How to claim travel insurance if you get injured or robbed overseas

How to claim travel insurance if you get injured or robbed overseas

So you thought your holiday would be a frolick in paradise, but it's turning out to be more like a walk in the Haw Par Villa Ten Courts of Hell.

Lost luggage, unexpected illnesses or injuries and missed connections are ten times as bad when they happen on that one holiday you've spent thousands of dollars on and painstakingly saved up all your annual leave for.

But hey, at least you bought travel insurance, right?

Well, making a travel insurance claim just might drive another nail into the coffin. Here's what you need to take note of to avert yet another disaster.

Call your agent immediately

When an accident happens, the first person you want to call might be your mother, your spouse, your mistress or whoever.

But unless you're in a life or death situation, the one person you should really be calling is your insurance agent. If you bought your insurance directly from the company instead of the agent, you'll want to call them up anyway, as most have some kind of hotline.

Even if you have a copy of your insurance policy with you (and you should!), in a moment of stress you'll need to speak with someone who can help out or you're almost certainly going to miss something.

Explain your predicament, and like a fairy godmother your agent can tell you what your options are (eg. the use of an evacuation service, or booking yourself into a hotel at the expense of the insurance company).

They'll also be able to tell you what documents and exhibits you need to prepare-wait till you come back to Singapore before worrying about this and it might be too late.

In certain cases, not informing the insurance company ASAP may also invalidate your claim.

Know what services you can use and make a claim for

Your insurance agent will advise you on what you're entitled to do at their expense. Obviously what benefits you receive will really depend on the insurance policy you bought. But here are some possibilities:

Evacuation: If you meet with an accident in a jungle somewhere, you might be able to have evacuation arranged at the expense of the insurance company.

Check what types of evacuation are eligible for a claim, or if you can only use ambulances from a particular company.

Medical treatment: Got into an accident and wondering if you should fly back to Singapore or see a doctor wherever you are? Check with the insurance company if the treatment you're seeking is classified as emergency treatment or otherwise claimable.

Additional accommodation or transport expenses: If your trip is disrupted or cancelled, you might be able to make a claim for accommodation or transport expenses, which means you get to take a taxi to a hotel instead of camping by the side of the road or sleeping at the airport.

Legal costs: If you get into legal trouble (eg. knocking someone down with your rental scooter, burning down the hotel), you might be able to claim for legal representation.

Document, document, document

Lack of documentation is going to wreck your claim and leave you cursing the insurance company to the high heavens. When you make your call to the insurance company, be sure to ask them for a blow-by-blow rundown of what steps you need to take and what documents you need to prepare.

Here are some points to take note of:

Police report: Many types of claims will be invalidated if you don't make a police report within a specific timeframe (usually 24 hours). This usually includes lost or damaged baggage, money or personal belongings, and any kind of theft.

Take photos: Even if there is no explicit requirement to do so, it's always smart to take photos of any damaged items or even damage to your own body, just in case there's a dispute and you need further proof.

Keep all receipts and other documentation: There's no hard and fast rule about what you can or cannot submit, although receipts are a definite must if you expect to get reimbursed.

Any other documentation can help, so get doctors to write letters, put anything your insurance agent says in writing and email it to them (a cover-your-butt tactic you probably already use at work) and write down the exact time and date anything happens.

Of course, the worst thing you could possibly do is not buy any travel insurance at all.

Saving yourself $30 or less could end up costing you a whole lot more not just in terms of money but the stress and hassle of having to deal with an unfortunate incident.

MoneySmart.sg is Singapore’s leading personal finance portal, and aims to help people maximise their money with powerful tools and engaging content.

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