – not accidents.
Feldman says disability insurance can help you pay your debts, such as a mortgage or your credit card obligations.
"Plus, a disabling injury or illness could lead to medical bills, modifications to your car or home, or other unforeseen needs that can be quite expensive," he says.