One of the better insurance applications is at my side as I write this. Right at the top of the starting page is a box which is meant to placate the actuaries and underwriters. It's headed up "Your duty of disclosure". It proceeds to tell people about how important it is to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. This is one of the best examples I have seen.
But put on another pair of glasses:It's actually rubbish.
We have lost our way. MSWord calculates the Flesch reading ease level of the statement at 46.5. (out of 100, where a higher score is better). They reckon 60 would be a minimum for a standard document. But this isn't a standard document. It's a statement upon which everything that follows is built. Here is a set of words that I suggest the average person, completing an insurance application would not completely understand that appear in most disclosure declarations:
You see, Diana Crossan is right. The word disclosure is part of the problem, not the solution. How about "tell the truth, and tell us everything about your health, why you are taking out this insurance, and anything else you think we might need to know"
"Material" to the dim might mean cloth, but even with a smidgeon of context most readers are not going to understand the full implication, which could so easily be said: "anything in your medical or family history that might affect your health or how long you are going to live".
The same goes for "Relevant" I am afraid - we are asking the client now to judge what is relevant or material. These are decisions we don't trust our underwriters with until after years of training. We should not ask this of a client, we should tell them as plainly as we can what we think is relevant.
Substantially - sorry, same goes. Also, this speaks of the weasily nature which is the antithesis of the straightforward 'telling the truth'. Are we inviting the client to tell us things that are a little bit untrue, so long as they are substantially true?
No casual non-industry person understands "Avoided" without tuition. What about "we won't have to pay" and instead of "forfeited" and "premiums" have "you will lose all the money you paid".
This warning was subtitled "Please read carefully" they might as well have added "with a dictionary nearby" and "while referring to an online database of insurance jargon".
Here's a suggestion:
If you want your insurance to pay out at claim time you need to make sure you tell us everything we need to know in this form. We need to know anything that could affect your health, going back as far as you can remember. We need to know about your habits and your family history. We need to know about your work and habits. If you are in any doubt, put it on the form - there is space at the back for you to write more if it does not fit into the form. Even if you tell the adviser about something, make sure you also put it in the form. If you remember something you think you should have told us later on then write, phone, or email it to us. If you don't tell us something that could affect your health, how long you will live, or which might increase your chances of disability, then we may not pay out when you come to make a claim. You may lose all your money. Remember - we want to insure you, and we want to make sure the insurance pays out if you claim, so please complete the form fully."
It's got a Flesch reading ease of 79.8 and I bet it saves more time, money, and trouble, than all the other disclosure statements you find out there.