Your short-term insurance contract can often seem overwhelming in its complexity, and particularly frustrating when your claims are not paid out in full. How can you ensure you don’t get ‘tripped up’ when taking out short-term cover? Marius Neethling, Santam’s manager of personal lines underwriting, looks at five common pitfalls in the terms and conditions of a short-term insurance policy.

Underinsurance: To avoid this, ensure that the insured value of the item or property is equal to the current replacement value, not the original purchase price. Your premiums will likely increase with a higher replacement value, but it could save you a fortune in the long run. We often find that goods stay insured for the original value – for example, a dining room set bought 10 years ago would be insured for R6 000. But to replace the dining room set could cost R20 000 today, so the claimant could be left very disappointed when they leave the shop with an inferior product to what they had.

Excess: An excess amount is the first amount payable for which the client is responsible – it is the agreed amount of money you pay the insurer as a contribution towards repairs or replacement. An excess amount is applicable to most short-term policies, and it is explicitly stated in all policy documents. Clients are advised to read this part of the policy carefully so they don’t get a shock when it comes to claiming.

Exclusions: With motor insurance, exclusions are one of the main pitfalls. Clients often try to claim for mechanical or electrical breakdowns, but these form part of the car’s warranty and are explicitly excluded from most short-term insurance covers. Be sure to check that your policy covers multiple drivers of your vehicle and make sure you have declared the use of your vehicle correctly for either business use or private use.

All-risk insurance: This refers to items that are mobile, such as jewellery, cameras, laptops, phones or tablets. These are generally insured under your household content policy only when they are at your home address. As soon as you leave the property, you need to supplement the cover with an all-risk addition to your policy. You should supply original purchase invoices or valuation certificates if applicable, to your insurance company, and keep a copy as proof of ownership.

Personal liability: This refers to insurance against a third party suing you in your personal capacity, for financial loss, physical injury or death. The most common form is fixed in your householder’s insurance, covering the structure of your home and its permanent fittings, but further cover typically includes medical costs, restoring or replacing damaged property, pain and suffering to the injured party, loss of income, legal costs and expenses.

Standard cover for personal liability is between R2m and R5m, but this may not be enough to save you from financial ruin if someone does claim against you. Most insurers, therefore, offer top-up cover at a low additional premium – extending your cover to R10m or even R20m as in the case of Santam. As the chances of you claiming are very low, extended cover is highly affordable and probably well worth it.

One of the best general tips we can offer clients is to work with an expert when structuring short-term insurance policies. Santam has one of the strongest track records for paying claims (it paid 99% of all claims in 2013). The group’s intermediaries – or short-term insurance brokers – qualify via a series of exams and they really understand both the needs of the client and the structure and terminology of the insurance provider. As a result, policies are set up in such a way as to avoid these common pitfalls and ensure that the client is paid out when it comes to claim time.

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