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Travel insurance: Five tips to ensure a successful claim

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Written by: Paloma Kubiak
13/05/2016
Ahead of your summer holiday, it’s important to make sure you have the right level of travel cover or you could risk being left out of pocket if you need to make a claim.

The latest statistics from the Association of British Insurers (ABI) shows travel insurers paid out £370m in 581,000 claims to those who needed help.

But Alex Edwards from Gocompare.com said insurance is only any good if it pays out when you need it. “If something unexpected happens to spoil your trip – such as your flight being cancelled or you need hospital treatment – then the last thing you want is to have your insurance claim rejected.”

Below are five tips for a successful travel insurance claim:

1) Buy the right policy for you and your holiday

Buying the cheapest policy could prove a costly mistake. Rather than just focusing on price, you need to choose a policy which provides the level of cover you need, for the activities you want to undertake.

Baggage and belongings: Not all policies cover lost or delayed luggage. Of those that do, cover and excess levels vary enormously. So it’s essential you check to make sure you’ve got the cover you need. If you plan to travel with valuable items (e.g. electronic gadgets, computers, iPads or expensive jewellery) check the policy limits to make sure you’re fully insured.

Adventurous activities: Policies have varying degrees of cover for sports and adventurous activities. If you’re planning on carrying out such activities, read the terms and conditions carefully. It’s possible a policy may cover you for recreational cycling but not mountain biking or cycle touring. Make sure you follow any required safety procedures, such as wearing a crash helmet, otherwise you could invalidate your cover.

Excesses, conditions and exclusions: One reason claims can be rejected is owing to the incident or the value of the claim not being covered by the policy. So make sure you can afford the policy excesses – the amount you have to contribute to any claim – and that you are aware of any conditions or exclusions that may apply.

Common travel insurance policy exclusions include claims made as a result of excessive alcohol consumption, reckless or illegal behaviour and for valuables packed in checked-in luggage or left unattended outside of a hotel safe or locked room.

Your travel insurance policy document will contain the terms and conditions relating to the policy, including important contact numbers should you need help or to make a claim so don’t forget to take it with you on your travels.

2) Declare pre-existing medical conditions

The high cost of medical treatment abroad makes medical cover a core element of travel insurance.

Travel insurance only protects against the unforeseen, so when applying for cover, be honest about any pre-existing medical conditions (including mental, nervous or emotional disorders) you have – even if they are mild and under control. If while on holiday you fall ill with a related illness without declaring an existing condition or any medical referrals or investigations, there’s a good chance your claim will be rejected.

If you have an existing medical condition, then the availability of cover will depend on the nature and severity of your condition and your holiday destination. In most cases it should still be possible to find a suitable policy.  If your condition is minor, it may be covered by a standard policy for a higher premium.  Otherwise a higher excess or special terms or restrictions may be applied. You can get specialist policies for more serious conditions.

3) Look after yourself and your belongings

Travel insurers can reject claims if they feel you haven’t taken ‘reasonable care’ of yourself or your possessions. As an example, a claim for medical treatment for a tropical disease which you failed to get the recommended vaccination or medication for is likely to be rejected. If you leave your watch on a poolside table while you went for a swim, that may also be viewed as not taking reasonable care. Any losses or claims for treatment of injuries arising from you drinking too much alcohol may also be rejected.

4) Act quickly and follow the procedures

If you need to claim, you should follow the procedures detailed in your policy document and report losses quickly. Your policy document will show your personal policy number and your insurer’s claims helpline number, which you may need to call to register and to discuss what to do next.

Different insurers have their own claim protocols; if you fail to follow these you could invalidate your cover. As an example, if you fall ill or have an accident, you should speak to your insurer before arranging medical treatment, unless it’s an emergency.

Insurers often put time-limits on notifying losses. For example, if you are a victim of theft, you will usually be required to report the loss to the local police within 24 hours of you being aware of the incident.

Gocompare says you should provide as much information as possible to support your claim (e.g. a written police report for a theft claim; written confirmation from your tour operator or carrier of a flight delay or cancellation; receipts for expenses etc).

5) Honesty is the best policy

When making a claim don’t exaggerate the value of your losses or tell lies. If your insurer finds that you’ve been dishonest about any part of your claim, it could be refused which could leave you seriously out of pocket. It could also mean you have difficulty getting insurance in the future.

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