Life Insurance for Climbers

© mankrambler

How often have you heard your climbing friends complain of the attitude of insurance companies, the ignorance of their staff and the premium they will impose just because they climb? And how many times have you tried to explain what 'sport climbing' actually is, or why you may not use protection when you go bouldering? Indeed what does an insurance underwriter consider to be protection?

Rescue chopper dwarfed by the distant east ridge and fearsome Caroline face of Mt Cook, NZ  © mankrambler
Rescue chopper dwarfed by the distant east ridge and fearsome East Face of Mt Cook, NZ

For many years, insurance underwriters have considered climbers to be a peculiar breed of people enjoying an absurd activity with no appreciation of danger and having little regard for their own safety. Hence they increase premiums of life insurance in order to pay for an 'unquantifiable risk'.

Someone takes out life insurance to provide for their family in the event of their death and it gives peace of mind knowing that their loved ones will be financially secure. It is essential that the proper advice is sought from a specialist. It is no good taking out life cover and not disclosing that you go climbing. The insurance company is perfectly justified in refusing a claim even if you die from something totally unrelated to climbing.

The average insurance adviser will not be a climber or know the difference between severe and E4. He will probably not know where Denali is or what bolt clipping is. And what of deep water soloing?

Often advisers fail to correctly inform insurance companies of the true extent of a client's outdoor activity, not realising the relevance of certain information. Risks need to be clearly identified and full disclosure made.

There are three basic forms of financial protection:

  • Mortgage Protection - This is designed to pay off the balance of your repayment mortgage should you die or suffer a critical illness.
  • Level Term Assurance - A policy which would protect your family in the event of your death or critical illness. It could provide a lump sum, or monthly income.

These plans may also be used for business as key man protection.

  • Income Protection - This policy provides an income in the event of a policyholder not being able to work due to illness and accident. It is paid out until your selected retirement date.

Not only should care be taken about full disclosure but it is also important to ensure that you take out the policy which you intended to. Do not be confused over benefits of terminal illness, critical illness and serious illness.

  • Terminal Illness - This benefit is usually included at no extra cost in a life insurance policy and would normally pay out when the policy holder has a life expectancy of less than 12 months.
  • Critical Illness - This benefit will provide a lump sum upon the diagnosis of a specified illness within the contract such as cancer or heart attack.
  • Serious Illness - Serious illness policies will pay out as with critical illness but will cover more illnesses, and be severity based.
  • Total Permanent Disability - Provides a lump sum if the policy holder becomes totally and permanently disabled. This contract could be based upon not being able to perform certain acts of daily living or not being able to carry out one's own, suited, or any occupation.
  • Personal Accident & Sickness - This should not be confused with an income protection policy. Personal Accident policies normally pay out for a period of one or two years and are annual contracts. Income protection policies provide a benefit until a chosen retirement date i.e. 50/55/60/65 etc. It is based upon a proportion of your income.

It is important that you apply for cover which is appropriate for you. Financial Advisers have a duty to offer best advice and should recommend a suitable policy. When it comes to offering best advice, which takes your climbing into consideration, then clearly you should contact a specialist.

David Hallam is Director of Summit Financial Services.

More information

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29 Jan, 2010
I'd be interested in knowing what the position is if you start climbing after a policy has been running for a number of years. Anyway, as insurance companies are normally vermin, aren't their moves afoot to change the legislation that allows them not to pay because of reasons spurious to the policy and the claim, such as you didn't declare you climb, but get run over by a bus?
29 Jan, 2010
Hate to criticise the site, generally loving your work UKC, but think this blurs the advert/article boundary a little to much. Perhaps needs to be separated the same way reviews and product news are.
29 Jan, 2010
Declaring your climbing activities at application stage forms part of the disclosure rules. To quote one major insurance company's criteria: "If you do not disclose all relevant information or you provide incorrect information this may result in the non-payment of a claim. If you are in any doubt as to the relevance of certain information please disclose it." Whether the application form asks directly if you climb, or indirectly if you take part in an activity that carries an additional risk, non-disclosure could therefore invalidate a claim, even if the claim is not related to a climbing incident. On a positive note, there is an element of 'Good Faith' that insurance companies generally adopt, in that once your contract is in force, it remains valid irrespective of changes to your activites. So if you were not a climber, and had no immediate intentions of starting when you took the policy out, a future claim, even as a result of a climbing incident, would normally be honoured. There are some contracts whereby insurance companies need to be advised of a change in occupation or activity and so it is prudent to check with your existing insurer if you fall into this category.
29 Jan, 2010
And far more importantly, that's the East Face of Cook in the photo, not the Caroline.
29 Jan, 2010
I would love to say that this article was informative, worth the read, covered a great deal of controversial topics with unbiased views etc and bla bla bla but I unfortunately hat to realise I just wasted 50 seconds of my life reading a bloody advert. Dear Insurance folks that you wrote this blurp of an article which makes the daily mail look like a newspaper could you be so kind to recommend me an insurance policy that covers 'waste of time by insurance brookers'? If yes I would be very interested and how much would I get in compensation for say reading an article like yours?
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