Editor’s note: This article first appeared on Insure.com and is reprinted here with their permission. Click here for the original post.
Broken collarbones and legs, paralysis, blindness — even death — are potential results for those who indulge in extreme sports. While most of us are acutely aware of our mortality and try not to push the envelope, some of us seek out activities for the adrenaline rush it brings. We looked for the most popular extreme sports that could put your life insurance application in a free fall.
The insurance industry calls these “hazardous avocations,” explains Kim McKeown, spokesperson for the Society of Actuaries (SOA). “If an insurer learns that a new client’s hobby is jumping out of airplanes or body boarding down a Class V rapid, there is a strong potential for raising your rates or deciding not to cover you altogether.”
Wave goodbye to good rates
Jack Dewald, chair of the Life and Health Insurance Foundation for Education, a nonprofit, says that a person is most likely to be declined when their sport becomes too extreme.
“Scuba diving in depths over 200 feet could get you declined, since this is extremely risky. Also, if a student pilot just took up flying, more than likely he or she will be declined as well,” he says. “Most other activities like big game hunting, flying an ultra light aircraft, or skydiving would add $2 to $10 per $1,000 in coverage in extra surcharges for a life insurance policy. It really depends on how risky the sport is.”
However, once your client has secured a life insurance policy, the life insurer can’t raise their rates until renewal time, and they can’t cancel the policy after the “contestability period,” which is generally two years. During the contestability period, the insurer has the right to cancel a policy if it finds out a client neglected to mention a dangerous hobby during the application process.
If your client begins participating in a dangerous sport after having secured a policy, a life insurer cannot cancel because there was no misrepresentation during the application process.
“If they had the policy for a year and they take up skydiving and kill themselves, the company still has to pay,” says Kevin Coughlin, an impaired-risk specialist with Target Insurance Services, Inc. in Overland Park, Kan.
Playing it safe
Dewald recommends being honest about an extreme sports hobby, and being prepared to pay a higher premium.
“Typically insurers use an Informal Inquiry Form [UC 0401P] for people who might fall under the category of impaired risk or if there is a question regarding insurability on other risks that are not standard,” he says.
Dewald adds the most common reason life insurers deny a death claim is because of “material misrepresentation” on an insurance application.
“You don’t want to get into a situation where there is a potential for a denied claim based on an omission that was found on the special questionnaire,” Dewald says. “If you die in an extreme sport accident, the people who are going to be hurt the most are your loved ones. It’s not a risk you should take.”
If an employer provides a group life policy, no one in the group can be excluded because of an extreme sport.
Without further ado, here are seven sports that may give life insurers pause during the application process.
1. Ice climbing.
Unlike their mountain-climbing counterparts, ice climbers are in constant danger of causing a self-inflicted stab wound from one of their razor-sharp crampons (their No. 1 source of injury). Not to mention the possibility that the ice you are climbing will crack and take you down with it.