When professional skydiver Ben Cornick jumped out of an airplane at 12,000 feet over Fiji in the South Pacific, it was just another “fun jump”—until he lost control of his parachute and crashed into a van, fracturing his femur, smashing his elbow, and breaking his hip. Not much “fun” there, but then it got even worse: he didn’t have health insurance.
Cornick, a resident of Wales, was insured for personal injury while working for Skydive Fiji as an instructor. But because he took his “fun jump” on his day off and with his own equipment, he lost his coverage and became responsible for all of his medical bills, including a £20,000 air evacuation to New Zealand for complex surgeries the hospital in Fiji couldn’t provide.
Total cost estimated cost for Cornick’s misadventure: £50,000.
When Cornick’s parents and friends in the skydiving community heard of the accident and lack of insurance, they immediately set up a Ben Cornick Donation Page on Facebook and were inundated by responses, one of the first being £20,000 from a single anonymous donor. Within days, Cornick’s family and friends reached their target of £50,000.
Great story—good news. But that is no way to protect yourself against accidents, especially if you’re planning high-risk activities such as contact sports, mountain climbing, deep scuba diving, bungee jumping, skydiving—you get the picture. Setting up Facebook pages to solicit money for your misadventures may show you how many friends you have (or don’t), but it’s no way to plan a life—not with the high costs of medical care and/or repatriations.
Related: Think You Don’t Need Travel Insurance? Think Again. 10 Excuses That Could Come Back to Haunt You
If you buy mainstream travel health insurance for unexpected medical emergencies, you need to be aware of the policy limitations and exclusions. Generally, travel health plans specifically exclude high-risk activities. But that doesn’t mean you should give up on your favourite sport or hobby. There are special risk plans in Canada, the US, the UK, and other countries that are designed for niche activities such as skydiving, alpine skiing, mountain climbing, or rugby, but it’s best to have an insurance specialist guide you through these plans and explain their pros and cons.
In Britain, skydivers such as Ben Cornick have plans specifically designed for them. A good place to start your quest is with the British Parachute Association.
In the US there are also plenty of life insurance plans that have skydiving supplements available at “flat extra” charges. For example, if you plan on doing no more than 50 jumps per year, a flat rate of $2.50 will be added to each $1,000 unit of life insurance you buy. If you plan on doing more than 100 jumps per year there is a $7.50 flat fee for each $1,000 of life insurance coverage. The United States Parachute Association website is a good place to explore some of these coverage options.
In Canada, most travel health insurers exclude high-risk activities, but TIF can offer international travel plans that provide coverage for amateur sports. The Patriot Adventure plan provides coverage for travellers participating in sporting events (including skydiving) outside their own country. This is available to anyone travelling outside their home country, including Canadian and US citizens.
So if skydiving, bungee jumping, swimming with sharks, or running with bulls is on your bucket list, don’t despair. There might very well be an insurer prepared to cover you—but you need to be especially vigilant in understanding your policy. For that I strongly urge you to deal with an insurance specialist who knows this area. You can do that by calling the experts at Ingle International at 1-877-455-3541.