Honesty is the Best Policy

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In the attached clip from Along Came Polly, Sandy Lyle (played by Philip Seymour Hoffman) gives an empowering speech urging a life insurance company to underwrite Leland Van Lew, a particularly high-risk client.  The risk management takeaway is the importance of full disclosure in the application process.  Leland does not hide his crocodile fighting or volcano climbing ways.  He provides an accurate and complete disclosure of his high-risk lifestyle.  While it may be tempting to fib on an insurance application — either to increase your chance of approval or to decrease rates — it rarely pays off.  Whether it is a patient’s medical history, a company’s financial reports, or a list of prior claims against a manufacturer, underwriters review the information on a potential insured’s application to determine whether to accept the risk and what premium to assign it.  And then they put that application away, until later.  Remember, the general rule is that a material misrepresentation or omission made in an application for insurance will void the insurer’s obligations under the policy — and courts are increasingly deferring to the insurer in determining what the insurer considers material.  At the end of the day, honesty is the best policy.