As we reiterate over and over again on Backpacker Travel, having travel insurance is an absolute must. If you cannot afford travel insurance, you cannot afford to travel. What happens when something goes wrong though? How do you make a travel claim?
The answer to this varies a bit depending on what company you have booked insurance with, however, below we walk you through some of the most important and most common steps.
1. Read the fine print
Before delving into making a claim, first, remember to carry proof of your insurance with you when you travel. Also, familiarize yourself with the terms of coverage. Know how long you have to bring a claim, what the limits on claims are, what exactly is covered, what the excess (the amount that the insurer will expect you to cover before it begins covering) and what proof may be required. These are all things you should consider when purchasing insurance in the first place, but you should review it all again before you leave, so you have an idea and know the details in the event you need to bring a claim.
2. Obtain and maintain necessary records
One thing that all insurers will ask for when you make a claim is proof of what you have lost or paid. When you purchase major equipment or a backpack that you plan to travel with, save the receipt somewhere as proof of ownership in case it gets lost or stolen. Keep a record of all airline and hotel reservations or payments as well, in case you want to make a claim for a canceled or delayed trip.
If something goes wrong when traveling, keep written record of everything. If you have to front medical costs, make sure you get a receipt. Ask the doctor or hospital to detail what happened and what treatment they provided. Keep a record of all medicines or other medical procedures provided to you and a detailed account of all money paid.
The more physical evidence of an event you have, the more likely you are to be covered by your insurer. Keep everything, even if it doesn’t seem necessary. Carry a folder or zip case with you to keep a record of all expenses while traveling. This is generally good practice, to begin with, but definitely comes in handy if you later need to bring a travel claim.
3. File a police record
Many travel claims will require that you have filed a police report with the local police. This includes all claims for stolen or lost goods, all injuries from accidents and lost or stolen baggage at the airport. Most insurers will require that you file a police report within 24 hours of an incident occurring. This means this is the first thing that you should do when something goes wrong.
You need to find the nearest police station, where they can either complete the process themselves or point you to the headquarters that can. The police in every country will have their own procedure for filing a police report, some more tedious and annoying than others, but whatever the process, follow it. When everything is complete, make sure that you get a formal write up of the incident. Then, once you have this write up, go immediately to make a few copies so that you have the original, a copy for the insurance company and a copy (or two) for you.
4. Give notice as soon as possible
After filing a police report, or when you are healthy enough to consider the next steps, read the details of your policy again so that you understand how long you have to file a claim. Generally, policies will require that you file a claim within 30 days, but this can vary by company, so make sure to confirm.
Regardless of the amount of time that you have, make your claim as soon as possible after an incident. Keep in mind that time runs even if your travels continue! Days traveling are still days counted towards your deadline. If your travels will continue for as long as the term for filing a claim runs, take time out of your trip to get online and make a filing. Don’t lose out just because you miss a deadline.
5. Remember the excess
The excess on your policy is the amount of money you are responsible for before the insurer will cover you. For example, if your excess is $100, you will have to pay the first $100 and then the insurer will cover anything after that. If you have your $800 camera stolen, the insurer will actually only cover you for $700, at the most. We say at the most because depending on your policy, the insurer will either cover the costs of a new camera or will cover the market value of the camera, taking into consideration how long you had used it for and what its actual value as of the day it was stolen may be.
When determining whether you should file a claim, take into consideration this excess. If you are only filing a claim for a $125 backpack, or a $100 medical bill, it is probably not going to be worth your time, because you will only get $25, or nothing, respectively. If, however, your medical treatments added up to over $1,000, obviously, it would definitely be worth filing a claim, to recover the $900. Again, this is just an example and the excess is different for different policies, so make sure to pay attention to the details.
Finally, when calculating the value of filing an insurance claim for lost, stolen or damaged goods, do keep in mind your insurer’s policy on replacing versus refunding. If the camera you bought ten years ago is stolen and your insurer only refunds you for the current value, you are likely not going to get very much back for it. This is particularly true if you have a higher excess. Just another thing to keep in mind; you may still want to make the claim anyways, to see what you can actually get back from the insurer.
6. Follow claim instructions carefully
Each company has its own procedure for filing a claim. The overwhelming majority of companies will now allow you to do the whole filing online, which is great news for travelers, especially travelers who are in the middle of a trip when they need to make their filing. Go to your insurer’s site and there should be a visible button for filing a claim. If not, run a quick search on the page and the process will come up.
Read all of the steps carefully, to make sure you are providing exactly what they are asking for. Towards the end, the site will instruct you to either upload your supporting documents or mail them in. Pay attention to this, as you more often than not cannot successfully file a claim without providing supporting documentation.
If you have a question when filling out the claim, most sites have a help desk or someone you can connect with immediately. Use this resource, as it can be helpful and does decrease the likelihood that you make an error. When in doubt, ask. If there is no immediate help available, there should be contact information on the claim form for where to reach out with questions.
7. Add as much detail as possible
Most claim forms will ask you somewhat broad questions regarding the incident that gave rise to your claim. Add as much detail as possible. For example, don’t just write that you were “in a car accident and got injured.” Provide as much detail regarding time, place, the events leading up to the event, what happened after and what the exact result was. Additionally, clearly state exactly what happened to you, or your goods. For example, don’t simply state “I was treated in the hospital.” Provide more detail about the medicines given to you or the tests run, if you have that information. Don’t just say you were admitted to the hospital, state how long you stayed there and what treatments you received while there.
Remember, the more details you provide your insurer, the more likely you are to be reimbursed for your losses.