New Rules set to Clarify Travel Insurance Claims


As rules are introduced to clarify to what extent consumers are insured when they go away, managing your travel cover looks likely to become easier.

Many people do not think to inform insurers about their existing medical health. However, insurers may refuse to pay out if a traveller is affected by an incident related to their pre-existing condition.

On holiday in Tenerife, Bert and Patricia Robb thought their travel insurance provided adequate cover. But after Mrs Robb suffered a brain haemorrhage, her insurers refused her claim on the grounds that she had failed to tell them about her high blood pressure.

Rejected Travel Insurance Claims

"Almost everyone in middle age has a small degree of high blood pressure," said Mr Robb. "and that's the only thing [the insurers] are pointing to. If they take the money they should pay the price."

"Read the small print," added Mrs Robb. "You have to read the policy from back to front."

Many travellers are as confused as the Robbs about what exactly their policy covers. Some automatically assume they have the right policy for their destination, whilst others have difficulty with the fine print in the insurers' terms and conditions.

Stephen Howard, of the Association of Travel Insurance Intermediaries, stresses that the most important things his members need to know are customers' existing medical conditions. "Some people don't think about conditions which they may have had for a long time and which they've become comfortable with," he said. "They don't expect to have a problem, so they don't think to declare it."

However, the introduction of new legislation may help make things more transparent for travellers. With ministers recognising that current laws are confusing, a simpler, clearer system has been devised.

Under the proposed changes, it will be the insurer's duty to ask questions about specific medical conditions, rather than leaving the customer to decide what's relevant. With complaints about travel insurance companies growing by 27% on last year, the Financial Ombudsman believes this will help everyone know where they stand.

"We have been working with travel insurance companies for some time," said the Financial Ombudsman Emma Parker. "and the best insurers are asking good questions. But there's a wide difference between types of enquiry. We hope that with all insurers asking clearer questions, this will lead to fewer complaints down the track."

Nick Harris, specialist travel lawyer at Simpson Millar LLP, thinks the best advice for travellers is to read the small print. "Make sure you declare all health conditions, even if you've not been specifically asked by your insurer," he urged. "If you need jabs, see your doctor in good time, and be sure to get a European Travel Insurance Card if you're travelling within the EU. It'll be a while before the new legislation takes hold, so rather be safe than sorry."

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