14 January 2017
Sanlam medical adviser Dr Jack van Zyl says the Pokemon Go frenzy which has taken the world by storm commonly sees users tripping, falling and some are even getting involved in road accidents.
“In that sense it’s a risky activity that you actually need to disclose to your insurer if you’ve taken it as your new hobby, especially as less cautious players are putting themselves at risk of serious accidents.”
Van Zyl says not disclosing a hazardous hobby to your insurer could jeopardize your insurance claim should something happen to you while partaking in that hobby. He says many people do not realise that their hobbies can affect their insurance premiums or access to some benefits.
“When you take out life insurance, you are required to declare any hazardous activity you undertake, whether in your profession or as a hobby. If you are in a hazardous occupation such as professional sports, mining, explosives handler or protection services, your level of risk would be determined as part occupational underwriting. You immediately fall in a higher risk category.”
If the hazardous activity is your hobby, the approach is a little different. You could get normal cover, pay a higher premium or have your hobby excluded from the cover, depending on what it is. If it is excluded, the implication is that you will not be covered if anything happens to you as a result of it.
Examples of activities classified as risky or hazardous hobbies include all aviation activities, rock climbing, mountain hiking, diving, bungee jumping and gliding. Hiking at altitudes above 3000 meters or going on a big game hunting trip outside South Africa can also jeopardize your insurance claim.
These activities are considered to greatly increase a person’s chances of accident or injury. For instance; according to the National Centre for Health Statistics in the US, chances of getting involved in an accident as a result of hang gliding is 1 in 560.
“It might be tempting to not disclose your hazardous hobbies when you buy cover, but your claim could later be denied if you die or become disabled from an activity that you didn’t disclose on your application,” says Dr van Zyl.
When you take out cover, there is an underwriting question that asks if you have participated in any hazardous activity in the past or intend doing so in the near future. This also means that; should you start a start a dangerous hobby in future or change to an occupation characterised as hazardous, you will need to inform your insurer.
However, against the backdrop of very high road accidents rate in South Africa, Dr van Zyl says insurers are moving the focus of their underwriting approach more towards everyday activities that actually account for most deaths and injuries as opposed to these part-time activities.
“We think the accidents that make the headlines are the real risks to which we are exposed, but in reality ordinary risks like being on the road expose us to most danger,” says Dr van Zyl.
In this context, the insurance industry is starting to move towards an evaluation of the overall danger to which someone is exposed rather than categorising people’s risks according to their dangerous hobbies . “For instance, a motorbike commuter who occasionally goes hang gliding actually has a greater risk of dying from a motorbike accident because he rides every day.”
As things currently stand, people with hazardous hobbies still pay a higher premium than regular road users and insurers use available data to accurately calculate the risk behaviour of each individual.