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Making a Claim

Temporary Update: Travel Insurance

Whether or not travel insurance covers the cancellation of travel plans depends on the terms of the policy. Many, but not all policies have exclusions for pandemics so read the policy terms carefully.

The pandemic was considered a known event from about 31 January 2020 (earlier for travel to China). Travel insurance purchased after that date will not cover losses arising from the cancellation of travel resulting from the pandemic. Many insurers have stopped offering cover because of the uncertainty.

A travel insurance policy usually excludes precautionary cancellation. For a policy to respond, the cancellation must be as a result of travel bans, or closure of borders or something outside of the control of the insured person.

Under the Insurance General Code of Practice 2014, a consumer is entitled to lodge a claim and have it properly assessed by the insurer. For this reason, a consumer should not be dissuaded from lodging a claim.

Travel insurance policies may also exclude claims arising from the insolvency of the travel provider. This means that if a consumer accepts a voucher but not a refund, the consumer will lose their travel and instead become an unsecured creditor for the value of the voucher.

For additional information regarding insurance matters arising out of the current pandemic, visit the Insurance Council Australia website here [link opens in a new window]

Before Claiming

Before making a claim on an insurance company it is worth considering that:

  • you may have to pay an excess (the amount you agreed to pay the insurer in the event of the claim) before the insurance company contributes anything
  • in the case of motor vehicle insurance, you may lose part or all of your no-claim bonus, which means that the next year’s premium could cost more.

If you are unable to pay the excess because of financial hardship, you may still make a claim. You may request the insurer to take the excess out of any payment you will receive. If you will not be receiving any payment, but the insurer will be paying a repairer or someone else on your behalf, you may ask the insurer to make the payment to them and then accept the excess from you in instalments.

See the Financial Rights Legal Centre's Sample Letter, Can't pay my excess.

Making the Claim

There are a number of things you can do to help the insurer process your claim quickly and efficiently, and reduce the possibility of complications. In particular, you should:

  • cooperate with the insurer’s loss assessors
  • fully notify the insurer promptly
  • provide as much information and evidence as you can in support of your claim.

Notification

You should notify the insurance company of the event as soon as possible. Notification by phone should be followed up in writing, and the letter should include all relevant details of the incident. It is not advisable for non native speakers of English to make a claim by phone.

Supporting documents

If possible, you should include documents to support the claim.

Keep Records for Insurance Purposes

It is a good idea to keep records — receipts, valuations, serial numbers, photos and so on. Accurate records help in getting a claim paid promptly.

For example:

Someone who has been burgled should take photos, contact neighbours for statements, and arrange for a third party to witness the scene if there will be a delay in the police attending. A list of items stolen must be provided. If you later need to add any items to the list originally submitted to the insurer you should explain why these items were missed off the first list.

Motor Vehicle Accidents

If your car has been damaged in an accident you may need to arrange to:

  • store the damaged car at a repair shop while it is decided who will pay for the repairs
  • hire a replacement car.

You may not be able to recover these costs from your insurer, or from the other driver or their insurer (even if they were at fault).

You should not arrange to store your car or hire a replacement without getting your insurer to agree to it, preferably in writing, unless you can afford to pay for it yourself.

The Insurance Reference Service

The Insurance Reference Service is Australia’s only national database of insurance claims. It offers an easily accessible record of insurance claims by individuals. Some insurance companies use this database in deciding whether to accept an insurance proposal or as part of the investigation process when a claim is made.

Most people don’t know that the service exists. Consumers have a right of free access to the database, and can correct inaccurate information on it. To order a report detailing your claims history see the Insurance Reference Service website at http://insurancereferenceservices.com.au/about .

Making a Claim  :  Last Revised: Tue May 5th 2020
The content of the Law Handbook is made available as a public service for information purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice. See Disclaimer for details. For free and confidential legal advice in South Australia call 1300 366 424.