What the lethal selfie trend means for your insurance

Image of a man taking a selfie with a shark
Sink your teeth into a prime selfie
"Acts of supreme photographic stupidity prompted the Russian government to issue a 'safe selfie' guide, which offers such nuggets of advice as: 'a selfie with a weapon kills'"
  • | by Dan Moore

If your index finger is over-exercised through taking selfies and you have a penchant for dangerous stunts, it could land you in some serious trouble.

A burning desire to catalogue every 'exciting' moment with a selfie may seem like harmless fun, but that's far from true in a worrying number of cases.

There are no shortage of stories about those who went too far and suffered the consequences.

This could be anything from a drunken reveller tottering into the road to get a better shot in front of their favourite pub, to something pre-planned and highly dangerous.

Well, well, well…

Image of a well

Take the recent report of the Austrian women who tumbled down a water well in India while trying to take a snap.

She got away with some abrasions after some fellow tourists fished her out with a rope fashioned from shirts and skirts, but  we bet she wishes she'd been more careful.

The 'well girl' was relatively lucky, especially when you discover India saw the most reported selfie-related deaths of any country in 2015, with 27 confirmed fatal cases.

To this number you can add more than 100 people injured in the pursuit of a reckless self-portrait.

This is a government warning

Image of two women taking a selfie while driving (not advised)

Russia has a similar problem to India.

Among the hundreds injured last year were a smattering of tragic and frankly ludicrous fatalities.

These included two men who blew themselves up taking a photo while removing the pin from a grenade.

Acts of supreme photographic stupidity prompted the Russian government to issue a 'safe selfie' guide, which offers such nuggets of advice as: 'a selfie with a weapon kills'.

India and Russia don't have a monopoly on pea-brained selfie lovers, though.

Amongst last year's reports of selfie-related deaths was that of a 21-year-old man who plunged into the crater of Mount Merapi, an active volcano in Indonesia.

What a way to go

Image of a man taking a selfie while rockclimbing

Other notable ways to go include a 22-year-old from Rawalpindi in Pakistan, who perished taking a selfie on the tracks in front of an oncoming train.

Or there's the 32-year-old man whose efforts to get a photo of himself during the annual bull-running festival at Villaseca de la Sagra ended with him being gored to death.

Most of these awful stories may seem irrelevant to British readers, but the fact that many take place at tourist attractions is worth noting.

After all, selfies particularly appeal when you're in unfamiliar surroundings, so angling for the best shot rather than paying attention to what's happening around you may not be a good idea.

Get the right cover

Image of a man taking a selfie at the fjords in Norway

Let's face it, no-one sets out to get hurt taking a photo on holiday. But what if something does go wrong? Could you draw on your travel insurance?

The British Insurance Brokers' Association told us it felt selfie-related claims would most likely be treated as accidents, adding: "The Ombudsman would always ensure that all valid claims would be paid, however we do urge a caution not to put yourself in needless danger when taking a holiday selfie."

Ross Penstone-Smith, general insurance policy adviser at the Association of British Insurers, echoed this view: "If people have accidents or fall ill while overseas, travel insurance gives them peace of mind that they can get the help they need without running up large bills. Insurers pay out almost £4m a week for emergency medical treatment overseas."

So, while insurers will pay up, having travel insurance is not a 'get out of jail free' card.

Check for clauses

Image of a couple taking a selfie with an elephant

Most travel insurance policies include a clause requiring you to exercise reasonable care with regards to both yourself and your property.

Failing to do so, or foregoing travel insurance when going abroad, could leave you in real trouble.

It's a similar story with life insurance, which will typically pay out when the policyholder dies.

Many policies will approve claims if you die as a result of gross negligence or a reckless act, but others may not.

For example, Sainsbury's level term life insurance policy includes the following clause: "We won't pay out if, within the first year of your policy, the cause of your death is directly or indirectly caused by exposing yourself to significant risk that is more likely than not to result in death."

In any event, you should question your sanity if reading the small print for this type of exclusion becomes a consideration when looking for life insurance.

The sorry tale of Todd Fassler illustrates the hazards of taking a dangerous selfie when you don't have cover.

The Californian's bright idea to take a photo with a rattlesnake went very wrong, leaving him in excruciating pain when the reptile bit him and he was handed a medical bill of more than $150,000.


Image of a group of friends using a selfie stick

Idiotic stunts aside, there's another factor you need to think about, both on holiday and at home... and that's theft.

If you use a selfie-stick and an opportunist swipes your phone you may not be covered by travel, home or gadget insurance.

This is because one common insurance requirement is for a mobile to be 'within arms-length reach'.

Clearly, your phone isn't within reach if it's perched at the end of a foot-long stick.

Likewise, don't expect much sympathy if you ask a stranger to take a photo of you and a friend, only for them to scarper while you say 'cheese'.

So, between theft, injury and death, it's fair to say the desire to have a lasting account of where you've been should be tempered with some cool thinking.

Otherwise, all you may capture for posterity is a record of your last moments on Earth...

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