When Susan suffered a devastating fall, she was faced with not only the challenge of recuperating but also the challenge of paying her bills and her mortgage. One day whilst looking through her paperwork she realised she had a Legal & General policy.
So, Susan, tell us your story in your own words.
I was at an end-of-season tournament with my son, with the football club, and he had an accident and I was called to the scene by his fellow football team players and it was awful, because he had fallen down this cliff and he was motionless, and obviously the first instinct, as a parent, was that he was dead. I just without thinking tried to get to him and as I was descending, I got my foot, my right foot, stuck between two rocks and because of, I suppose, the incline, how steep it was, I was propelled forward and my foot stayed where it was, and without being too gory about it, unfortunately both bones in my lower right leg twisted and broke in half. At the time, I hadn't realised quite how serious it was until sometime later when I was strapped into a chair and lifted off the side of the cliff, because my main concern was about my son, who came around and he was fine and we were shuttled off to A&E in Torbay together.
Then when I was allowed by my mother to go next door – I've got an office at home – and go into the study, given the key to unlock it, because I was confined to a bed beforehand, she was just going through some papers and it was rooting through all of this paperwork that I actually had a thought, I might have some sort of policy, because I'm of…and that’s literally the first time I'd thought about it four or five weeks, having been at home.
I had a financial advisor who came to see me in 2007 when I was having a new package with my mortgage and he was telling me the sorts of things I should have and about different products, and it was he who said to me about have you thought, if you're self-employed, about if you're unable to work, about critical illness or an accident cover, you know, something to protect your mortgage, and I made a few throwaway comments; ‘oh, I've had payment protection things with bank loans in the past and as soon as you try to make a loan, oh, hey ho, it’s a pre-existing injury or that,’ and there’d been so much negativity and problems in the past with that, I was somewhat disillusioned about protection, to be honest. But he sat down and we went through it; we’d gone through all my outgoings and looked at the income, and the variance in the income depending on how quickly people paid me, and we worked out that about £1,500 each month would cover my mortgage, my outgoings with my utilities. We even put things like petrol into the equation, because if I was poorly, I wouldn’t be driving or working anyway, but – obviously food had to go into there – it came to about £1,500.
Then he looked at…he’d sourced different companies at the time and he came back to me with Legal & General. We hit on this particular product that I had that I took out. It was £34 a month, which at the time, when I was self-employed, single parent and two children, I thought, oh, that’s £34 for ‘what if’ or ‘maybe,’ whereas where you're paying into other things that you know you're going to have a definite return, it feels very different to the ‘what if.’ But this chap was very sensible, this financial advisor, and he said to me, ‘look, for £34 you could cover yourself for £2,000 a month. That covers all you need to pay for your outgoings and then leave you £500 for other incidentals and whatever,’ so I signed up for it and that was how I came to have the product and that’s how it was recommended.
I looked at what I had; there’s a booklet and a covering letter and things, and there was a phone number, a claims number, and I thought, well, there is no harm in making the call and that’s really what I did. I made the call, had a very pleasant person on the end, who was very helpful, didn’t try to discourage me or ask me any questions that were putting me off in any way, shape or form. She made everything actually sound very, very easy. She was bright, cheerful, and said, ‘we’ll put forms in the post to you,’ and I said, ‘am I actually covered? I've had an accident, I've broken my leg, I'm not able to work.’ ‘Oh, yes, yes, yes, Miss Walker. That’s your policy, yes.’ I was overjoyed. I think I remember phoning my mother, ‘oh, my goodness, you'll never guess what. I've got this cover,’ because she was worried, as mothers do, and I couldn’t believe it. Within really a matter of weeks I had a letter to say the money was going to go straight into my account, so I didn’t have to leave home, I didn’t have to go and pay a cheque in anywhere, I didn’t have to…I was so immobile with the disability, with the crutches and things, I was dependent on everything for everything, and this money just went into my bank. It was just unbelievable.
What did being able to claim mean to you?
Well, without being over emotional, I would have to say quite sincerely it was a lifesaver at the time and even when I was able to start work again in January of this year, then I had a gap, a shortfall, to have to wait until my money was coming in, but fortunately, because I had the money coming in from Legal & General each month into my bank, I was able to project for that, so that I was able…you know keep…build a little, if you like power and plan for, you know, as any self-employed person that when I am back in the workplace I am going to have two, maybe three months before I am actually going to have income into my business account. It was just so easy. I think it was…it is so unusual for anything really…you know, we make a claim on anything, car insurance for example, for things just to go so easily, and that was the big thing for me that sticks in my mind, particularly as I was drained, I had been through a very, very difficult trauma. The last thing you want when you're in that situation is to be haggling with people, you know, over the ins and outs of whether you're suitable to make a claim or whether it is valid etc. it is the last thing really, and I think had I been…had I met the first hurdle with any kind of resistance or you need to do this, or you need to do that, I probably would have said, ‘Well, whatever,’ but that is…you know, it was literally a lifesaver in that respect.
When did you understand the true value of having the cover?
It was a scary time, it was a scary time, and in the first instance when I lay in bed, before I even remembered about the policy, I was just thinking, what on earth can I do. What could I possibly do? What can I possibly do? One option was to sell the car. I looked at the options of having mortgage holidays, you know, various things like that, because genuinely I completely overlooked and forgotten about the policy, so you can imagine then when I realised that I was covered how important it became.
How did you feel during the claims process itself?
I can honestly say, from the beginning of the process, right until the very end, it was a very positive experience. Everything was made straightforward, and as I said, there was a monthly phone call, I would then send in the relevant medical certificates. The people were always interested in how I was as well. They asked me, ‘How are you getting on?’ They were fascinated by the story, and I felt I was really treated as a human being and not a case number. You know, they wanted to know how I was doing, how the leg was, how my son was, and I really felt valued, you know, valued as a person and that they were interested in me, my health, you know, my mobility and how things were going.
Actually, for me, it is about valuing yourself, and certainly, even though I was a little resistant in the first instance, once my independent advisor had pointed out to me the what-ifs, and once I got over the what-ifs and realised that, yes, but you know, goodness, I hope nothing is serious, but I may, for whatever reason, be unable to work for a period in the future, that I said, ‘No, no, this is important, this is important, I should do it, I need to do it.’
Were you ever worried that your policy wouldn’t pay out?
I don’t think at any point I was worried that I wasn’t covered. The booklet is quite comprehensive anyway and I had read through that first before I made the phone call. I didn’t want to make myself look stupid in case I was barking up the wrong tree, but from the very first phone call, from the very first phone call I felt reassured. Yes, nothing was a problem, we will put a form in the post to you, straightaway, I think that formed arrived within two days, and I thought, goodness, this is a good service, so I actually – hand on heart – can say, no, I wasn’t worried at any point.
Would you recommend Legal & General to your friends or family?
I most definitely would, yes, most definitely. I am…I don’t know whether…I am here today as a result of the excellent service that I had.
When I first had the phone call from one of your representatives it was out of the blue and quite sort of random, and I thought, who, what. He said to me, ‘Look, we’re doing some work, some study, research around the products and things, would you be in a position to be able to help us?’ Absolutely, I said to…absolutely, I would be glad to.
How different would your life be if you didn’t have that cover in place?
Truthfully, I dread to think truthfully, I dread to think. I don’t have any savings. My mother will back me up on that, she is always nagging me. You know, being self-employed is hard; I do go from one month to the next anyway. I have no income from anyone else. I have to support my two children on my own. It would have been horrendous. As I said, I had already thought about perhaps, you know, a mortgage holiday, but even then, I think they're limited to about three months and then for three months I was still on crutches, you know, three months after the accident, let alone back to work, so I can’t imagine. It would have been very, very difficult, and I probably may even have had to have considered selling my house. I know that sounds dramatic, but there wasn’t anybody. My parents had retired; they couldn’t just step in and sort of just take over all my financial commitments.
How important is protection in people’s lives?
After my experience, I have no hesitation in saying it is of paramount importance. It is of paramount importance and it is something that I would always ensure that I keep in place for myself, and it is something that I will recommend to my children, irrespective of whether you're self-employed or not, but just actual, you know, protection for yourself is hugely important, and it is a shame that more people don’t have it in place. It certainly saved me.
Susan, how do you feel about Legal & General now?
Well, to be honest, without wanting to sound cheesy in this situation, I think they are marvellous, absolutely marvellous. They came to my rescue and certainly rescued me in a very, very difficult time.