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Prior to the Olympics, all the talk was about the Zika virus, but in the first few days we were reminded of the risks involved in sport with the serious spinal injuries to Dutch cyclist Annemick van Vleuten and French gymnast Samir Ait Said breaking his leg whilst vaulting.

But it is not just sport that is risky, daily life throws up numerous risks and the message from ROSPA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents) is stark. 14,000 people die as a result of accidents across the UK each year, while thousands are maimed and millions are injured. Accidents can occur at home, at work, on the road or during leisure pursuits and one of my friends recently discovered how random the odds can be when he was mugged in Shoreham at 10.30 pm, but fortunately escaped with relatively minor injuries.

All this should hardly be surprising, most people will know someone who has suffered a serious accident. Not only do we just think it won’t happen to us, we often take unnecessary risks. The one I really struggle to understand is why so many adults make their kids wear cycle helmets, but do not do so themselves. The other Saturday I went out on my bike and got caught at the Worthing Station rail crossing. I was joined by another 6 adult cyclists and no one else was wearing a helmet.

All too frequently I hear of people who have had an accident, but are not insured, when for a relatively modest cost Personal Accident insurance can provide cover for both permanent and temporary disablement, either for individuals or to protect a company. For the self-employed Personal Accident insurance should be essential, although those employed should also look at their entitlement if they are off work for any length of time. Many employment contracts are not overly generous.

Personal Accident policies can provide two types of benefits. Firstly, capital benefits that pay a lump sum in the event of death or a permanent disability, loss of limb, sight, hearing etc. The benefit can be a fixed amount or a percentage of salary and most policies have a ‘continental scale’ paying lower amounts for ‘lesser’ injuries i.e. 50% for the loss of hearing in one ear.

Secondly, there are weekly benefits for temporary total disablement. These are generally payable for a maximum of two years, subject to a one or two week excess (deferment period) and are usually limited to 75% of normal earnings. Some insurers will provide a weekly benefit for temporary partial disablement.

There are a few things to watch. The best policies cover permanent total disablement from your normal occupation, but with some, it is from any occupation, which could leave you looking for another job while you recover! Over the years I have also seen a few policies that have this restriction on weekly benefits as well.

Policy premiums will be based on your occupation and subject to questions regarding your health and participation in any hazardous sport or leisure activities. Age limits will apply and check if ‘hazardous’ activities are excluded (you may not consider them all particularly hazardous).

Personal Accident is a very cost effective form of cover and some insurers also offer sickness, although it is much more expensive and weekly benefits are usually restricted to one year. However, a disadvantage is that policies are subject to annual renewal and any changes in health could mean that insurers impose terms or refuse to renew. For longer term protection, Permanent Health insurance should be explored.

Companies have the option of very flexible policies and can insure all their staff, key individuals or selected groups, such as managers, with either 24 hour or occupational only cover. The bigger the group covered, the less insurers will be concerned about staff with health issues. The benefits are usually paid to the company, not the employee and can be set to cover various costs involved in staff absence, including hiring temporary staff, meeting Statutory Sick Pay payments or to cover obligations of employment contracts.

Finally, you need to consider the tax implications. Generally if the premiums are tax deductible, the proceeds of a claim will not be, but it is best to check out your company’s individual circumstances.

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