Title insurance is an exclusively American invention. Its purpose was well stated in the first advertisement for title insurance back in the late 1800s:
This company insures the purchaser’s of real estate and mortgages against loss from defective titles, liens, and encumbrances. Through these facilities [the] transfer of real estate and real estate securities can be made more speedily and with greater security than heretobefore.
Protecting purchasers against loss is accomplished by the issuance of a title insurance policy, which states that if the status of the title to a parcel of real property is other than as represented, and if the insured suffers a loss as a result of title defect, the insurer will reimburse the insured for that loss and any related legal expenses, up to the face amount of the policy.
Title insurance differs significantly from other forms of insurance. While the functions of most other forms of insurance is risk assumption through the pooling of risks for losses arising out of unforeseen future events (such as death or accidents), the primary purpose of title insurance is to eliminate risks and prevent losses caused by defects in title arising out of events that have happened in the past. To achieve this goal, title insurers perform an extensive search of the public records to determine whether there are any adverse claims to the subject real estate. Those claims are either eliminated prior to the issuance of a title policy or their existence is excepted from coverage.