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The pitfalls of travel insurance

View profile for Danielle Callaway
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The pitfalls of travel insurance

The majority of holidaymakers ensure before they travel that they have a suitable travel insurance policy in place. This is the sensible thing to do as it provides cover if the holiday is cancelled for an unforeseen reason (subject to policy terms), your luggage is lost or you become unwell on holiday and are required to pay for medical treatment.

However, it is questionable how useful travel insurance is when you have an accident abroad which results in an injury and subsequent medical treatment, due to the clauses within travel insurance policies relating to alcohol consumption.

Warnings were given to holidaymakers earlier this year by the Financial Ombudsman Service to be aware of alcohol exclusion policies within their travel insurance policies. The wording of these policies can vary substantially from one insurance provider to another but they are often quite vague in defining how much alcohol needs to be consumed to render the policy invalid. The ombudsman has therefore warned that consumption of excessive alcohol could result in the invalidation of insurance if an injury is sustained.

This is a very difficult issue for travellers, many of whom enjoy a glass or two of alcohol whilst on holiday, without drinking to excess. How are holidaymakers to know when they have crossed the threshold whereby any insurance claims will be refused, particularly when there have been instances where insurance companies have rejected claims outright on the basis that alcohol had been consumed (regardless of the amount).

The ombudsman has advised that insurers should not automatically reject claims on this basis, and should look at the amount of alcohol consumed and whether it had any role in causing the injury. They have overturned insurers’ decisions in cases where the alcohol was not causative and not excessive, but have also supported insurers in cases where alcohol consumption was excessive and was potentially a contributory factor.

It does seem rather unfair that insurers are able to include such ambiguous clauses within their policies, leaving holidaymakers uncertain as to when they are and aren’t covered. It is, however, the insurer’s duty to prove that the exclusion applies rather than the duty of the person claiming on the policy to prove that it doesn't. Those travelling should beware of what they put on social media with regards to their drinking habits on holiday, should make clear to any treating medical professionals that they have not consumed excessive alcohol (as entries contained within medical records suggesting excessive alcohol consumption can be damaging) and should ensure that they do not consume so much alcohol whilst on holiday that they are not in control of their actions or their judgment is affected.

If you have been injured in an accident whilst on holiday and would like some further advice, please do not hesitate to contact us on 01616 966 229.