People have been engaging in extreme sports like diving, bungee jumping, spelunking, surfing and mountain climbing for hundreds of years. But technological improvements and an increasing desire to escape the modern sedentary lifestyle have made extreme sporting opportunities more popular than ever.
Switzerland, with its steep mountains, fast-flowing mountain streams and many lakes has been a magnet for adrenaline hunters ever since the golden age of alpinism, and the trend shows no signs of stopping.
Extreme sports and insurance
But if you’ve been base jumping while all the while assuming that your financial bases are covered by the Swiss compulsory accident insurance you receive through your employer, you may want to keep your feet on the ground long enough to review your insurance policy.
Swiss accident insurance laws which regulate the coverage provided by your occupational accident insurance leave room for a number of coverage exclusions, most of which involve extreme or competitive sports.
The good news is that, in most cases, your insurance benefits will only be cut by 50%. The bad news is that in Switzerland, 50% of the costs of treatment following a major accident can set you back tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of francs.
To avoid ruining yourself financially as well as physically, make sure you understand which sports are excluded from your accident insurance. The list of exclusions, maintained by the UVG Ad-Hoc commission, is primarily a guideline. Other high-risk activities may also be excluded.
5 popular extreme sports which are excluded from full accident insurance coverage:
1. Diving at depths of 40 meters or more.
4. Base jumping.
5. Driving a motorized vehicle on a race track (unless part of a driving safety course).
Additionally, there are a number of sports which, although normally covered by compulsory accident insurance, are not covered under certain circumstances.
In most cases, the difference is whether you engage in these sports for leisure, or on a competitive basis. However, the lines between leisure and competition can easily get blurred, especially since exclusions are also made for training.
10 normally-covered sports which are excluded from full coverage when performed competitively:
1. Skiing with the goal of setting a record.
2. Boxing (full-on, competitive).
3. Extreme karate (splitting bricks, for example).
4. Motocross (racing and training on race tracks).
5. Boat racing (motorized, racing and training).
6. Autocross (racing and training).
7. Motorcycle racing (and training on race tracks).
8. Snowmobile racing (and race training).
9. Quad bike racing (or race training).
10. Skateboarding (when it is competitive or speed-driven).
All of the above activities can cause your insurance coverage to be cut by 50%, or in extreme cases even by 100%. That means you could be left to foot the entire bill for your treatment out of your own pocket!
While engaging in the above activities pretty much exempts you from full accident insurance coverage, there are numerous other sports which may be deemed to be “extreme” depending on how you engage in them.
For example, while accidents on a ski slope are generally covered, those you incur during free-style snowboarding or skiing off of official slopes may not be fully covered (particularly if guidelines are not closely followed). Accidents incurred during mountain climbing are normally fully covered when you take all necessary safety precautions, but these may not be covered if they are caused by gross negligence.
Engaging in the sports listed below in the wrong way may lead to a 50% reduction in the insurance benefits paid out by your compulsory accident insurance.
8 activities which may not be fully covered in the case of gross negligence:
1. Mountain climbing, including rock climbing and ice climbing, when safety guidelines are not followed. Climbing in bad weather or ignoring warnings from a guide may constitute gross negligence.
2. Off-slope snow sports, when official guidelines and regulations are not closely followed.
3. Combat training (unless officially approved and overseen by relevant authorities).
4. Hang gliding or parachuting in hazardous wind conditions.
5. Canyoning (when guidelines are not followed).
6. Sailing or canoeing under extreme conditions
7. Snowrafting (where adequate safety procedures are not followed).
8. Buildering in dangerous conditions, such as at night or in an intoxicated state.
In some cases, special insurance policies are available which specifically cover certain extreme sports. These policies are usually provided by insurance companies in collaboration with a sports club or association.
For example, the Swiss diving association SUSV/FSSS offers its members a diving insurance policy underwritten by Helsana. This policy offers provides more extensive coverage for scuba diving accidents than what you get from compulsory accident insurance.
The same holds true for liability insurance, with some extreme sports associations offering special liability insurance coverage. For example, the Swiss Base Association, which works to forward the interests of base jumpers, has partnered with Generali to provide liability insurance which covers base jumping in addition to hang gliding and parachuting. You can read more about liability insurance for winter sports here.
Supplementary health insurance as an alternative
Health insurance companies can be more generous in the coverage they provide through their supplemental insurance policies. In some cases, your employer may provide you with supplemental accident insurance coverage above the basic compulsory accident insurance. You can also take out additional accident insurance from health insurance companies, above the mandatory accident insurance rider on your obligatory health insurance policy.
Some Swiss health insurance providers offer supplemental health insurance policies which cover some of the extreme sports which aren’t fully covered by obligatory accident insurance. For example, the ActiVita policy from Groupe Mutuel provides coverage for base jumping, as long as you stick to guidelines and perform your base jump under normal conditions. However, scuba coverage is still limited to 40 meters.
Many supplemental insurance policies will, at least, cover the cost of search and rescue operations and ambulance transportation. The “search & rescue” filter in the comprehensive and unbiased supplementary health insurance comparison from moneyland.ch makes it easy to find out which policies provide this coverage.
If you have a supplementary health insurance policy, consider asking your insurer what accident coverage is provided.
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