When Tamra Corrigan’s husband was involved in a vehicular accident in the Dominican Republic, he was taken into police custody. This frightening situation ended with the five-member Corrigan family being escorted by staff from the U.S. Embassy to the airport for immediate removal from the country. Now Corrigan wants to know if Allianz, her travel insurance carrier, owes her reimbursement for this “trip interruption.”
This story is a reminder that even the most comprehensive travel insurance policy doesn’t cover every type of misadventure. And, I must admit, I would be surprised if any policy would cover this scenario.
Corrigan related a story to us that sounded quite harrowing. She and her family were enjoying a tropical vacation when disaster (or a scam) struck. She recalls:
We had an accident and were involved in a scam, accused of hitting a body in the road. It was all a scam: being held in custody was a scam, the money we paid was a scam. Our rental car was undriveable after the accident and was towed by the police.
We didn’t have a vehicle, nor a place to stay and didn’t speak the language. The embassy finally discovered that something wasn’t quite right with our situation and that is when they escorted us to the airport to leave the country.
Although Corrigan did not want to elaborate the story to us, there is an interview with the family available online from their local news station. In that retelling of the story, Corrigan asserts that they never saw a motorcycle — just a body in the road. Her husband was then taken into custody for two days and then to a court hearing. Here the family paid $1,500 for Patrick Corrigan to be released to the embassy staff for a rapid return home.
At the airport, they were instructed to purchase tickets on the next available flight. They could not use their scheduled return tickets because their carrier, Sun Country, does not operate from the Santo Domingo airport. These new Delta Air Lines flights cost the family an additional $3,200.
Once they returned home, Corrigan filed a claim with Allianz for trip interruption reimbursement. In the denial response that soon followed, Allianz pointed out that the Corrigans had purchased a “named peril” policy. This means that there are clearly defined reasons that are covered under the trip interruption clause — anything not listed there is not covered.
“Unfortunately, being accused of striking a motorcyclist and jailed — then released from jail and escorted by embassy personnel to the first available flight out of the country is not included among those reasons,” the letter from Allianz explained.
Undeterred, Corrigan filed an appeal, which was also swiftly rejected. She then sent a request for reimbursement to Delta and to Sun Country Airlines.
When none of these attempts was successful, she contacted us.
With Corrigan, we reviewed the listed “named perils” on her policy and she reluctantly agreed that her unfortunate situation did not qualify for compensation. But she wondered if Delta should reimburse her.
Of course when an unexpected incident ends up costing your family thousands of dollars it is natural to search for some way to recoup your losses. But we pointed out that, except for being the airline that safely delivered her and her family from a situation that could have escalated quite quickly, Delta held no responsibility here.
Our only other option was Sun Country. I thought that perhaps the Corrigan family may have a credit for their unused return flight. Although I was not hopeful, I contacted the airline and explained the situation.
To my surprise the vice president of customer experience at Sun Country Airlines quickly responded. He said that the Corrigans had not canceled their return flight and therefore were not due any credit, but the airline “sees the ‘human side’ of this situation and the right thing to do is to allow them to use some portion of what they paid towards a new ticket.”
We are not sure if the Corrigans were caught in a scam or not, but it is important to remember that the laws in other countries can vary significantly from U.S. law. Checking with the U.S. State Department for advice and warnings for your intended destination is a critical part of successful travel planning.
Concerning the Dominican Republic, the State Department does not outright advise against driving there but it does point out the many perils that a driver may encounter and explains:
Dominican law requires that a driver be taken into custody for being involved in an accident that causes serious injury or death, even if the driver is insured and appears not to have been at fault. The minimum detention period is 48 hours; however, detentions frequently last until a judicial decision is reached, or until a waiver is signed by the injured party.
And this is exactly what happened to Patrick Corrigan.
In the end, we could not help the Corrigans to get the reimbursement that they were seeking. Their travel insurance policy is quite specific, and the incident in which they were involved is not covered.
We are sorry when we hear such an awful travel story. We hope that the previously mentioned motorcyclist has recovered and that the Corrigans can use their travel vouchers for a future vacation that, we presume, will not be to the Dominican Republic.