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Volcanic Ash & Insurance

The continuing travel disruption caused by the volcanic ash cloud has shown just how important travel insurance can be for many business travellers and holidaymakers stranded abroad as a result of an unexpected event.  In the case of the volcanic ash, a lot of people have discovered, to their horror, that most travel insurance policies do not cover this type of natural disaster, which causes flights to be grounded.  Although some insurance providers have chosen to compensate customers, even though the policy wording does not require them to do so, for reasons of reputation.  Therefore these events serve as an important reminder of the need to check very carefully, exactly what cover is provided before choosing which policy to buy. 

It is easy to assume that all travel insurance policies provide pretty much the same cover.  This is simply not true and the policy summaries, which are provided by the insurers, often do not reveal exactly what you are covered for.  In order to check this out, it is necessary to look at the full policy wording, which should always be available if you request it, or download it before you buy.  A lot of people focus on the limits of compensation for different types of loss, such as theft of personal items and cash and cancellation cover.  However, whilst it is important to check how much you are covered for, it is as important, if not more so, to check precisely what circumstances allow you to make a claim in the first place.

You should also always remember to make sure you tell the insurer about everything that may be relevant to them, when deciding whether to offer you insurance before you take out the policy.  With travel insurance, one area of particular importance is to make sure you tell the insurer about any pre-existing medical conditions.  People can often be reluctant to do this, because they think the condition is not serious and it will mean that a delay in getting the insurance or a more expensive cover.  However, the risk is that if you do not tell the insurer about a condition and then you have to make a claim, the insurer can potentially refuse to cover you and can cancel your insurance cover leaving you with nothing.  In contrast, if you had disclosed the condition, in a lot of cases the insurer would have offered cover on the same terms, at no extra premium.

If you have taken care to tell the insurer about all relevant facts before buying the policy, and you checked the full policy wording and you think you should be covered for a claim which the insurer refuses to pay, one option available to consumers is to complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.  This does not cost anything and forms are available on the website www.financial-ombudsman.org.uk.  You do need to make sure you have complained to the insurance company direct first though and received a final decision from them in writing, before you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman.