Life Insurance for Selfie Deaths

Russell Cain
Russell Cain Updated: 19 February 2020

The selfie is something of a cultural phenomenon and is especially appealing to travellers, where they take pictures of themselves against spectacular backdrops. However, taking a selfie in a hazardous location or with dangerous objects has led to over 259 deaths since 2011.

More people now die in the pursuit of the perfect selfie than are killed by sharks!

If you’ve taken a selfie amidst a dangerous setting, for example precariously close to the side of a cliff, you might want to check if your life insurance will pay out should your pursuit of social media recognition, lead to fatal consequences.

The selfie trend and how it can affect your insurance

When applying for a fully underwritten life insurance policy, the insurer will usually ask you if you partake in any dangerous activities or hobbies. While you might not be skydiving, free climbing or motorbike racing, taking photos of yourself at dangerous or exotic locations could be viewed as participating in an ‘extreme or dangerous sport’.

Some policies have a clause concerning high-risk activities, wherein they might:

You must disclose your selfie-taking behaviour when applying for a policy. Failing to do so could result in your future claim not being paid. It’s best to be honest about your adventurous lifestyle because life insurance is about risk management.

Take note: There are select life insurance companies that specialise in providing coverage for thrill-seekers.

Are selfies becoming more dangerous?

Yes, various research papers and news outlets have reported on the rise of serious incidents, including injury and death, involved in the taking of selfies. That’s why you’ll start to notice more and more ‘No Selfie Zones’ or barricaded areas to avoid such tragedies.

When taking a selfie, peoples’ awareness of their immediate environment may temporarily be reduced and thus expose them to unforeseen dangers, according to a research paper published in 2018 (Media-based clinical research on selfie-related injuries and deaths). This lack of situational awareness and temporary distraction can get you seriously injured or even result in your death.

Will life insurance payout if you die taking a selfie?

A selfie-related claim for injury or death will generally be treated as an accidental injury or accidental death. However, whether your claim will be valid depends on your insurer and Product Disclosure Statement. When you directly or indirectly expose yourself to significant risk as part of your regular pastime and do not disclose this when applying for insurance, the insurer could deny your claim.

An insurance company could also view your death as suicide if no evidence falling off a cliff, for example, were due to you taking a selfie. Generally, suicide is not covered for life insurance during the first 13 months of your policy commencing.

Tips for getting life insurance as an extreme selfie-enthusiast:

  • Know your lifestyle: List all the things in your life you think might contribute to your risk profile, for example, a hazardous occupation or dangerous pastimes.
  • Fully disclose: Make sure to mention these lifestyle factors when applying for a policy to help prevent your claim from being voided because of missing or inaccurate information.
  • Compare policy terms and conditions: You might want to compare similar policies from some of Australia’s major brands and see which one meets your requirements.
  • Read the PDS: Review the insurer’s Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) paying particular attention to exclusions, limitations and loadings.
  • Manage your risk: Have an honest look at your lifestyle and determine how you can reduce your risk of injury or death. The ultimate selfie is not worth your life.

Most common types of selfie deaths

From 2011 to 2017 there have been 259 reported selfie-deaths. However, a significant number of cases are not reported. The leading reasons for selfie-related deaths were:

In August 2019, a woman died after leaning over to take a photo and falling from a cliff at the Diamond Bay Reserve in Australia. A man died in 2018, after slipping off a cliff while whale-watching and taking selfies at Cape Solander in Kurnell near Sydney.

Also, in 2018, a man was mauled to death by a bear after trying to take a photo with it. In 2019 a woman was attacked by a jaguar in an Arizona zoo after crossing the barrier to take a selfie.

In India, two teenage boys were taking selfies while hanging on to a rope when they fell into the Tapti river and drowned.

Selfie safety tips

To avoid injury or death when taking a selfie, make sure you follow these tips:

  • Avoid high altitude selfies. Don’t lean out too far; instead, use a selfie stick.
  • Make sure your footing is firm, and the ground beneath your feet is solid.
  • Stay away from dangerous objects, like knives, guns and explosives.
  • Keep a safe distance from the animals, especially bears, tigers, bees, bison and bucks.
  • Avoid taking selfies near trains, boats or oncoming traffic.
  • Don’t take photos while in motion, for example, when crossing the street or driving.
  • Watch out for electrical wiring.
  • Be aware of your surroundings and stay focused.

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