Tuesday, April 19, 2011

How To Make a Travel Insurance Claim

A concise guide to making a travel insurance claim, comprehensively covering stages before, during, and after the event.

1) Before Making A Claim

Your end result of making a successful insurance claim, stems right back to when you are choosing which insurer and policy to use. A golden rule when dealing with insurance companies is; “never assume anything!” Insurers will be rigidly applying this approach to your claim when they review its content, and likewise, the customer should investigate the policy being offered, with equal intensity.

Many claims are rejected by insurers, because the customer assumed the loss / theft / damage / event, would be covered under the policy they took out, and it wasn’t.

Reading the small print informs you specifically what is and is not included in your policy, and importantly; under what circumstances claims are allowed. For example; certain valuables may not be covered if they were stolen from a locked car, but would be covered if stolen from on your person. Alternatively, some valuables would not be covered if lost or stolen from a suitcase, but would be covered if stolen or lost from your carry-on hand baggage instead. Insurers terms vary, so; “never assume”.

It is important to declare any health issues such as pre-existing medical conditions. Be honest with your insurer before you travel, because if they find out you weren’t; it could later void the entire claim!

At home, take five minutes to record the serial numbers and details of any valuables such as; a camera, laptop, expensive watch, iPod, DVD player, as this precautionary action is highly useful when a claim needs to be made.

Finally, do take the travel insurance paperwork with you on holiday. It will include useful telephone numbers, guidance, and procedures to follow.

2) On Holiday - The Insurance Claim Incident

When the unexpected occurs and your holiday experience befalls unfortunate loss or injury, do not assume that just because you have taken out travel insurance that everything will be OK; there are still a few steps you need take.

Immediately after the event of loss, you need to acquire evidence that it happened. A typical process here is to report the loss to the relevant authority, with your goal being to get some kind of report or reference number such as a crime number, to include in the travel insurance claim.

If the event requires you to purchase replacements items, then bear in mind two things: Firstly, that there is often a value cap regarding what constitutes reasonable replacement items. For example if your clothes consisting of inexpensive dresses were stolen, you could not go out on a spending spree buying up expensive ball gowns to replace the missing dresses!

Secondly, all reasonable expenses must be proven, so keep receipts and proof of purchases. Note that what constitutes “reasonable” is not open to debate and it is highly likely that different elements of claim amounts all have maximum values already prescribed in the travel insurance contract. This is why having a copy of the contract with you, can help in determining a budget for replacement items.

Most claims can be avoided in the first place by taking common sense precautions which dramatically lessen the risk of suffering loss abroad. For example making use of secure hotel deposit systems, not cashing all travellers cheques simultaneously at the start of a holiday, making use of a body belt or keeping important travel documents like passports & visas safe.

If the loss is something outside your control, such as being one of the millions enduring the inconvenience of lost luggage, you still need evidence of this and in this case you need to get a Property Irregularity Report (PIR) from the baggage handling company at the airport, forming part of your evidence.

3) After The Event - Make A Claim Successfully

Firstly, get familiar with the travel insurance provider's process, learn about any time scales which are beneficial to know. For example: How long after losing luggage is it deemed lost, rather than technically delayed? How much time does the company say it needs to respond? Does it have aims and benchmarks for better customer service? Being aware of these and reminding a unresponsive insurer of their obligations, can help.

Having understood precisely what is required of your submission, provide as much supporting evidence as humanly possible! To deluge the claims handler in connected information will likely strengthen your claim, and remove the frequent and slippery response echoed by defensive insurers of “more information required”.

Receipts, official reports, tickets, invoices, serial numbers, photos and bills are all part of this complied evidence. But do not trust the insurer with your only original copy, because if even the strongest submission became “lost in the post” then your pay out would be an embarrassing zero. Therefore, it is critical to use copies of everything and deliver it to the insurers claims handling department by the most secure option available, such as recorded delivery or a courier service.

Beware phone conversations! Although often helpful to explore the intricacies of the claiming process, and useful for chasing-up insurers, the fact remains that any evidence of information exchanged by phone is usually lost forever as soon as the call ends. Any crucial points made should be noted down, including time, date, and the source of the information. Significant points can also be stated back to the insurer in writing, by letter or email, thereby making facts irrefutable.

Completion of a travel insurance claim can vary hugely in timescale, some being complete in several weeks, and some dragging on for considerable time before customers begrudgingly receive a pay out cheque from the insurer much later, or even not at all!

The final advice here is to maintain pressure and a spotlight on the insurance company until they perform their obligations satisfactorily. Always remember that your home country should have an overseeing body poised to regulate the industry and investigate your complaints if you have recourse to do so.

Technorati tags; making a claim, pay outs, travel insurance, travel insurance policy.

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