HOLIDAYMAKERS RISK losing their insurance cover if they are injured or taken ill abroad while under the influence of alcohol, insurers said this week. Insurance companies are increasingly refusing to pay out in cases where claimants have been drinking.
The advice came as it emerged that James Conner, a 17-year-old gap-year student, broke bones in his ankles and leg after jumping off a 10ft balcony in Cape Town this summer. Two days after the incident, his insurance company, Worldnomads.com, said his insurance claim had been declined because a doctor’s report said he was inebriated. His family were left thousands of pounds out of pocket after paying for flights and medical care for James. However, Worldnomads.com did agree to make an undisclosed contribution.
The incident raised concern over cover for young people, particularly as up to 100,000 students will be heading off for gap-year travels over the next few months. A spokeswoman for Worldnomads.com said: “People need to be responsible when they travel abroad. We make it clear in our policy details that if someone is under the influence of drink or drugs, they will invalidate their policy.”
Older people are also having their claims refused in similar circumstances. Last month, a 63-year-old woman from Wigan, who slipped and hit her head in Orlando, Florida, subsequently ending up in intensive care with bleeding to her brain, was told her cover was invalid because she had been drinking before the accident. Halifax Travel Insurance pointed out that the policy did not cover anyone for a claim directly or indirectly resulting from the misuse of alcohol, but offered 20,000 pounds sterling towards the final, undisclosed, bill.
Steve Nickerson, managing director of Preferential Travel Insurance, said that hospitals were increasingly conducting blood tests for alcohol and drugs and passing the information on to insurance companies. “If the report said the person was intoxicated, it is not something insurance companies can ignore, particularly when an alcohol clause is a standard feature,” he said. “Also, anyone injured after taking a class-A drug, such as cocaine, heroin or ecstasy, would almost certainly have their insurance claim declined. People should be able to enjoy themselves on holiday, but they must have some level of responsibility and be aware of the clauses in their policy,” Nickerson added.
Richard Oliver, the chief executive of Year Out Group, which promotes structured gap-year breaks for students said: “We make it very clear that drugs are an absolute no-no and students will be asked to leave the projects if they don’t abide by that. We encourage people to be responsible with alcohol.”
A spokesman for the Association of British Insurers said: “We don’t expect people to take a vow of temperance on holiday, but they should not be irresponsible. Most insurance companies are reasonable and will look at situations on a case-by-case basis, but if you get totally inebriated and have an accident, there’s a problem. If anyone thinks they have been treated unfairly, there is a financial ombudsman, who will look at situations in which insurance has been declined.”