When it comes to travel insurance, details matter. Just ask Shannon Carr.
Carr, a homemaker from Jefferson, Ga., was a guest on her niece's wedding cruise last year. But she missed the boat after suffering a shoulder injury. Although Carnival Cruises offered her a partial refund, Allianz Travel Insurance denied her claim for the remaining $861.
The problem? Her doctor had answered a question on one of her forms incorrectly, and she failed to notice it.
"I believe the doctor misunderstood what Allianz was asking," she recalls. As a result, the doctor filled in the form incorrectly -- and the claim was denied.
Fortunately, her story had a happy ending. Allianz Travel Insurance reviewed her claim and honored it. But the lesson isn't lost. When you're filing a travel insurance claim, every answer matters, especially the ones your doctor provides. Details count.
"Incomplete claim forms are the number one reason that claims reimbursements are delayed," says Daniel Durazo, a spokesman for Allianz. "When we receive incomplete information, we often have to go back to the customer or their doctor and this holds up the approval of the claim and ultimately the payment."
Here are five things you should never do when you're filing an insurance claim:
Wait Travel insurance companies can be sticklers for deadlines. There's really no benefit to waiting to file a claim. Most policies give you 90 days to file a claim, but read your policy carefully. If you're unsure of something, call your travel insurance company and ask. "The sooner the provider is made aware," says Carolyn Leckie, a spokeswoman for the travel insurance site Squaremouth.com, "the faster the process will go."
Forget your manners I've seen some insurance appeals undercut by salty language or angry rhetoric. So before you start filing your claim, remember to keep things professional. There's another person on the other side of the claim and they have some flexibility in the way they handle things. Threats to litigate may get your request routed to the legal department, where you could face additional delays.
Omit a required document Travel insurance companies are not in the business of letting the paperwork slide. They actually publish lists of documents you need in order to file a successful claim (here's the Allianz Travel Insurance checklist page, for example.) So, for a dental expense, you would need to submit copies of all medical bills you receive and, if applicable, a copy of the relevant accident or incident report.
Lie From time to time, I receive help requests from customers who file claims that are not entirely truthful. Every now and then, I'll also hear from an insurance adjuster who is trying to uncover the truth. It rarely ends well for the traveler. No need to try to embarrass anyone in making this point, but the bottom line is: Don't lie. Don't embellish the facts, omit relevant facts, or downplay important ones. The adjusters will find out, and when they do, your claim could be denied.
Lose your patience Travel insurance claims typically take between two and four weeks to process, but some complicated claims that require more extensive research by an adjuster can take longer. Expect to receive a form acknowledgment of your claim, with a final decision within roughly a month, but no more than two months.
And one final thought: If you booked your insurance policy through a travel agent, remember to enlist your travel advisor when you file a claim. Consider what happened to one of Christina Ernst's clients.
"Last year, I had a young couple book their honeymoon through me," remembers Ernst, the president of VIP Southern Tours in Sautee-Nacoochee, Ga. "The fiancé died in a horrible car wreck eight days before their wedding and honeymoon."
Her surviving client was distraught. Ernst took care of all the paperwork, canceling the entire honeymoon.
"The client has been refunded and has also positively moved on with her life, especially after enduring such a traumatic experience," says Ernst.
Travel insurance can be complicated, but the claims process doesn't have to be. Travel insurance companies are working on ways to make it easier. For example, Allianz recently redesigned its claim forms to make it easier to understand and added the ability to file claims online from any device.
The rest is up to you. As long as you have a good sense of timing, remember your paperwork, provide all the necessary facts and mind your manners, your claim is far likelier to succeed.
After you've left a comment here, let's continue the discussion on my consumer advocacy site or on Twitter, Facebook and Google. I also have a newsletter and you'll definitely want to order my new, amazingly helpful and subversive book called How to Be the World's Smartest Traveler (and Save Time, Money, and Hassle).