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Shine Lawyers | Travel insurance

Do I need travel insurance?

The decision to get travel insurance when you are going on holidays is all down to personal choice, but one you should consider very carefully. There are two main factors you should consider when answering the question 'do I need travel insurance?':

  1. Financial Risk: Are you worried about losing money because of a cancelled trip, travel interruptions, lost baggage, delays, or medical emergency?
  2. Medical Concerns: Are you traveling outside your home country where your insurance from home won’t cover you for an accident?

Taking out travel insurance is an important step in your travel plans, but with so many options available on the market, what does travel insurance actually cover?

  • Expensive medical costs – falling ill overseas can prove to be a very unexpected and expensive experience. Daily hospital costs and charges can soon mount up, and if you or your loved one need to transported back home costs could skyrocket.

  • Disasters – it can be impossible to predict the chances of a natural disaster striking when you are on holidays, one could strike at anytime, anywhere. A valid insurance policy can help to cover you for lost deposits, pre-paid travel arrangements, accidents or illnesses.

  • Personal effects – when we travel, we sometimes take along very expensive personal items to make our trips memorable. No one wants the added expense of having to replace personal effects due to no fault of your own.

  • Legal liability cover – if you have an accident overseas or cause at-fault damage a fully equipped insurance policy can help you to cover associated costs.

  • Unexpected returns – if you are struck with the devastating news of a loved one passing while you are on holidays, a good policy will ensure you can get home.

What about boat cruises – is travel insurance needed?

When going on a cruise (either within Australian waters or not) you need specific cover to ensure you have the travel protection you need for this type of travel experience. Cruise cover usually comes as an add-on to most travel insurance policies. So be sure to mention you are going on a cruise when you take out travel insurance.

What does travel insurance not cover?

The following list is by no means exhaustive, but commonly travel insurance policies won’t cover:

  • riding mopeds or motorcycles (not being correctly licenced to operate certain modes of transport)
  • injury from extreme sports (e.g. bungee jumping or white water rafting)
  • illness or injury caused by a pre-existing medical condition
  • pregnancy-related costs (not all insurers will automatically cover women over 22 weeks' gestation)
  • loss or injury from acts of terrorism, war and some natural disasters
  • loss or theft of unattended luggage (check your insurer's definition of 'unattended')
  • claims for travel to areas where an official travel warning has been issued.

It is worth noting, each policy is very different, and you can always pay extra to be covered for certain events (eg motorcycles, skiing, etc). It just comes down to the policy and what you purchased (although some terms are standard clauses).

Always read the policy carefully, taking into account where you are travelling and the type of activities you will be doing. If you’re unsure about any terms of coverage, it’s best to clarify with the insurer in writing as to whether or not you’re covered.

Also remember, travel insurance only covers you whilst you are away. It ceases as soon as you return to your home country. Similarly, Medicare and your private health insurance only covers your medical expenses in Australia, not while you are overseas and at times on cruises.

Case study: White Island Volcano tragedy

The tragic events on White Island in New Zealand late last year raises many unanswered questions for travellers caught up in the disaster and where they stand from an insurance point of view.

This case is very special given the fact that New Zealand has very specific laws about injury compensation and overall doesn’t allow for personal claims to be made in any event. They work under an Accident Compensation Scheme (ACC), which means, when death or serious injury results from an event, no matter how extreme the negligence, people have no rights to sue the careless parties based in New Zealand.

This is vastly different to how it works here in Australia and many Australians visiting New Zealand may not have been aware of this legislation.

Travel law expert, Sara Kaurin, sees a lot of different clients in her daily dealings with people seeking compensation after travel law incidents, but this case for tourists on the White Island cruise raises many questions for survivors and sadly those who deceased, their loved ones left behind.

As reported in The Sydney Morning Herald, travel law practice leader Sara Kaurin from Shine Lawyers said some insurers don't cover natural disasters. She said Royal Caribbean's liability would "depend on the level of control it had over the day trip to White Island”.

"If passengers book a day trip through a cruise ship company and the advertising and paperwork contains its branding, it is arguable that the cruise ship company is the principal provider of the day trip and is responsible to ensure it is safe," she told The Age and The Herald.

"However, cruise ship companies often state in contracts provided to passengers that they will not be held liable for any loss caused by third party tour operators.

"It really comes down to the representations made by the company to the passengers as to who exactly is providing the service."

Contact Shine Lawyers – your travel law experts

The travel law team will be able to advise you on your rights regarding compensation if you find yourself injured whilst on holidays and help you to navigate unfamiliar legal systems.

Also, most countries have different limitation dates stipulating when you must commence your claim in the Courts. If you miss your limitation date you may be barred from pursuing your claim at a later time, so it is important that you get the right advice without delay.

Written by Shine Lawyers. Last modified: January 9, 2020.

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