How to Claim
Having a travel insurance policy is the best way that you can protect yourself, and your loved ones should anything happen while you are on holiday. However, having a travel insurance policy won’t help you if you don’t know how to make a claim properly.
One in six people who have a travel insurance policy will make a claim and on average between 5-10% of these claims get rejected. The number of rejections is actually very low, but for those people in that 10%, the consequences can be frustrating and heartbreaking.
Although we all have the idea of the “evil” insurer out to make every excuse not to pay, unfortunately, most rejections are caused by customer error.
So, follow our advice to make sure that your travel insurance claim goes smoothly.
Making a medical claim while travelling
Hopefully, you’ll never need to make a travel insurance claim while abroad.
Depending on the insurer, travel insurance policies usually say that if your claim is over £300 to £500, then you should claim directly with them while you are travelling. This counts not only for medical claims but cancellations and abandonment also.
The first thing you need to do is find your insurer’s 24-hour emergency helpline and call them to get authorisation. They will then usually be able to sort out your bills directly with the hospital if it is a medical emergency.
Make sure that you save the number of your travel insurance 24-hour emergency number on your phone or at the very least have your policy saved in your email. You never know when you might need it.
If you are claiming for cancellation, then it is a good idea to get confirmation that the insurer will pay out before you cancel. If not, the insurer may claim that you didn’t obtain authorisation.
Remember that your health is the number one priority. In any kind of life-threatening situation you must call the local emergency number first. This does vary from country to country, and it is always a good idea to familiarise yourself with it before you travel.
Making a claim when you get home
The majority of claims are made after customers return from holiday. The value of these claims is usually less than £500 and are of a less urgent nature.
Don’t delay in making your travel insurance claim!
The longer you take in making your claim, the less likely it is that the insurer will pay out. Additionally, most insurers have a claim limit - most often around 31 days - but each policy is different so don’t take it for granted!
When making a travel insurance claim after getting home you will need to contact your insurer, and they will most likely require evidence, depending on the type of claim you want to make.
Some insurers are stricter than others, but every insurer will have the required evidence marked on their policy documents. Most customers are shocked by how much evidence they need and many claims are rejected because of lack of proof or evidence which isn’t accurate so don’t get caught out!
Common types of evidence needed -
- Medical certificates and receipts for any treatment
- Police report
- Airline baggage claims
Claiming for lost, damaged or delayed luggage
Most customers don’t know that they can usually claim for lost, damaged or delayed luggage directly from the airline. Thanks to the Montreal Convention customers can get compensation if the airline loses or damages their baggage, up to the value of £1,113.
Baggage coverage from your travel insurance is secondary to the coverage provided by the carrier, such as an airline. If your luggage is lost en route, your travel insurance provider comes into play when another supplier wasn’t responsible for the loss.
There are two different types of coverage provided by either the airline or your insurance regarding baggage:
A permanent loss of luggage is covered under travel insurance baggage coverage, which reimburses the insured traveller (up to the policy limit) for the value of lost luggage and the personal items inside.
A temporary loss of luggage this is what you and I would call delayed baggage, in this case, the insurer will cover the insured traveller for the purchase of essential personal items necessary until their luggage arrives.
The first thing that you should do if your luggage doesn’t show up on the carousel is go to the airline’s lost luggage desk, which is usually near the carousel. There you can file your claim and get the property irregularity report (or PIR.) Whatever you do don’t leave the airport without it! Ask if the airport can provide you with an overnight kit - not all airlines do, but you might strike it lucky.
They usually include a toothbrush, toothpaste and some basic necessities to get you through the night. Some even include a t-shirt to sleep in. You can also ask if you have an allowance for reasonable expenses. The airline may be able to advise you on the limit up to which they will pay for anything that you need to buy.
Pro traveller tip!
Make sure that you save the number of your travel insurance 24-hour emergency number on your phone or at the very least have your policy saved in your email. You never know when you might need it. If you are checking baggage and taking a carry on, it’s a great idea to pack a pair of pyjamas, some clean underwear, a mini wash kit and even a spare set of clothes in your carry on, in case you lose your luggage.
If your luggage is completely lost, you must file your claim within 7 days, or you won’t be eligible to claim. For most people, this means that they will have to claim while they are still on holiday.
Of course, airlines will more often than not try to pass the buck and if you can’t get the airline to pay out then your next step is to speak to your travel insurer. Not only will it be easier if you claim from your travel insurance, but you will most likely get more compensation that way. You should make sure that you keep all correspondence that you’ve had with the airline to provide evidence of their non-payment.
When it comes to travel insurance, it is vital that you check what you can claim for when you buy your policy. Limits vary widely from insurer to insurer and even from policy to policy. There are also many essential things that you should pay attention to when you are reading your travel insurance policy.
Firstly, check your single item limit. With every insurance policy, you will have the maximum amount or total that you can claim for and a single item or pair of items limit. That means for example if your Gucci dress cost £1000, but your single item limit is £100 then you won’t be able to claim for the full amount of the dress.
Secondly, make sure you are covered for gadgets. Travel insurance often doesn’t cover expensive devices such as mobile phones, laptops and tablets although many insurers will let you buy additional add-on cover for these things. There are also other items that may be excluded such as credit cards, jewellery, glasses and even false teeth, so it’s important to check your policy against what you have in your bag.
Thirdly, be aware of what kind of policy you have. Do you have a new for old policy or market value policy. If you have a new for old policy, you will be given the equivalent of what it cost to replace the item as new. If it is a market value, you will get the original cost of the item minus depreciation. Be careful with this one! Often depreciation can mean 50% less in compensation for some customers, depending on the item and its age. Add to that the excess, and you could get very little for your items!
Finally, be aware of delayed luggage limits. Usually, the delayed luggage part of your policy only comes into effect between 12 and 24 hours after the initial loss of your luggage. Then you will be given an amount for each day that your luggage doesn’t show up so that you can buy any necessary items. This amount is often quite low.
To have the best chance of getting compensation, you should make sure you have the following documents:
- your boarding card
- your luggage labels (these have a barcode and number to identify your luggage)
- proof you reported the problem, e.g. your Property Irregularity Report (PIR) or an email to the airline
- receipts for things you had to buy because of a delay
- proof of purchase for lost or damaged items, e.g. receipts or credit card statements
- photos of any damage to your luggage or contents
- Estimates for any repairs you’re claiming for
- Claiming for lost or stolen items
- Claiming for lost or stolen items should be a reasonably straightforward process provided you have the right documentation and follow the correct steps. You can also claim for money that is taken.
All stolen items must be reported to the police within 24 hours of the incident, and you must provide:
- a written police report
- all the original receipts for the items.
There are also a few key exceptions you need to keep in mind when claiming for lost and stolen items.
You must take precautions to make sure that your belongings are protected. For example, your items WILL be covered if they are left in a car during daylight hours and were locked in the boot or in a locked storage compartment. However, you WON’T be covered if the item was left out on the seat or not locked away. There also has to be signs of forced entry - so no leaving car doors open - not even for a minute!
Your items also won’t be covered if they are in the cargo hold of an aircraft, ship, train, tram or bus. This is especially important to keep an eye on when travelling in South America where thefts from the cargo hold of buses and storage zones on trains is a reasonably common occurrence.
The item must also be on your person - you will often be barred from claiming if you leave your belongings with another person - even if it is your best friend, partner or even your spouse!
Claiming for cancellation or abandonment
Cancellation and abandonment are also tricky because many customers have problems claiming - in no small part due to the myriad of exemptions and special cases.
Cancellation: Is for when you need to cancel your trip BEFORE you go on holiday.
Abandonment: Applies when something happens on your holiday that means you cannot continue with your trip.
Both cancellation and abandonment usually have similar causes which can include:
- Illness and injury
- Death, illness or injury of a close family member
- Having your house destroyed or made uninhabitable
- The police need to speak to you because your home has been robbed
Cancellation and abandonment can include your travelling partner depending on the policy so you must check your policy documents to see if this is the case.
Claiming for Legal Costs
Not every travel insurance policy has personal liability included and often customers don’t even know what it’s for or why they need to have it.
Personal liability protects you in the case you injure someone, damage their property or have someone try to sue or even blackmail you for something you have done overseas.
It doesn’t protect you but rather gives you the money to pay for their treatment, repair their property or defend yourself in court if you haven’t done anything wrong. This would cover things as simple as breaking a hostel bed, to something serious like killing or injuring someone by accident.
Often insurers have a different department which deals with personal liability, and you should get in contact with them as soon as the accident happens. Some insurers, such as AXA and Aviva actually have separate contact numbers which are headed by a team of lawyers better suited to assess your case.
We would recommend that backpackers and long-stay policyholders should pay particular attention to the personal liability part of their insurance - especially if they plan on working while they are abroad. Many scams prey on innocent tourists and try to sue them or blackmail them.
Top tips to make sure your claim isn’t denied
Keep your receipts! Whether you are claiming for medical treatment, delayed luggage or stolen items you will need to have the receipts to claim. Paying by credit card can also be another valid way to back up your claim. Failing that it can also be useful to have photographs of the items - you have to prove that you owned them in the first place. Although it may seem unfair, without the receipts for items you may not be able to claim.
If in doubt call. Unless it’s a medical emergency call your insurer and get prior consent. That way you can be confident that you will have your money refunded if you have to cancel something or need to pay for treatment yourself.
Always get a police report within 24 hours for anything that’s been stolen.
Don't forget the date Make sure any documents given by doctors, police, travel agencies or intermediaries are dated.
File your claim quickly - there is almost always a claim deadline, often 31 days. However, check your policy documents - every insurer is different. You may only have a fortnight to make a claim!
What can you do if your claim is denied?
If you have read your policy documents carefully, followed all the right procedures and have all the right evidence, then your claim should go through without a hitch. However, there can often be discrepancies where customers feel like the insurance company should have paid out, but the insurer doesn’t agree.
In these cases, if you have followed your insurer's complaints procedure and still feel like you are getting nowhere, you can send your claim to the financial ombudsman. They will then intervene on your behalf before providing a judgement either in your favour or that of the insurance company.
Generally, they rule in favour of the customer in about 25% of the cases that they see and provide an impartial, free service, so you can always contact them as a last resort.