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5 life insurance exclusions you should know about

Couple looking at options for life insurance policies.

If you haven't investigated it before, life insurance can seem a bit complicated. To start with, the term itself is a catch-all for different kinds of coverage, including income protection cover, total and permanent disability cover, and death cover.

While what's included in your specific life insurance policy will differ between providers (don't forget to read the good ol' product disclosure statement), there are a few common exclusions to watch out for. After all, not meeting the eligibility criteria for your policy can make buying it in the first place a sad waste of money.

Common life insurance exclusions

Here are five life insurance conditions to keep in mind.

1. Suicide

This is a very common exclusion in life insurance policies. Generally speaking, insurance companies will not payout if the individual insured takes their own life within 13 months of signing up for the policy. Or if the policy has been in place for a long time but the policyholder has recently upped the premium, then the insurance company may only pay out the old amount and not the new increased amount.

If you are experiencing stress or anxiety as a result of financial hardship, there are a number of financial counselling services free to access in Australia, these include:

You can also call Lifeline on 13 11 14 if you are experiencing a personal crisis or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636.

2. Illegal or criminal activity

Even with accidental death cover or total permanent disability insurance, if you are injured while taking part in an illegal activity then your insurance provider may deny the claim.

Just remember, 'illegal activity' is a fairly broad term and although it could refer to something sensational like stealing a car or holding up a bank, it could also apply to more passive crimes such as trespassing.

So, if you are injured while taking a jaunt over what you thought was common land, but actually turns out to be private property, you may not be eligible to make a claim. It’s a tricky one and definitely something to look out for when taking out a life insurance policy. You may even want to call the insurance company and ask for some clarification on this exclusion.

3. Drug or alcohol use

Drug and alcohol substance abuse is also a common exclusion in life insurance policies. Unless the consumption of pills or medication was taken at the direction of a doctor, insurance providers will most often not pay out if it’s found that the person insured was injured while under the influence of alcohol or in connection to drug addiction, or substance abuse.

This can also apply if someone has a car accident while driving over the legal limit. If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol addiction you can call Alcoholics Anonymous Australia on 1300 222 222.

4. War or warlike activity

Another common exclusion, this one applies if you are injured during a war, whether it is declared or not. Now you hopefully will not find yourself in a war in the future, but notice the wording ‘warlike activity’? This can also include civil unrest, such as a riot.

So if you were injured while taking part in a protest, then your insurance company may also deny the claim.

5. Sports and risky hobbies

This last one is really only if the sport or particularly risky activity is something that you do on a regular basis. In other words, your insurance company probably won’t be worried if you’re doing a once-in-a-lifetime skydive for your birthday. However, if you’re a regular paraglider or you’re often taking rides in race cars, then an insurance provider may see your behaviour as risky.

If you do have risky hobbies, then your insurance company may apply certain exclusions to your policy. For instance, if you are injured in a motor racing accident, then you may not be covered.

Each individual’s policy is different and often determined by a series of questions that your insurance provider asks you when you apply. Now, before we go any further, one thing to be clear on is that you should be completely honest when applying for insurance.

If you omit something or do not tell the truth, for example if you lie about not being a smoker, then your life insurance company may deny a claim based on the fact that you did not provide the correct information.

Read the PDS before signing on the dotted line

To sum up, while these exclusions occur frequently in life insurance policies, it is always advisable to read the product disclosure statement before putting your signature on the dotted line. Every policy will have slight differences, so it’s definitely a good idea to make sure you understand what is and what is not covered before you make a decision.

Not sure if you need to take out a policy or not? Why not check out Mozo’s guide on how to determine whether or not you need life insurance. Then, check out some of the options below to start comparing life insurance policies.

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Tara McCabe
Tara McCabe
Money writer

Tara has more than two years experience as a finance journalist. She currently specialises in writing about budgeting, banking, insurance and ethical money choices.

Evlin DuBose
Evlin DuBose
Senior Money Writer

Evlin, RG146 Generic Knowledge certified and a UTS Communications graduate, is a leading voice in finance news. As Mozo's go-to writer for RBA and interest rates, her work regularly features in Google's Top Stories and major publications like

* Terms, conditions, exclusions, limits and sub-limits may apply to any of the insurance products shown on the Mozo website. These terms, conditions, exclusions, limits and sub-limits could affect the level of benefits and cover available under any of the insurance products shown on the Mozo website. Please refer to the relevant Product Disclosure Statement and the Target Market Determination on the provider's website for further information before making any decisions about an insurance product.

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