How to file a travel insurance claim and what to do if you’re turned down

By | April 8th, 2011

Editor’s note: This the last in a series of posts about travel insurance sponsored by Access America. Here’s part one, part two, part three and part four.

First, the good news: Nine out of ten travel insurance claims are honored according to the US Travel Insurance Association. So if you’re thinking of filing a claim on your policy, it will probably be honored.

Now the bad news: If you’re among the 10 percent who have been rejected, you could face a long and ultimately unsuccessful struggle to have your claim paid.

You don’t want to end up there.

How to avoid it? Make sure your initial claim does everything it should.

Call your insurance company before you file a claim. Ask what it needs from you, and if there are any restrictions in your policy that might make a claim unsuccessful (for example, some policies that cover medical problems require that you seek treatment within 24 hours of an incident).

Read your policy. You should have done this before buying the insurance. Now you have to read the fine print with an eye toward answering this question: Will my claim be honored?

Keep all receipts. In fact, you’ll want to retain every scrap of paperwork that could even remotely relate to a claim. Don’t throw anything away. Ask for everything in writing – bills, invoices, receipts, hotel folios. You can never have enough documentation.

Get the cause of delay in writing, if possible. A lot of claims are rejected because travelers can’t prove a cause of delay. So if you’re held up, be certain to document the cause, preferably in writing. Finding out the reason long after your trip can be difficult – if not impossible.

Related story:   I rented a damaged car from Dollar -- why should I have to pay?

Filing and waiting

Your travel insurance company will tell you how to file a claim. Claims typically take between two and four weeks to process, but some complicated claims that require more extensive research by an adjuster can take longer. Expect to receive a form acknowledgment of your claim, with a final decision within roughly a month, but no more than two months.

If you’ve waited longer than six weeks, contact your travel insurance company to find out about the status of your claim. You may need to refile. (It’s rare for paperwork to get lost, but it can happen.)

A good portion of the inquiries about travel insurance that I get involve the sometimes lengthy wait for a claim to be processed. There are two main reasons for a delay: First, a large natural disaster that triggers thousands of claims. And second, a special circumstance that requires additional research on the part of the adjuster, or requires you to send additional information.

Most claims are denied because of a pre-existing medical condition. As I mentioned in an earlier section, you should try to find a policy that covers pre-existing conditions. Also, make sure the policy covers your traveling companion and be sure your companion’s family members are included in the definition of “family.” Some policies don’t.