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MORE than 6 000 people died on the country’s roads during the festive season between 2013 and the first two weeks of January this year. This figure excludes road deaths during the rest of the year. 

Insufficient attention is accorded the survivors of those road accidents, many of whom suffered severe disabilities, with far-reaching and potentially devastating effects on their lives. 

Accurate figures are scarce, but, according to a 2013 study by True South Actuaries and Consultants, each day about 20 people are permanently disabled, and hundreds more recover from serious injuries, as a result of car accidents. Most of these accidents – 77% – are the result of human error.

Many people prepare for the consequences of being involved in an accident by taking out vehicle insurance, medical scheme cover and life assurance, but statistics show that South Africans are severely underinsured when it comes to lifestyle protection cover, which includes income and disability cover.

As we head into the holiday season, we should appreciate the importance of lifestyle protection cover. We insure our cars, but we often neglect to insure our bodies. 

Few of us can imagine what it must be like to find out that we will never walk again, or that we have lost our eyesight or a limb. Once discharged from hospital, you face your first challenge: making your way home. At home, you may need ramps, rails or other devices to move around. And what about your job: will you still have one? Will you able to perform your duties with a disability? 

Your health is more vulnerable. When confined to a wheelchair, your muscles and skeleton weaken and you are prone to illnesses such as ulcers. This limits your ability to produce an income and can place a strain on your loved ones, on whom you now depend. 

It’s human nature to shy away from facing up to the possibility of disability. But if we insure our cars, have medical scheme cover and life assurance, why do we not plan for disability? Why don’t we give ourselves the means to cope with such a massive change? 

South Africans need to change their mind-sets and see lifestyle protection as a necessity, not a luxury. It is expensive to adapt to a disability.

Lifestyle protection is not complete without disability cover. This is your means to adapting your lifestyle to your disability. In some cases, you will have to incur the financial cost of mobility aids or adapting your home.

When you select cover, it is important to take the time to understand what you are covered for. This is particularly true of income protection, which is not complete without lifestyle protection. The former ensures you have an income for the period you are unable to generate it. Furthermore, disability comes with great financial strain, as you may need mobility aids or to adapt your home. Lifestyle protection gives you this security. 

As we head into the festive season, car accidents and disabilities are far from our minds. We hope to return to work healthy and with our family safe. But if something does happen, the right cover will provide you with the security you need to pick up the pieces.   

We service the car and check the tyres to ensure roadworthiness; we should also do the same for our lifestyle. 

Johan Minnie is the group executive of sales, distribution and bancassurance at Liberty.