Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Race car drivers face a premium when it comes to life insurance

Race car drivers know the risk of death follows them every time they strap on a helmet.

That's why most turn to specialized insurance brokers for life, medical and disability coverage to protect them and their families in case of accidents, like the 15-car wreck that killed St. Petersburg resident Dan Wheldon on Sunday in Las Vegas.

While most insurance companies won't cover drivers thanks to the hazards of racing at 225 mph, a handful of specialists such as Gregory & Appel Insurance do. The Indianapolis-based insurance firm works with IndyCar and covers about 30 teams and 20 drivers.

"Dan's death is an absolute tragedy," said Darren Hickey, the firm's vice president for motor­sports. "It's also kind of a slap in the face and a stark reminder that motorsports is very dangerous."

Racing teams have insurance to cover employees, such as a pit crew member who is struck by an errant tire. But drivers are independent contractors, so they're responsible for finding their own insurance plans. It's unclear whether Wheldon carried a policy.

Most IndyCar or NASCAR drivers are athletic and in good shape, so their base premiums are low. From there, drivers fill out a hazard form, and the extra costs vary based on how many races they run and the speed and type of cars driven. The charge goes up if drivers also participate in other risky activities such as skydiving or piloting planes.

A typical $1 million policy costs a few thousand dollars, Hickey said.

"It's not a prohibitive amount of money," Hickey said.

Many states allow drivers to get workers' compensation insurance, which pays for drivers' medical bills if they're hurt in a wreck. Florida does not, Hickey said, so many drivers buy accident coverage, which pays a fixed amount toward hospital bills or visits to the doctor.

Hickey said he also encourages drivers to buy disability insurance to provide options in case injuries end their careers early.

"Most of these young men and women, all they've ever done their entire life is race a car," Hickey said.

Many drivers' contracts call for them to get a stipend from teams in case they're hurt and can't race. Others take short-term disability insurance in case of injuries such as broken legs that might keep them out of a car for weeks. After, say, 30 days, drivers are eligible to collect funds for up to a year or two until doctors clear them to return to racing.

Permanent disability coverage pays a lump sum to help drivers move on with their lives if they're paralyzed or sustain other career-ending injuries.

"It's a lot less dangerous than it was 10 years ago or 20 years ago thanks to all the safety innovations and technological advances," Hickey said, "but it's still a very risky (vocation)."

Matt Baker can be reached at mbaker@sptimes.com.

Race car drivers face a premium when it comes to life insurance 10/21/11 [Last modified: Friday, October 21, 2011 10:14pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Arm problems in the past, USF rides pitching into AAC baseball tournament

    College

    TAMPA — By his second relief inning in last year's season opener, USF right-hander Ryan Valdes had lost the fizz on his fastball.

    USF senior right-hander Ryan Valdes, an Alonso High alumnus, is one of three prominent Bulls pitchers flourishing after undergoing Tommy John surgery last year. [USF Athletics]
  2. Ryan Fitzpatrick likes Bucs weapons, believes he's a good fit

    Blogs

    Ryan Fitzpatrick’s experience playing for six other NFL teams is what made him attractive to the Bucs as a backup to starter Jameis Winston. But if he has to play, the former Jets quarterback is happy about all the weapons on Tampa Bay’s offense.

    Ryan Fitzpatrick is happy about all the weapons on Tampa Bay’s offense.
  3. For starters: Rays vs. Angels and Trout, with Odorizzi on mound

    Blogs

    After losing Sunday's game but winning a third straight series, the Rays open a four-game series tonight against the Angels and Mike Trout.

    RHP Jake Odorizzi will be on the mound for the Rays, RHP J.C. Ramirez for the Angels.

    Evan Longoria is getting a DH day, so the Rays have rookie Daniel …

    Jake Odorizzi will be on the mound for the Rays.
  4. Lightning's Swedes live their dream in Worlds

    Blogs

    You could see it in his face.

    Lightning defenseman Anton Stralman screamed as he hoisted the World Championship trophy Sunday afternoon in Cologne, Germany, and it looked like an exhale that was years in the making. Stralman kissed the forehead of Swedish teammate Joel Lundqvist, the joy unmistakable.

    Victor Hedman of Sweden celebrate with his teammates after scoring the opening goal in the gold-medal game against Canada.
  5. Starting at top: O.J. Howard becomes first Bucs rookie to sign

    Blogs

    The Bucs have begun the process of signing their rookie draft picks and they started at the top.

    Alabama tight end O.J. Howard has signed a four-year contract with a fifth-year club option with the Bucs.