No one plans to fall ill or get injured before or during a trip, but what if the unexpected happens to you? Who will take care of your savings if unforeseen medical expenses come up? What if you need to cancel your trip, or if your baggage is lost or stolen? It’s no surprise that many Canadians now consider travel insurance a necessity. Luckily, most will never have to make use of their coverage. But… what if? Read on to find out how to make your travel insurance work for you—from the moment it takes effect to making a claim to finally receiving that cheque in the mail.
What’s a claim anyway?
If you have purchased travel insurance, you will need to make a claim if you have paid up front for one of the following and are seeking reimbursement:
- Medical treatment for unexpected illness or injury while travelling
- Cost of non-refundable travel arrangements due to a cancelled or interrupted trip
- Lost or stolen baggage
- Other benefits, such as transportation costs, meals and accommodation, or accidental death and dismemberment
It is important to note that you will only be reimbursed for covered expenses, such as hospital or paramedic fees, non-refundable trip costs (such as flights and accommodations), or covered items in your baggage. These details will be specified in your insurance policy, so read the policy wording carefully to make sure you understand what is (and isn’t!) covered.
What you need to know before you make a claim
Inform yourself: Before departing, familiarize yourself with the claims procedure in your travel insurance policy. Look for the contact number of the claims and emergency assistance department, jot it down, and keep it handy in case you need to get in touch during your trip.
Call your insurer as soon as you can: In the event that you need medical treatment while travelling, have to cancel your trip, or find that your baggage has been lost or stolen, it is your responsibility to make sure your insurance provider is contacted as soon as possible. If your condition is too serious to make the call on your own, have your travelling companion, the hospital, or a family member call on your behalf. If you fail to contact your insurer in a timely manner, reimbursement for expenses that would have been covered may be limited, or your claim may be considered invalid! Make sure to check your policy wording for specific information on how and when to notify your insurer of expenses you may incur (or have already incurred) and how your coverage will be affected if you contact your insurer too late.
Gather all required documentation: Also, be sure that you are aware of what documents you need to gather before you find yourself in an emergency situation. Different scenarios will require different supporting documentation; however all insurers require original documents, so always make copies for your own records! When submitting a claim, the necessary supporting documents will vary from plan to plan, and will depend on the specific benefit. Check your policy wording to find out what you need when making a claim. In general, you can expect to provide these documents for the following types of claim:
- Medical emergency while travelling: Receipts for all medical fees incurred
- Trip cancellation or interruption: Official proof that clearly explains why your trip was cancelled or interrupted (e.g., a medical certificate); proof that the trip was cancelled (e.g., unused travel documents); proof that your travel arrangements were, in fact, non-refundable (e.g., the airline or tour operator’s cancellation policy, or a receipt showing the amount refunded out of the total cost if the arrangements were partially refundable)
- Lost or stolen baggage: A report from the airline, bus, railroad, cruiseline, hotel, or other authority to confirm it was lost, or a police report in the event of theft; a list of your lost or stolen items, their value, and proof of ownership
It’s also a good idea to check your policy to see if you can get the claims process started online. You can speed things up by reporting the incident on your insurer’s website and mailing any supporting documentation (originals).
Tips on how to submit your claim
First things first. Make sure you have all pertinent documentation (originals for the insurer and copies for yourself). Remember, required documents will vary based on the claim you are making, and it is up to you to make sure you have everything you need. If you send in a copy instead of an original, forget to sign the form, or leave out other pertinent details, you will be asked to submit this outstanding information, which will delay the processing time for your claim—and you will have to wait that much longer to get your money back!
Make sure you do it right the first time with these tips:
- Follow your plan’s claim timeline. Each policy will have its own requirements when it comes to how soon you must report the initial incident and when to submit your claim. Make sure to adhere to these requirements.
- Keep your originals in a safe place! You will need to include these with your claim form if you want to be reimbursed. (Make a copy of all required documents for your records.)
- Complete the form accurately, honestly, and in a timely manner. Make sure to include as much detail as possible, especially if the situation was unusual.
- Make sure your contact information is current in case your insurance provider needs to contact you.
- Don’t skip any questions! The insurance company will not process a claim that is incomplete. If you are unsure about how to answer a question, contact your insurance provider.
- Don’t forget to sign the form! A claim form without a signature will not be processed.
- If you are submitting your claim electronically, make copies and keep the originals in a safe place. Your insurer will ask to see them at a later date!
Wait for your cheque to arrive
Once you’ve submitted everything your insurer needs, it’s time to sit back and wait. Expect a waiting period of approximately two weeks for a typical claim and one month for a claim that may be considered more unusual. Remember, no one is trying to keep your money from you; insurers must reimburse you for covered expenses, but the claims process takes time! If one month has passed, you still haven’t received your cheque, and your insurer has not contacted you to request additional information, don’t hesitate to call the claims department and find out why. It won’t hurt to give them a polite reminder, and you may learn that they are still waiting on you for extra information.
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