19/09/2023 Update – Media Release Statement: An Urgent Call for ASIC to Investigate Unfair Alcohol-Related Clauses in Travel Insurance.

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Rick (00:00):

Are you traveling again, and when you plan travel, what insurance do you rely on? Do you book travel insurance with the airliners you book? Do you book through a travel agent? Do you go, “I think my credit card covers me”? Peter Carter is a legal practice director at Carter Capner Law. Hi, Peter.

Peter Carter (00:14):

Good morning, Rick.

Rick (00:15):

When does travel insurance not cover you if you’ve injured yourself overseas?

Peter Carter (00:21):

Well, the first thing to know is that once you step foot back in Australia, it’s over. No more benefits at all. But the other issue is that there are a number of exceptions in the policy that travelers need to be aware of.

Rick (00:35):

That’s claims denial. So on what grounds can we get claims denialed?

Peter Carter (00:40):

Well, there was a recent case of a New South Wales lady who was enjoying some drinks in her resort villa, and she had a fall as she was leaving the villa. And with a serious injury, the insurer refused to pay her $250,000 hospitalization costs in Thailand or to medevac her out back to Australia because she had been drinking. So that’s a very egregious exception in a travel insurance policy I’m sure very few people would be aware of.

Rick (01:20):

Some Australians only go overseas to drink and take drugs. I mean, that’s why they’re traveling. That seems very disingenuous. How do you find out if there’s an insurer that has that inclusion without giving away the fact that you’re planning to go and drink and take drugs?

Peter Carter (01:33):

Well, look, I think the issue is that-

Rick (01:38):

Not me, obviously.

Peter Carter (01:40):

The issue is that very few people read the fine print, that’s well-known, and I doubt insurers would even expect that to happen. And people would be confused when they see a brochure that claims comprehensive cover, only to find out much later that there were exceptions like that.

Peter Carter (02:01):

What it does take, it really takes a lawyer to look over the policy for you, which no one’s ever going to do. So unless your travel agent informs you of those exceptions, you will be potentially in trouble.

Rick (02:15):

And work on getting that lawyer into your friendship group real fast. In terms of insurance booking, if you book an Australian company, is it easier once you’re back in Australia but harder overseas? What’s the easiest company to book with in terms of legal protection?

Peter Carter (02:29):

Well, look, I can’t really comment on the different travel insurance policies. But apart from the policy, people need to understand that having an accident overseas, you’re usually governed by the law in the place where the accident occurs. But if you book your travel from Australia, the prospect of getting some compensation outside of insurance is greater.

Peter Carter (02:55):

But even if you don’t, if you have an accident overseas, it’s a very good idea to get legal advice in Australia when you get back to see what can be done about that accident even over there.

Rick (03:10):

If you’re overseas and hurt yourself, is it better then to stay overseas until your treatment’s completely finished so that it’s covered by your travel insurance?

Peter Carter (03:21):

Well, yes, but travel insurance will pay. If they’re paying, they’ll keep paying while you’re away. But they will have a say in when you come back because they will be relying on medical opinion. So usually what happens is in serious cases, they engage someone who does a medical evacuation via a private jet and brings you home, you go into a local hospital in Australia. But once that happens, the travel insurance is over. So theoretically the answer to your question is yes, but in practice that’s unlikely to occur.

Rick (04:02):

It’s 1327 ABC Radio Hobart. You’re listening to your legal practice director at Carter Capner Law, Peter Carter, who was saying, possibly unsurprisingly, it would be great if you’ve got a lawyer to look over your travel insurance before you go to check the exclusions. But you can do it yourself. How are the insurance companies obliged to display the exclusions? Where do we find them?

Peter Carter (04:25):

Well, it’s a question of reading the fine print. Usually insurers will say… Well, the type of exceptions in the brochure, they will say, it doesn’t cover you, for example, for skiing or scuba diving unless you pay an additional premium. So those things are usually well understood. It’s the other types of rare exceptions about alcohol consumption that people need help with. And a good travel agent should be able to tell travelers and make recommendations in that regard. But my point is that I don’t think it’s a fair exception at all, because people travel to enjoy themselves.

Rick (05:14):

Well, it’s also very hard to know whether it was that extra glass of grappa or the wobbly cobblestone when that cat ran over your foot in Greece.

Peter Carter (05:24):

Exactly. Exactly. And for an insurer to send an assessor immediately with a view to denying the claim rather than helping the insured, it really begs questions about their bona fides.

Rick (05:41):

Peter, do you see insurance companies trying to wriggle out of these claims a lot or is it a rare occurrence?

Peter Carter (05:51):

People in insurance that I know are wonderful people, but part of the business model relies on denying claims wherever there’s an opportunity. So yes, we see it a lot. That’s one of the reasons lawyers are in business.

Rick (06:06):

Peter, thanks for your insights today. I really appreciate it.

Peter Carter (06:10):

Thanks, Rick.

Rick (06:10):

Peter Carter, Legal Practice Director at Carter Capner Law. And I would be checking very carefully when you book insurance about what the exclusions are. It never occurred to me before. There you go.