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Making sure you have the right cover

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The concept of Total and Permanent Disability (TPD) cover is relatively simple. If you are ill or injured and unlikely to be able to work again and meet the conditions of your particular policy, you receive a payment. The difficulty has always been to define what is meant by “unlikely to be able to work again”.

Advances in medical science and technology have meant that people who suffer horrific injuries might be rehabilitated and able to return to work, when years ago a similar condition would have left them permanently disabled. For instance, by-pass surgery once ended a working career; nowadays normal life can soon be resumed.

Different policies have different definitions and it’s an area where insurance companies are developing new features. Typical definitions that may be used are as follows.

The any occupation definition

One definition of TPD is based on your ability to do your own job (or a similar one where you are qualified through your existing education, training and experience or possible retraining).


A painter who suffers a back injury and cannot climb ladders or stand for long periods may be classed as permanently disabled if he has no other employment skills. A teacher who suffers stress-related illnesses when faced by a classroom of children may not meet that classification if she can work outside the classroom as a tutor, examiner or writer of educational material.

The own occupation definition

A second definition is based on your ability to do just your own job. The premiums for this type of cover will be more expensive.


A surgeon who damages his hands may be classed as permanently disabled because he cannot perform surgical operations, but he will still be able to work as a doctor or lecturer though on lower earnings.

Homemaker definition

The definitions above are only suitable for employed people but another definition is based on the ability to live independently. You would be classed as permanently disabled if you could not dress, eat, bathe, maintain personal hygiene or move around unaided. This means that a spouse who works in the home and raises children could also be insured – what would it cost to do the shopping, childcare, transport and other activities if your spouse could not do it?

How does TPD cover fit into a risk management plan?

Constructing a plan to protect you and your family against disaster can use a number of different types of policies. Income protection can provide up to 75% of your income if you are unable to do your own work due to illness or injury – but can you service your debts from this income? Trauma cover will pay a lump sum if you are diagnosed with a defined illness – but the premiums can be relatively expensive.

Putting in place the right mix of insurance cover to suit your needs is no easy task, but it is something that we deal with every day.


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