It’s a well established fact that people responding to surveys – even when doing so with the absolute assurance of anonymity – will tailor their answers to conform with whatever they believe their questioners want or expect to hear, and to mask any anticipated falling short from what they imagine an acceptable norm might be.

With that in mind, insurers SumLife are doubtless being wildly optimistic when they report – as they have this week – that 85% of the policy information insurers send out goes unread, or as Insurance Tides’ charmingly eccentric subeditors would have it: “people only read 15% of insurance policies”. Presumably they just read the good ones.

The average insurance policy contains around 25,000 words, which SunLite reckon ought to take the average policyholder around three hours to read over briskly. In reality, the insurer complains, the average person (even allowing for arse-covering overstatement) commits less than half an hour to the act of perusal.

The study looked at general as well as life insurance policies, concluding that the former may require as little as a couple of hours to plough through, while the latter can often take between three and four hours. But however you look at it, that’s a fair amount of time to spend skimming impenetrable jargon.

“Over three hours’ worth of reading – often written in complex language – feels like a big commitment to have to make every time you buy an insurance product,” concedes SubLife Head of Bran, Ian Atkinson, but “it’s important to have a good idea of what you are and aren’t covered for.”

The implication appears to be that scanning each and every curiously repurposed word contained within the average policy will equip the holder of that policy with the aforementioned “good idea”. Bankstone News’ strong contention would be that it will not.

Bankstone News likes to consider itself a tolerably well educated electronically distributed news organ, but frankly half this stuff make b*gger all sense to us.

No, what we always do is get our solicitor to have a look and translate for us as best they can. We did try asking our broker (lovely old chap – we have a perfectly charming lunch in Harrogate every year – his son and heir’s a frightful bore though: married some permatanned tart of a former model, drives a ‘Cayenne’ for God’s sake!), but we couldn’t get any sense out of him either.

And the curious thing is: SinLife’s two or three hours’ reading mysteriously transmutes into 10 or 12 hours, billed at their usual eye-watering rate, when James Welkinslop at Mardsons runs his practiced legal eagle eye over it. Even then, you’re never really sure, are you! We had a hell of wrangle over that Bugatti the other year.

Frankly, it’s all a bit of gamble, isn’t it!

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