Travel insurance can provide useful coverage during your trip, but these 7 circumstances could void your policy.
Travel insurance shouldn’t be considered a license to do silly things. Even if you bought the best policy on the market, remember that you can sometimes be held liable. If the insurer decides an accident was your fault, or you did something against the terms and conditions, there may be no payout. Here’s what can void your claim.
1. If You Consume Alcohol Before an Accident
Say you decided to have a few beers, before heading off to a wild rave party. You later perform a bad stage dive, that leaves you with a broken nose and a sprained ankle.
When you make a claim with the travel insurer, you had best hope they don’t find out about the alcohol*. Even if you feel you were in control (e.g. you only had three beers and it was “nothing”), your insurer may decide to attribute your actions to intoxication, and refuse the payout.
If you drink, it’s up to you to prove that the alcohol had nothing to do with your accident. Not only is this difficult to do, it results in time consuming arguments between you and the insurer’s claims department. Even if you win, it might be a year of ongoing disputes before you get your pay out.
Drink responsibly, and don’t get smashing drunk just because you’re insured.
*Insurers can and do use professional investigators; they may go to the point of checking your blood alcohol levels, as reported by any clinic you went to.
2. If You Climb Past a Certain Height
If you’re going up a mountain, bear in mind that height matters. Some travel insurance policies no longer cover you beyond a certain height (e.g. 3,500 metres or more above sea level). Other policies explicitly state that, the moment you need to use climbing gear such as ropes, you are no longer covered.
This can mean that you’re covered while going up one part of a mountain (e.g. a public walking trail), but not once you reach the parts where you have to rock-climb with ropes.
3. If You Get Into a Free Ride on Any Vehicle
Some travel insurance policies only cover you as a fare paying passenger, when you get into a vehicle driven by someone else.
The most common example of this is air travel: if you hop in for a free plane ride around the city, you may not be covered for the duration of your airborne trip. Bear that mind, before climbing into a friend’s plane, or using a voucher for a free helicopter ride.
Some travel policies, however, extend this to road vehicles as well. For example, if you get into a friend’s van, and she gets into an accident, you may be liable for your own injuries.
4. If You Get into a Fight
Insurers draw a distinction between you being attacked (in which case you’re the victim of a crime), and you actively involving yourself in a fight. If you decide to take a swing at someone (such as the club bouncer for instance) and you get hurt, you can’t make a claim for any resulting injuries.
The problem is, the situation isn’t always clear cut. If you’re caught in the middle of rioting sports fans and defend yourself, investigations may hold that you willingly joined in the fight.
A common point of dispute also arises when nightclub bouncers are involved: if the club’s bouncers claim you instigated the fight (and they most certainly will), you may not get to claim for any injuries they cause you.
Again, your best bet is to stay out of trouble, and leave if you sense it brewing.
5. If a War or Terrorist Attack Happens
Most policies don’t cover terrorism, war, riots, and civil unrest. If you’re caught in any of these situations and get injured, you’re on your own (although we daresay money will be the least of your concerns at that point).
This should put an end to any dangerous social media ideas. You may get a million YouTube views for filming a terrorist bombing – but you can forget about any insurer covering your medical costs, if another blast happens and you’re still hanging around.
Take the first flight home when trouble starts. Don’t hang around because the pictures will look cool on Instagram, or because you don’t want to “waste” the money you’ve spent on a hotel.
6. If You Travel for Medical Purposes
If your main purpose of travel is medical (e.g. you are travelling to another country for surgery), don’t rely on basic travel insurance. Most travel insurance policies don’t cover any situations arising from, say, a botched surgery, or any extra hospitalisation time that’s required.
To make sure you have adequate protection, speak to your financial adviser for policies that grant coverage on medical tourism.
7. If a Country Advisory Has Been Issued
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) posts a constantly updated list of travel advisories. These are to warn you of situations such as natural disasters, armed conflict, disease outbreaks, or other dangerous events in foreign countries.
You should cancel your trip, if a travel advisory warns you against going. If you still insist on going however, then don’t bother buying travel insurance – you won’t be able to make any claims, as you’re going there of your own free will. You’ll just have to make sure you have the cash to deal with any resulting problems.
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By Ryan Ong
Ryan has been writing about finance for the last 10 years. He also has his fingers in a lot of other pies, having written for publications such as Men’s Health, Her World, Esquire, and Yahoo! Finance.