These days, travelers are far more aware of travel insurance than ever before, especially when they hear travel horror stories, like super storms, cruise ship strandings, medical emergencies and more.
Like any other insurance product, your travel insurance policy is a legal contract. You agree to pay a fee to insure your trip risks, and the insurance company agrees to pay up when something bad happens—as long as what happens is covered by the plan.
Unfortunately, the impression many travelers have is that travel insurance is impossible to use and you'll never get reimbursed for a claim. Here are the most common reasons travel insurance claims are denied and how to make sure your claims get paid.
1. Your travel medical claim is denied for a pre-existing condition
Pre-existing medical conditions are excluded by default from nearly every travel insurance policy, so even those simple illnesses that you don't think are a problem can come back to haunt you when you try to make a claim.
A pre-existing condition is usually defined as "any injury, illness, disease or other medical condition that occurs prior to the travel plan's effective date and for which you had symptoms and sought diagnosis, medical treatment, and/or new prescription medications or a change in your current prescription."
If you've seen a doctor for treatment or had any changes in your medication within the last 60-180 days, consider purchasing a plan that includes a pre-existing condition waiver. This goes for anyone else on your trip too!
2. Your trip cancellation claim is denied because it's not a covered reason
It's important for insured travelers to understand that simply having trip cancellation in your policy doesn't mean a cancellation is always covered. Travel insurance companies have to limit their liability and so they list the covered reasons for cancellation right in the policy. If your reason isn't listed, then you won't be covered.
For example, travel insurance isn't going to cover you canceling your trip just because you think it makes sense—like when a hurricane is brewing, or a terrorist attack occurred somewhere—and you decided it was wise not to go.
Reading your plan certificate is the only way to know what the covered reasons for cancellation are with your plan, so be sure to read it.
3. Your cancellation claim is denied because you didn't insure all your trip expenses
Many travelers make their travel insurance purchase before they've finalized their travel plans, so they estimate their trip expenses, make their purchase, and forget about it. The problem is that many coverages, like cancellation and pre-existing condition waivers, require a traveler to cover all their total trip expenses.
Lucky for you, travel insurance policies come with a review period that's typically between ten and fourteen days. During this period, travelers should carefully review their plans, check the travel details and trip costs, and make any necessary changes to the plan to be sure they're covered.
5. Your travel delay claim is denied for lack of documentation
You wouldn't expect your auto insurance company to pay for an undocumented loss, but oddly many travelers expect their travel insurance companies to take their word for what happened on their trip.
- When your flight is cancelled, ask for written proof (the airline reps will print it).
- When you cancel your trip because you're sick, go to the doctor (even if you know how to treat it) and get a note with their recommendation that you cancel.
- If your passport is stolen, file a report with local police or the nearest embassy and get a copy of that report.
- If your luggage is stolen, and you have to buy new clothes, keep each of the receipts.
When something happens on your trip and you want to file a travel insurance claim, get proof of the loss.
6. Your claim is denied because you bought the policy too late
Travel insurance can only insure a person for things that haven't happened yet, so it's important to buy your travel insurance as soon as possible. If your mother is sick or a hurricane warning has been issued, it's already too late to buy your travel insurance to cover your trip for that event.
Some coverages like 'cancel for any reason' and pre-existing medical conditions also require early purchase.
Buying your plan early has a few benefits: you'll have the longest period of coverage for unexpected cancellations and you'll be eligible for other benefits like 'cancel for any reason' and more.
A final word ...
Some common travel insurance exclusions include losses due to lousy weather, flight schedule changes, being under the influence of drugs or alcohol, participating in dangerous sports, mental illness, and medical tourism (going abroad for medical treatment). Another thing travel insurance won't cover? Changing your mind. Only 'cancel for any reason' can cover that.
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