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Noyes, Hall & Allen Blog

Dealing with Increased Risk from Holiday Travel

December 9th, 2008     Noyes Hall & Allen

As Americans take to the roads, rails and sky for the holidays, an alarming percentage don’t fully understand whether their insurance coverage adequately protects them, according to a new national surveyon travel insurance issues by Trusted Choice® and the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America (the Big “I”).

For the survey, 1021 respondents were asked if they thought that their insurance policies would cover them against common travel risks, such as renting a car, luggage lost by an airline, theft of gifts from a vehicle, or medical expenses from illness or injuries when traveling. An alarming 30 to 75%, either didn’t think they were covered by their current policies in these situations or said they didn’t know.

We advise they consult with their agent to discuss their current policies and what do to in the event that they need to file a claim while on vacation. The good news for consumers is that homeowner’s insurance policies may cover lost property, car insurance policies often offer the option of rental coverage, and medical policies usually have clauses that explain where and when you are covered.

Trusted Choice® independent agents provide the following tips for holiday travelers.

Lost Luggage

Although 75% of homeowners did not think or did not know if they would be covered in the event that an airline lost their luggage containing holiday gifts, most homeowners or renters insurance policies do provide worldwide coverage for most belongings. Additionally, some airlines do have reimbursement policies in the event that they lose your luggage. If you purchased the lost gifts with a credit card, you may have some level of protection with your issuers. Photographing the contents of your suitcase may also help in the event of a loss. Before purchasing baggage insurance, check your current policies. It may be a waste of money.

Renting a Car

The survey found that nearly one third of consumers do not think or do not know if their current policies cover them in a rental vehicle. Maine auto insurance policies provide protection for liability you incur for injuries or property damage you cause to others within the U.S. Driving a rental car is considered to be the same as driving your own vehicle for liability purposes. 

Liability Damage Waiver – It’s not usually necessary to purchase a Liability Damage Waiver from the rental car agency since you usually already have coverage under your own insurance. Always request a copy of the rental agreement to review ahead of time with your independent insurance agent. 

Collision Damage Waiver – Rental car agencies typically try to sell “Collision Damage Waivers” (CDW) for about $8 – $15 per day. These waivers are not insurance. In effect, a CDW is simply a promise made to the rental car agency that they won’t make you repair or replace a damaged or stolen vehicle. If you already carry collision and comprehensive coverage under your own personal auto policy, your insurance will extend to the rental car. Consumers need to carefully evaluate their existing coverage and discuss whether or not purchasing a CDW is appropriate for them. 

There may be gaps in the coverage your insurance policy provides for rental cars.  For example, many car rental companies may hold you responsible for the loss of use of a damaged rental car. Rental car companies may charge you the daily rental rate for every day the car is undergoing repairs. While many auto insurance policies will pay “loss of use” charges, those that do set limits. There are other expenses that most auto policies do not cover. One example is diminished value which can amount to several thousand dollars. Consult your independent insurance agent to find out what’s best for your travel needs.

When CDWs May be Appropriate –  There may be gaps in the coverage your insurance policy provides for rental cars.  For example, many car rental companies may hold you responsible for the loss of use of a damaged rental car. Rental car companies may charge you the daily rental rate for every day the car is undergoing repairs. While many auto insurance policies will pay “loss of use” charges, those that do set limits. There are other expenses that most auto policies do not cover. One example is diminished value which can amount to several thousand dollars. Consult your independent insurance agent to find out what’s best for your travel needs.

Foreign Travel - As a general rule, when traveling to a country other than Canada and renting a car, you will have to purchase auto insurance in the country where you will be driving. Some personal umbrella policies may provide liability coverage for rental cars abroad; few will cover damage to the rental car itself.  Again, seek professional expert advice from an independent agent before you leave home. 

Check the Vehicle –  An important way to protect yourself when renting a vehicle is to check over the car carefully for damage in the presence of a representative of the rental car company before you leave the lot and when you return it. Request all prior damages be noted in writing. Car renters have been known to receive damage claims from rental car companies weeks after turning in vehicles. There is no way to prove your innocence at that point. 

What if You Need Medical Attention Out-of-State or in a Foreign Country?

The survey found that more than 35% of respondents did not think or did not know if they were covered in the event that they became ill or injured no matter where they were located. Most individual and employer-provided health and medical insurance policies cover you when you are injured or become sick no matter where your injury or illness occurs for short recreational trips. In general, major medical health insurance plans sold in the U.S. will provide coverage for emergency medical services you require while traveling. Still, insurance companies cannot guarantee the quality of care that is available wherever you travel and some policies have territorial restrictions.

Domestic Travel:  While the medical services provided in the U.S. may be among the finest in the world, not all facilities and practices may offer the standard of care or access to the latest medical technologies that you may expect.  Therefore, travelers should take some time to find out what is available in the area where they will be traveling and contact their independent insurance agent to assess just how well their insurance coverage will respond to medical emergencies away from home.

Foreign Travel:  When evaluating insurance policies for a brief trip or extended stay abroad, it is important to understand any limitations in coverage that each prospective policy might impose.  For example, it is not unusual for "Foreign" (called foreign even though it’s purchased here at home) health insurance to exclude coverage for injuries that occur while participating in hazardous activities. Ask questions and understand exactly what you are buying and what is covered.

Medicare Consideration: Those who rely on the Social Security Medicare program should know that it does not cover hospital and medical services outside of the U.S. Before you leave the country, learn what medical services your health insurance will provide while you are abroad and consider the purchase of additional insurance protection.

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