Onus of Proof: What is it and why it is so important?

Claims Explained: Onus of Proof

Onus of Proof sounds like a legal concept and it is.

Onus of Proof isn’t complicated though – it just refers to the responsibility of proving (or disproving) a fact.

When it comes to making an insurance claim, the claimant bears the Onus of Proof to demonstrate a valid claim against the policy. This means you must prove that you sustained a loss and that it is covered by the policy.

To discharge the Onus of Proof, you would normally be asked for evidence of the event and the loss you suffered. Let’s look at some travel insurance examples.

To claim for loss or theft of property, the insurance company will normally ask you to provide a police report (or similar document). This helps to verify that the theft / loss event happened while you were travelling and during the period of insurance. It will also outline the circumstances of the loss. The insurance company will ask you to provide evidence that you owned the items that were lost / stolen and what they were worth. Some insurers are very specific about the documentation they will accept as proof of ownership (eg purchase recepts and valuations). Other insurers may be more flexible and accept other forms of proof such as photographs, user manuals, repair dockets or statutory declarations. It’s best to check with your chosen provider regarding what is acceptable proof in the event of a claim.

To claim for medical expenses, the insurance company will ask you to obtain a report from the doctor to confirm the illness/injury and the diagnosis given. You will also be asked to obtain an invoice from the doctor to verify the services provided and the charges. If the injury / illness relates to your past medical history, the insurance company may ask for access to your past medical records.

If your claim is for travel delay, cancellation or curtailment, the insurance company will usually ask you to provide a letter from the airline confirming the reason for the disruption to your travel. You will also need to show evidence of the additional costs incurred due to the disruption and/or details of any pre-booked travel arrangements which were forfeited.

Providing this type of documentation helps you to discharge the Onus of Proof to show that you have a valid claim against the policy.

Once you have demonstrated that you have a valid claim against the policy, if the insurer agrees with you, the claim will be processed. However, if the insurer does not agree that you have a valid claim, the Onus of Proof shifts to it to demonstrate that an exclusion applies (or any other term within the policy which serves to limit or deny your claim).

If the insurer discharges the Onus of Proof to show that an exclusion applies to deny or limit your claim and you do not agree with its assessment, the Onus of Proof shifts back to you to show that the insurer’s decision is wrong.

Legally speaking, there’s a bit more to it than this simple explanation. Onus of Proof though essentially means you need to prove your claim and the insurer needs to disprove it (if they consider it isn’t covered).

Got questions about proving a travel insurance claim? Why not call us on 1300 819 888 or send an email to info@goinsurance.com.au

Compulsory travel insurance

Compulsory Travel Insurance:  Which countries?

Compulsory travel insurance is becoming more common these days with some countries denying entry in cases where the traveller is uninsured.

It can be a little tricky too as some countries not only insist travellers have compulsory travel insurance but also require travellers to purchase cover from a local insurer.

So do you know which countries insist on compulsory travel insurance?  Let’s look at some.

Schengen countries

Fortunately, Australian citizens can travel throughout Europe with few restrictions.  However, if you are planning to live, study or work in the Schengen area for more than 90 days, you will need a Schengen visa.  Schengen refers to an EU passport-free zone and covers 26 European countries including Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

To apply for a Schengen visa, you must arrange compulsory travel insurance.  The policy must provide a minimum level of medical expenses and repatriation cover in the event of illness, injury or death.  The minimum cover level is EUR 30,000.

Cuba

Entry to Cuba is conditional on the traveller holding a comprehensive travel insurance policy.  Travellers over the age of 70 must purchase additional insurance from a local Cuban insurance provider.  This is also the case for travellers who plan to participate in high risk sports or competitions.  Such high risk activities include parachuting and diving.

Travellers planning to visit Cuba should take care to ensure their chosen travel insurance provider is able to provide cover for this destination.  In late 2018, the US government reinstated trade sanctions against Cuba which means that US based insurance providers may not be able to provide cover to travellers who are visiting Cuba.

Thailand

Thailand is the latest country to consider compulsory travel insurance for international visitors.  Whilst compulsory travel insurance has not yet been approved by the Thai Tourism and Sports Ministry, Thai officials hope that introduction of the scheme will reassure travellers visiting the country.

The proposal seeks to charge visitors THB 20 (approx. A$1) at the Immigration counter.  In return for this expenditure, the traveller will be covered for stays of up to 30 days.  In the event of death, the policy will pay up to THB1,000,000 (approx. A$45,000).

A decision on whether Thailand introduces compulsory travel insurance for foreign visitors is expected in the latter part of 2019.

Antarctica

Travel insurance for Antarctica isn’t mandatory.  However, the risks of visiting Antarctica should not be under-estimated and it is unlikely you will find a tour operator that does not insist on you having comprehensive travel insurance which covers (at least) weather related cancellation and medical expenses including evacuation.  Compulsory travel insurance for visitors to Antarctica is enforced by most if not all tour operators who lead expeditions to this region.

Final words …

As a travel insurance provider, we always recommend travellers arrange adequate cover before heading off overseas.  Whilst compulsory travel insurance is required to visit certain countries, it is always a good idea to arrange cover for any international destination.  Travel can be unpredictable and it is always best to be prepared for any eventuality.  Remember too that rules change – so what one country’s entry requirements are today may be different when you’re planning to visit.  Make sure you keep up to date with what is expected of you when planning to visit foreign countries.

Got questions about travel insurance?  Why not call us on 1300 819 888 or send an email to info@goinsurance.com.au

Cancellation Cover: Do you really need it?

Cancellation Cover: Do you really need it?

Most travel insurance policies include Cancellation cover but how do you know if you need it?

To decide, it’s important to make sure you understand what the Cancellation section covers and how it responds in the event of a claim.

Did you know that the Cancellation cover starts from the time you purchase the policy?

For this reason, it is important to make sure you arrange travel insurance as soon as you start paying for any part of the trip.  When you purchase an airfare or pay deposits for tours, accommodation or car hire, you are financially exposed if you have to cancel the trip.

If you are taking a long or expensive trip, you may be planning and booking many months in advance.  Here is where Cancellation cover comes into its own.  When taking a policy, you will be asked for the date you will be leaving home to start the trip and the date you will return.  This is the trip period.  However, the Cancellation cover starts immediately after you purchase the policy and continues until you leave home to start the trip.  Life can be unpredictable at times and although you are looking forward to the trip, something unexpected may happen which results in the trip being cancelled. So, if you are making trip bookings many months in advance of your departure date, provided you arrange travel insurance, this period of time will be covered for cancellation risk.

If your booking is a spur of the moment decision and you’re travelling the next day, Cancellation cover may not be high on your priority list.  However, did you know that in some policies the Cancellation cover becomes a Curtailment cover after you start the trip?  Curtailment simply means “cutting the trip short”.  So, if you have to curtail the trip (eg return home earlier than expected) you’re covered for additional costs incurred to return home early and the value of pre-booked arrangements which were forfeited – subject to policy terms and conditions, of course!

So what sort of cover is provided under the Cancellation section?

The Cancellation cover under most travel insurance policies is what we in the industry call “Defined Events”.  This type of cover defines the Events which will trigger a claim.  Many of us have home and contents insurance and examples of Defined Events under a household policy would be Fire, Storm, Theft etc –  these are the “Events”.  For travel insurance Cancellation cover, the Defined Events tend to be things like death, accidental injury or illness of you, your travelling companion or relative, natural disaster, redundancy etc.  For Defined Events Cancellation cover, an “Event” like accidental injury of the policyholder or a natural disaster that prevents the policyholder from travelling would need to occur to trigger a payable claim.

How does the Cancellation cover work if you need to claim?

If you need to cancel before departure and the “Event” which caused you to cancel the trip is covered, the policy will compensate you for the irrecoverable value of the forfeited trip.  This may sound complicated but it’s not.  What this means is that you are covered for the non-refundable portion of the trip.  So, if your airfares are 50% refundable, you can claim the 50% which is not refundable.  If your accommodation is fully refundable, you cannot claim this.  If your tour is 100% non-refundable, then you can claim the full value of the tour.  Insurance covers you for your out-of-pocket cost / loss.  You can’t profit from insurance so if you can get a refund, you cannot also claim for the amount refunded.

If your policy also covers Curtailment (ie post-departure cancellation and early return), you are covered for the additional cost incurred to return home early (eg the cost of reticketing your airfare for an earlier travel date or the cost of a new airfare if you can’t re-ticket your original return flight for an earlier date).  The key here is the word “additional”.  If you can’t reticket your original return flight and have to buy a new airfare, you can only claim the additional fare.  You can’t claim the additional airfare and also the unused original airfare – this is because you were always going to incur the (original) return flight cost as part of the trip.  Insurance covers you for unforeseen, unexpected and unplanned expenses – you can’t claim a cost you were always going to incur as part of the trip.

If you have to curtail, you’re also covered for the value of any pre-booked travel arrangements which were forfeited due to you returning home earlier than scheduled.  Again, if there are any refunds available, you can only claim the difference – that is, whatever you can’t get back from the provider/s.

What’s not covered?

The cover provided by the Cancellation section is always detailed in the Product Disclosure Statement and policy wording so it’s important to read this to ensure the cover suits your needs.

There will always be exclusions and those which are most common in travel insurance polies include:

  • Any event which is not one of the Defined Events (unless the policy provides “cancel for any reason” cover).
  • Disinclination to travel. If you change your mind and simply don’t want to go, this is not covered.
  • Failure to arrange appropriate travel documents. If you don’t have the right visa and wont be allowed to enter the destination country, your travel insurance policy wont help.
  • Loss of enjoyment. Sadly sometimes the trip doesn’t live up to expectations and unfortunately this isn’t a situation that is covered by travel insurance.
  • Circumstances known to you at the time of purchasing the policy and which could reasonably be expected to result in the trip being cancelled. If you are planning a ski holiday, break your leg the day before departure and then purchase a policy, this wont be covered.  Similarly if a volcano erupts at the destination and ash cloud closes the airspace, there’s no point trying to organise a policy to cover you if your trip is cancelled as a result.  Both of these examples are like shutting the gate after the horse has bolted – something which will stop you from travelling happened while you were uninsured.

Our hot tip?

Add up the total value of your trip – this is your maximum exposure to financial loss if the trip is cancelled.  Many providers offer a sliding refund scale which means that the closer you get to departure before cancelling, the lower the refund they will provide.  Make sure you purchase a policy which provides adequate coverage for cancellation.  If the non-refundable value of your trip is $20,000, buying a policy with a $5,000 Cancellation benefit may not be such a great idea!

Final words … please read the policy to make sure you understand the scope of cover provided and if you have any queries, make sure you contact your chosen provider to clarify.

Got questions about trip cancellation and travel insurance?  Why not call us on 1300 819 888 or send an email to info@goinsurance.com.au

 

 

 

Malaria

Contagious Diseases Series: Malaria

Malaria is a serious disease and, in some cases, can prove fatal.

The World Health Organisation estimates that in 2017, there were 219 million cases of malaria worldwide.  In that year, Malaria caused 435,000 deaths.

Malaria is caused by a parasite called Plasmodium that commonly infects certain types of mosquitoes which in turn bite humans.  There are five species of Plasmodium:

  • Plasmodium vivax
  • Plasmodium falciparum
  • Plasmodium malariae
  • Plasmodium ovale
  • Plasmodium knowlesi

Of these five species, Plasmodium falciparum is the most severe and can be fatal in up to 10% of cases.  Most at risk are pregnant women and children.  The other four species are less severe but can also lead to death.

How do you get it?

Malaria is generally transmitted by infected female Anopheles mosquitoes.  Once a mosquito is infected with the parasite, it remains infectious for its lifetime.  It is also possible for a mosquito that bites an infected person to become infected and then pass it to other people.

Once a person has been bitten, the parasite travels through their bloodstream to the liver where it multiplies.  The parasites ultimately leave the liver and enter red blood cells where they grow and burst the cells.  This allows the parasites to move to other blood cells.  While doing this, the parasites release toxins into the bloodstream which cause you to feel unwell.

Cases of infection following blood transfusion have also been reported.  This is one of the reasons why it is recommended people who have travelled to countries where Malaria is prevalent delay giving blood for a short period following their return home.

Malaria cannot be transmitted from human to human – to contract it, you must be bitten by an infected mosquito.

Where in the world is it?

Malaria is common in tropical and sub-tropical areas.  Most notably, it is found in Asia, the Pacific Islands, Africa, parts of the Middle East, Central and Southern America.

Australia is Malaria-free but it is occasionally found in the Torres Strait Islands.

What are the symptoms?

Typically it takes 7-14 days for an infected person to feel unwell but it can also take up to 4 weeks for symptoms to manifest.  In some instances, symptoms can re-occur months or years post-exposure.  This is because some parasites can remain dormant in the liver for up to 4 years.

The most common symptoms include:

  • Fever which may either come and go or be constant
  • Headache
  • Excessive sweating
  • Shivering / chills
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Diarrhoea
  • General malaise (feeling unwell)
  • Fatigue
  • Abdominal pain
  • Cough
  • Anaemia and jaundice

How is it diagnosed and what is the treatment?

Diagnosis usually involves clinical assessment where a doctor will examine you, discuss your symptoms and medical history.  The doctor will also order a blood test to confirm the diagnosis.  This blood test will detect the presence of malarial parasites in your blood.

A single positive blood test result proves infection with Malaria.  A single negative blood test result does not though prove that you do not have it.  To be conclusive, you will need to return at least 3 negative blood test results to be sure you don’t have the disease.

Treatment usually involves prescription medication.  The type of medicine prescribed will depend on the type of Malaria you have.  Treatment should be started as soon as possible to improve the likelihood of a swift recovery.  If you have been to countries where Malaria is prevalent and you think you may have contracted it, seek urgent medical attention.

How can you minimise the risk of contracting it?

Fortunately, there is anti-malarial medication available to minimise the risk of infection while travelling.  If you are travelling to an area where the disease is prevalent, visit your GP 4-6 weeks before departure to see if you are a candidate for prophylactic medication.

If you decide to take anti-malarial medication, make sure you do so as prescribed.  This is very important.  You will need to take medication before you travel to the affected area, while you are there and also after you leave.  This could involve continuing the medication for up to 4 weeks after you have left the affected region.

Taking anti-malarial medication is not a guarantee that you will not be infected.  It is also important that you take other preventive measures to minimise the risk of being bitten.   Anopheles mosquitoes tend to be most active at dawn and dusk but you can still be bitten at other times of the day or night.

Here are our top tips to help minimise the potential of infection if travelling to high risk areas:

  • Cover as much exposed skin as possible at all times – day and night. Preferably wear socks with closed in shoes and wear light coloured long sleeve shirts and long pants.
  • Stay and sleep in accommodation which has fly screens on the windows or air conditioning.
  • Use mosquito nets if you cannot secure your room against mosquitoes or are sleeping outside.
  • If safe to do so, use mosquito coils and/or plug in repellent devices.
  • Use insect repellent that contains DEET or picaridin.
  • Apply insect repellent in the morning and make sure you re-apply it frequently.
  • If using sunscreen, apply repellent after you apply your sunscreen.
  • Stay indoors when mosquitoes are particularly active.
  • Mosquitoes breed in containers and junk so don’t allow water to pond or collect around your accommodation. Mosquitoes breed in still water (eg pot plant bases, coconut shells, tyres, containers such as vases, tubs and buckets).

Many travellers will be exposed to infected Anopheles mosquitoes will travelling.  Fortunately there are measures you can take to minimise the risk of infection.  If you do suffer the misfortune of contracting Malaria – or think you may have – seek medical attention as soon as possible.  Early detection will increase the chance of a quick recovery.

Got questions about Malaria and travel insurance?  Why not call us on 1300 819 888 or send an email to info@goinsurance.com.au

 

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