The chief underwriter for the life and pensions provider, said: “Providers and advisers make every effort to ensure customers understand their cover, but over time people may forget exactly what they have in place.
“It’s upsetting to think there are cases where people could benefit from their policies but don’t know that they can claim.”
He said that the claims were identified when the customers contacted the insurer to make changes to existing policies – for example, when they were moving house – or to apply for a new insurance plan.
It transpired that, since the start of 2009, 21 claims were found on policies that were live when the customer was diagnosed with a critical illness that met the policy criteria.
In one case, the customer received £325,000 as a result of the claim.
Nine out of 21 cases were for malignant melanoma, a condition that has attracted attention in recent weeks, after scientists reported they may have found a cure for more advanced cases.
Mr Morrison added: “The good news is that in these instances we were able to see that the customers had valid claims, so we could process them retrospectively. We’d urge anyone who has a protection policy to take a few moments to check what it covers – just so they can be sure they won’t miss out if the unexpected happens.”
Tom Conner, director of London-based intermediary Drewberry Insurance, said: “It is extremely pleasing to see Aviva honouring claims that clients didn’t even know they were eligible for – it really helps to build consumer confidence in protection insurers.
“It does also highlight the need for advisers and insurers to continuously communicate to their clients the benefits of the protection they hold, which should help to reduce missed claims and possibly even policy cancellations.”