In total the insurer paid out over £191m on retail protection related claims including those for income protection and life policies.
Over half of claims were settled within 21 days with the quickest taking just two days to process.
This follows the launch of a major project in January last year resulting in 22 new initiatives to speed up claims for customers.
These include increased use of text and email to communicate with customers, dedicated claims specialists and direct credits to customer bank accounts.
Since the launch, claims turnaround times have been reduced by a quarter, Zurich said.
The average pay out for a critical illness claim over the period was £83,144 and the largest amounted to £1m.
Twenty claims were also paid out in respect of children’s illnesses, with average pay-outs here of £19,785 – highlighting an important and often overlooked benefit of these types of policies.
Cancer was again the most common reason for claims, accounting for 62%, followed by heart attack 12%, stroke 7% and multiple sclerosis 3%.
Where it was not possible to accept the claim, in 8% of cases the definition of the illness was not met, while 1% were declined because of non-disclosure of medical information.
Peter Hamilton, head of retail propositions at Zurich, said: “We have been reporting our critical illness statistics for over five years and are pleased to see payment rates consistently in excess of 90%. It’s important that we continue to challenge the misplaced perception amongst many that claims don’t get paid.
“Collectively, insurers will continue to be judged on claims paid, both the decision on the claim but also the experience. This is why we have invested in our claims systems and we will continue to look for ways to speed up the process of paying claims in any way we can. We know what a difference these payments make to our customers and ensuring they get the support they need as soon as possible is crucial.”
James Lindon-Travers, mortgage practice principal of Lindon-Travers Associates, said: “There is a great deal of scepticism out there around insurance claims in general, which is why it’s important providers publish these figures.
“I know first-hand the huge difference critical illness protection makes to our customers and we are delighted to see Zurich introducing so many new initiatives to further reduce payout times. Even if they don’t need to claim, the reassurance that it gives them is immeasurable.”