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What your insurance policy doesn’t cover

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24/09/2014
Travel insurers are in hot water after using common alcohol exclusion clauses to unfairly deny claims. What other potentially problematic clauses should you be aware of?

The Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) said yesterday that it often gets involved in cases where a claim has been denied on the grounds of alcohol, even if the injured party had just two or three drinks before the incident occured.

Travel insurance policies frequently exclude claims arising from alcohol consumption, though just how many drinks constitute ‘too many’ often goes unspecified.

We look at other common exclusions that can work against you when it comes time to make a claim:

A change of heart

Many couples go through a rough patch on the way to the altar, but don’t count on your wedding insurance if it all goes wrong.

Buried deep in every wedding insurance policy offered in the UK is an innocuous little line excluding coverage for any cancellations resulting from “disinclination to contract to the marriage as agreed”. In other words, cold feet.

There’s a simple reason for this, according to Keith Bibby of John Lewis Wedding Insurance. He explains: “Wedding insurance is designed to cover events that are out of a couple’s control. If a couple decides not to marry, this is not considered out of their control and therefore isn’t covered under the policy, or indeed, any wedding policy available in the UK.”

Adventures abroad

If you’re planning a holiday packed with activities, be sure to comb through the related section of your travel insurance policy carefully. Many policies exclude certain sports, leaving you liable for whatever happens when you’re on that hang-glider.

According to a spokesperson from M&S Bank, activities with a high risk of injury or death are not covered by their policies. For example M&S travel insurance will cover you while surfing and pony trekking (if you’re wearing a helmet) but BASE jumping is a no-no.

Furry friends

Ensuring that your pet doesn’t have more kittens or puppies than you can safely re-home is part of being a responsible pet owner, but be aware that the relevant procedure isn’t always covered.

Both Animal Friends Pet Insurance and ASDA Money’s pet insurance product hold owners accountable for ‘elective’ procedures, which include spaying and neutering. You’re also on the hook for claims related to pregnancy or birth.

A spokesperson from Petplan indicated that pet insurance is by and large intended to cover unforeseen illnesses and injuries. So while they won’t cover the procedures themselves, they often will cover the cost of complications.

Bad Behaviour

Any claims resulting from a dog’s untreated behavioural problems are firmly on your shoulders.

Some insurers, Petplan and ASDA Money included, take this so seriously that they specifically refuse to insure some breeds of dog, even if they are a mix.

Also excluded are any dogs with “aggressive tendencies”.

Petplan will pay for preventative treatment, offering to cover behavioural treatment as long as it’s carried out by a vet or an approved association.

A true catastrophe

Be aware of clauses voiding an insurer’s responsibility in the case of terrorism, civil unrest and nuclear fall-out.

Even ASDA Money’s pet coverage excludes “war risks, hostilities, terrorist activity, revolution, military or usurped power or radioactive contamination.”

While it may seem silly, it could be relevant if you’re planning to travel through regions with a recent history of political unrest.

This is a clause to look out for in all kinds of policies, from rental car insurance to wedding insurance.

Complete coverage

According to James Daley of Fairer Finance, the more you know about what is included (and excluded) from standard coverage the better protected you’ll be.
If you don’t have time to read the entirety of the policy document, at least read the exclusions and check for any additional fees.

And if you’re unsure about anything, Daley says, call up and ask.

He says: “Ask them outright: Are there any key exclusions? Put that responsibility back on them.”

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