When you take out an insurance policy, you’re counting on it being there for you when you need it. But some simple mistakes can mean you don’t have the cover you expect.

Here are some of the things that get in the way of New Zealanders getting the best results from their insurance policies.

Not realising what they should disclose
When you’re applying for a new insurance policy, the more information you can give your adviser and the insurance company, the better.

You need to ensure that the insurer has all the information they need to fully understand the risk they take with your insurance policy.

Sometimes, people don’t even realise that they should have given certain information about a past health problem, a claim made to another insurer that was not paid, or an application for insurance that was turned down.

Then when it comes time to claim, the insurer points to that as material information that they haven’t been aware of. In some cases, this can mean the insurer voids the policy and acts as if it never existed.

It is possible that the rules will change in this regard to force insurers to make clearer what applicants need to reveal but, to be safe, you should over-disclose when you apply for a new policy. An insurance adviser can help by asking the right questions to jog your memory, and prompting you to request copies of your medical records to supply a full health history if necessary.

You might think that something isn’t really important, or not relevant, to your insurer – but withholding information or telling even a small untruth on your application or claim can have a big impact on your financial life. For instance: if you’re a social smoker, tick the smoking box.

If you’re found to have been dishonest, you might have a claim turned down or your policy cancelled, and you could end up finding it hard to get insurance anywhere else in future.

Pre-existing conditions
Related to non-disclosure is the issue of pre-existing conditions. When you apply for a policy, you’ll be asked questions about your medical history and it’s important to answer fully.

Even if you have not received a formal diagnosis of a condition, if you’ve experienced symptoms of some kind you will need to make that clear.

If you’re not sure whether you’ve given enough information about your medical history, you can seek advice from your insurance adviser.

Watch out for stand-down periods – these sometimes apply when you take out a new policy and mean you need to leave any previous cover in place for a set time period to avoid being caught out.

Focusing solely on price
It’s tempting to go for the cheapest policy. But you may find this backfires if it doesn’t give you the cover you need.

There are significant variations between the benefits of personal insurance policies in the market and what is cheap may be less likely to pay out – or pay out less often.

An insurance adviser can help you to work through getting your mix of cover, premiums and benefits right for you.

Not insuring everyone, or having the wrong people owning the policy
Sometimes couples let insurance lapse if one of them is off work – the thinking being that they’re not making a financial contribution to the household anyway.

But that doesn’t take into account the fact that the person has often picked up the bulk of the household and child care work and would need to be replaced – either with someone who is paid or by the other earner cutting down work – if they were not there.

Not understanding your policy
An insurance policy document can be an intimidating piece of information. While efforts are being made by insurers to make them easier to understand, many people don’t actually know what their insurance wording says.

This is important because it should guide your expectations of how you can expect any claims to be handled. Particularly with policies such as trauma cover, the policy document will detail in what situations a claim will be paid and what conditions qualify.

Your insurance adviser can help you understand exactly what your policy is for and how you should expect it to behave.

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Please note that the content provided in this article is intended as an overview and as general information only. Please use your discretion and seek advice before making any decisions based on the information provided in this article.