Are you covered?

School’s out for summer, and that only means one thing: summer vacation! Many of us get caught up in the excitement of planning our vacation, including details like where to go, what activities to do, who we’ll see, etc., and let’s face it, when you are getting ready to go on vacation, you’re more likely to think about what bathing suit to pack than what travel insurance you are buying. However, if you are planning on leaving the country, regardless of your age or state of health, you need to be purchasing travel medical insurance. Even the youngest and healthiest among us get injured or sick from time to time. Unfortunately, purchasing travel medical insurance is not a one-size-fits-all purchase, and if you buy the wrong policy you may not be covered. If getting sick or injured on vacation is not bad enough, a hospital bill for $50,000 or more will certainly add salt to your wound and ruin more than just your holiday time.

Purchasing travel insurance is easy. However, purchasing travel insurance that is actually going to provide the coverage you need is not. It is critical that you purchase the right insurance and properly disclose any pre-existing symptoms, treatment or medical conditions. Otherwise, the insurance policy you purchase is not worth the paper it’s written on. If an insurance company can get out of having to pay big medical bills, they will, and denying coverage is an all too common occurrence.

There are many cases where the insurance company can legally deny coverage. For example, insurers will be able to legally deny coverage where:

  • you did not meet the criteria required to receive the coverage in the first place, such as not being in “good health” at the time of purchase (*if that was a criteria of the policy you purchased);

  • you were injured while participating in activities not covered by the policy purchased, such as rock climbing, parasailing, zip lining, hang-gliding, parachuting, bungee jumping, skydiving, motor sport, scuba diving without certification, or injuries related to drug or alcohol abuse;

  • you did not comply with the terms of the policy, such as failing to notify the insurance company or submit the required documentation within the short time limits prescribed; or

  • the medical treatment you required was not covered by the policy purchased, such as care related to: childbirth, organ transplants, HIV, sexually transmitted diseases, re-occurring health issues, symptoms you had before your trip that you should have sought treatment for but didn’t, mental or emotional disorders, or expenses in excess of the policy limits.

Most people, including lawyers, rely on the sales agent to tell them what type of insurance they are buying and don’t read the fine print. Unfortunately, the sales agent in many cases has either not read the fine print or has no idea how the clauses are interpreted. As a result, it is a good idea to follow the steps below to help ensure that you have proper coverage in place:

  • Pick up or print off a copy of the insurance policy you are planning on buying and read it before you purchase it. Travel medical insurance is available, online, from banks, travel agents, insurance companies and various other places. Reading the policy is important for everyone, but is absolutely essential for anyone with pre-existing health issues, those over the age of 60 or anyone planning to participate in risky activities (i.e. zip lining) while on the trip;

  • Compare the policies that are available. The cheapest is often not the best. There are websites that compare policies online;

  • Purchase your insurance several weeks in advance of your trip, not the night before you leave. This way if you didn’t read it before you purchased it, at least you have time to read it before you leave;

  • Purchase your insurance from a reputable company and sales agent;

  • Ask questions of the sales agent, and specifically ask the agent what is not covered by the policy;

  • If you have had any health problems, disclose these to the sales agent so that the agent can recommend the appropriate policy or, if necessary, obtain your medical records and submit them to the insurance company prior to purchase;

  • If you have to see your doctor or the hospital for anything before you leave, notify your insurance agent and make sure your coverage is still valid;

  • Don’t assume your health problems are “minor” and don’t matter for the purposes of obtaining travel insurance. Often times “minor ailments” are defined in the policy and your symptoms or condition may not fit within that policies definition;

  • If you or the agent is not sure if you would be covered, call the insurance company that is providing the policy and ask for confirmation from the company that you would be covered.

If you follow the above recommendations, you should be able to enjoy your vacation with peace of mind that you will be covered in the event your vacation is not exactly the excitement you planned for. If you have purchased an insurance policy and have been denied coverage, it is a good idea to seek legal advice on whether the insurance company has properly denied coverage.

*Important Note: The information contained in this column should not be treated by readers as legal advice and should not be relied on without detailed legal counsel being sought.

Author: Keri Grenier p: 250.879.1280 e: [email protected]

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About the Author

Keri Grenier is an experienced personal injury lawyer based at Murphy Battista LLP's Kelowna office. She also holds a B.A. in psychology. Her practice focuses on helping people who have been injured in motor vehicle accidents or due to the negligence of others.

In her column, Keri provides practical information about personal injury claims in a format that is simple and easy to understand.

Email: [email protected]

Website: http://www.murphybattista.com

Twitter:  http://twitter.com/KelownaLawyer

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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