If you are an avid rock climber applying for life insurance, you’ve undoubtedly noticed insurance companies showing a keen interest in your hobby. There’s a good reason for that too. Rock climbing is considered a dangerous hobby by life insurance companies.
It’s not that a large number of people die participating in the sport each year. But it does add a real risk of early death, certainly more so than less challenging hobbies.
For that reason, a rock-climbing hobby gets special attention from life insurance companies. That means the potential for higher premiums or even a specific policy exclusion for death caused by your hobby.
Let’s take a deep dive into life insurance for rock climbers and identify any specific areas of concern for you as an applicant.
How Dangerous is Rock Climbing
Statistically speaking, rock climbing doesn’t seem to be all that dangerous, at least not when measured by the number of deaths connected to it.
According to a report on the subject, Accidents in North American Climbing, casualties from rock climbing are surprisingly low.
Between 1951 and 2019, there were a total of 6,679 injuries and 1,713 fatalities, covering a span of nearly 70 years. In fact, in 2018, there were just 17 fatalities nationwide, though that was about half as many as the previous three years.
From a statistical standpoint, it doesn’t seem as though life insurance companies should be all that concerned about rock climbing. After all, 17 fatalities out of the hundreds of thousands of people who participate in the sport each year seem truly insignificant.
But life insurance companies look at risk from all angles. It’s well understood that age and health conditions play a major role in both the approval and premium pricing of life insurance policies. But, virtually any activity that has the potential to reduce your lifespan will have an effect. That even includes occupations or hobbies that are considered hazardous.
For better or worse, rock climbing is included in that category.
Does Life Insurance Cover Rock Climbing?
Generally speaking, you’ll be able to get a life insurance policy even if you are a frequent rock climber. The bigger issue will be the premium you pay for the coverage.
There are three ways this can be handled:
- Purchase a regular life insurance policy that excludes payment of benefits if your death is caused by rock climbing.
- Purchase a regular life insurance policy, then get a separate policy that specifically covers rock climbing. This can generally be handled by adding an accidental death and dismemberment policy that will cover rock climbing.
- Apply for a regular life insurance policy, and have the premium-priced specifically to include death from rock climbing activities.
The first option will naturally be the least expensive since it will completely disregard your rock climbing hobby. But, if your death is ultimately caused by rock climbing, your beneficiaries will not receive the promised death benefit from your policy.
The second option allows you to purchase a regular life insurance policy at the best possible price, with the additional cost being attributed to the accidental death policy. Depending on how much that additional policy will cost, how committed you are to your rock climbing hobby, and how much you’re willing to pay for insurance as an add-on expense to your other climbing costs will decide if this is the right option for you.
It may be the best option if you expect your rock climbing activities to be fairly temporary. For example, let’s say you want to purchase a 30-year, term-life insurance policy, but you only expect to continue your rock climbing hobby for another 10 years. It may be more cost-effective to have an accidental death rider for 10 years than to have your regular policy permanently priced higher to cover your hobby during the many years when you won’t be participating in it.
The third option — taking a regular policy with a higher premium — may not be the cheapest, but it should be the easiest. It will not only cover death from rock climbing, but it will eliminate the possibility of you needing to stop climbing after a certain number of years.
The Extra Premium You’ll Pay for Rock Climbing Life Insurance
As is the case with life insurance for all high-risk hobbies, a premium adjustment can be made to accommodate the risk of death from rock climbing. This is typically done based on a flat dollar rate per thousand dollars of coverage.
When it comes to rock climbing, that add-on fee can be anywhere from $1 per $1,000 for an occasional climber, to as much as $5 per $1,000 for a high frequency, high-risk climber.
As an example, let’s say your rock climbing activities sit somewhere in the middle of the risk range. The life insurance company assesses an additional premium of $3 per $1,000 of coverage.
If you’re purchasing a $500,000, 20-year term policy with a base premium rate of $500, that premium will increase to $2,000 to cover your rock-climbing hobby.
That’s because your premium increase for rock climbing works out to be $1,500. Because your death benefit is $500,000, and the additional premium is $3 per $1,000, the calculation is 500 X $3, or $1,500. When added to the $500 base policy premium, the total rises to $2,000.
Does Rock Climbing Void Life Insurance?
The answer to this question could go either way.
When Life Insurance WILL Cover a Rock Climbing Incident
If you take up rock climbing after getting your life insurance policy and you die as a result of an accident sustained while climbing, the death benefit will most likely be paid to your beneficiaries.
But, there are some caveats here. First, the contestability period, which is typically two years, will have to have lapsed before your death. If it hasn’t, the insurance company will have the right to investigate your cause of death and choose to decline payment. However, they would need to prove that your rock-climbing hobby began before you purchased your policy.
Even if you clear the contestability period, that’s not a guarantee your death benefit will be paid. Insurance policies are contracts with a lot of pages and multiple provisions. If the policy specifically excludes payment of the death benefit as the result of certain prohibited activities, your beneficiaries may not be paid if rock climbing is one of those exclusions. You’ll need to carefully read through your entire policy, including the fine print.
When Life Insurance Will NOT Cover a Rock Climbing Incident
Let’s say you apply for life insurance and fail to disclose your rock-climbing hobby, under the what the insurance company doesn’t know won’t hurt them doctrine. Soon after, you die in a rock-climbing accident. The life insurance company will investigate, and it’s highly likely they’ll discover your rock-climbing hobby has been going on for some time — even before you made an application for coverage.
The omission of any health condition or hazardous activity from a life insurance application is considered insurance fraud. If the insurance company can prove that, which may be easier than you might imagine, they can decline the payment of the death benefit to your loved ones. In most cases, they’ll simply return the premiums you’ve paid for the policy to your beneficiaries and close the case.
For that reason, you should never fail to disclose rock climbing or any other high-risk hobby on a life insurance application.
How Life Insurance Companies Consider Rock Climbing
You may be surprised to learn that life insurance companies don’t consider rock climbing as a single activity, but rather as a matter of degree. That is, how much and how risky your climbs are will go a long way toward determining what your premiums will be.
Factors that will be considered include:
- Frequency of climbs. The insurance company will want to know how many times you climb each year. Your premium will be higher for 30 climbs per year that it will be for five.
- How high you climb. Your premiums will be lower if your climbs are limited to not more than 5000 feet, compared to say, 20,000 feet.
- Type of climbing. This can include rock climbing, indoor climbing (which usually doesn’t increase your premium), ice climbing, extreme climbing, or climbing in canyons. Each insurance company will have a slightly different view of each type.
- Terrain. Do you climb mountains, glaciers, caves, or ice? Each will have its own effect on your premium.
- Group climbing or lone ranger. Group climbing will be to your advantage since it lowers the risk of death.
- Licenses or certifications. If you have either from a recognized rock climbing group or governmental authority, this will work in your favor.
Finally, if you are a professional climber, you probably won’t be approved for a typical personal life insurance policy. In that case, you’ll need a policy specifically for that profession. The premium structure may be completely different from what it is for a personal policy.
How to Apply for Rock Climbing Life Insurance
As simple as rock climbing should be as a life insurance consideration, you can see that’s not necessarily the case. First, not all life insurance companies will even consider a policy on a frequent rock climber.
Second, some companies have a more accommodating view of the hobby than others do. And third, premium levels can vary considerably from one company to another.
The worst strategy for getting life insurance as a rock climber will be to apply for coverage with the companies that aggressively advertise having the lowest premiums. Those premiums are low precisely because they only insure the lowest risk applicants. That typically includes young applicants in excellent health, who work in safe occupations, have no bad habits, and don’t participate in high-risk hobbies.
You can waste a lot of time applying for coverage with so-called low-cost providers. But, each time you do and your application is declined, a permanent record of that decline is recorded. That will make it more difficult for you to get life insurance in the future.
The better strategy, if you are a rock climber, is to work with an experienced life insurance broker. Brokers work with many different life insurance companies and know which ones will be most accommodating of a rock-climbing hobby, or any other risk factor in your profile. They can get the job done quickly, at the lowest possible premium.*While we make every effort to keep our site updated, please be aware that "timely" information on this page, such as quote estimates, or pertinent details about companies, may only be accurate as of its last edit day. Huntley Wealth & Insurance Services and its representatives do not give legal or tax advice. Please consult your own legal or tax adviser.