Be honest with your insurer
When Kevin (not his real name) took out life and income protection insurance, he was 6’’1’ and weighed 72 kilograms.
A month later, he suffered a heart attack.
When the insurer investigated, the man turned out to be 5’’8’ and weighed 122kg.
Naturally enough, Kevin’s claim was turned down. That’s a true Kiwi story. But rather than laugh, or entertain a suspicion the man was reinventing himself as the reincarnation of Adonis to get lower premiums, take a moment to consider the lesson for us all in this tale.
The No 1 reason insurance claims are turned down is nondisclosure.
Non-disclosure is jargon for not telling an insurer something it considers important when applying for insurance.
In this case Kevin failed to accurately disclose his lessthan-Greek vital statistics. It could just have easily been forgetting to mention cancer in the family, a heart flutter three years’ back, or underestimating the volume of booze knocked back each week.
There are two principles to filling in insurance forms.
Be honest and ‘‘When in doubt, find out’’. Years ago I was told one belt-and-braces trick was to attach a copy of your medical notes to any personal insurance application.
Then, the argument goes, the insurer will never be able to say you failed to disclose anything.
Recently, I found myself applying for insurance and decided to check my notes.
So I called my doctor’s surgery.
Some odd moments followed, providing another morsel of proof to my theory that nobody really knows what the Privacy Act says. First, a lovely administrator told me I couldn’t have them because they were covered by the Privacy Act.
When we had got past that one, I was told the insurance company was the one who had to apply for them.
Bless her, the administrator was concerned I might be planning to rort my insurer and warned me in a friendly fashion to be honest.
The next claim was that my doctor would have to sign off the release. I guess handing medical information to a nonmedically trained individual presents all kinds of possibilities for misunderstanding, so I let the issue slide.
A couple of days later, I had them, and the upshot was, though I had put on weight, I had not forgotten anything.
But it gave me food for thought. I’ve heard of errors in medical notes making claims tricky, especially the casual use of words like ‘‘stress’’ or ‘‘depression’’, so getting a copy gives you the chance to get mistakes corrected.
My notes had no errors but did contain an estimate of the booze I consume each week.
Should that have been different to the estimate I gave on the insurance form – an easy mistake to make – I might have expected my insurer to start asking questions should a big claim result, especially were I to die or be seriously injured while under the influence of booze.
Such inconsistencies could lead to an insurer deciding a person had not acted in ‘‘utmost good faith’’ when applying for cover, declining their claim and tearing up their contract.
I didn’t end up attaching my notes, but I know that at claims time, the insurer will check them, even if it did not when granting me cover.