GSTP is a go to resource for most things in travel, but legal advice is not one of them. To help people get what they deserve when trips go wrong, we consulted the help of a practicing attorney, to offer an insiders guide to the claims process.
With the recent hike in holiday travel and while still in the midst of a pandemic, this is a great time to review your credit card travel insurance benefits.
This guide will explore what may be covered under credit card travel insurance, how to best document and submit a travel insurance claim, and common pitfalls to avoid.
So, who am I? I am a California insurance recovery attorney that uses my experience representing insurance companies to now help individuals manage their insurance claims and obtain the maximum benefits owed under their insurance policies.
My practice includes representing policyholders with many types of insurance, such as:
- Special event;
- Residential property;
- Commercial property; and
- Commercial general liability.
Before You Travel
Read your Guide to Benefits. It may be long, but it helps to be well informed of your travel insurance benefits in the event of an unexpected travel incident. There may be multiple guides that cover each type of coverage.
The types of travel coverage your credit card provides may include some or all of the following:
- Trip delay;
- Auto rental;
- Baggage delay;
- Roadside assistance;
- Trip cancellation/interruption;
- Lost/damaged/stolen luggage;
- Emergency assistance services;
- Travel accident (injuries/death);
- Emergency medical/dental benefit; and
- Emergency evacuation and transportation.
First, determine who is covered. Your travel benefits may include coverage for your spouse and immediate family traveling with you, even if they are not the cardholder.
Second, know who to call. Add the number on the back of card as a contact in your phone. Also determine if there are other numbers you should know — concierge, benefit administrator, etc.
Hint: you should. Add these as contacts in your phone too. This step is important in case you misplace your credit card.
Be sure to meticulously maintain a copy of travel receipts. Most credit card travel coverage requires that you paid for your travel with that specific credit card. Maintain receipts for all travel purchased to prove that you paid for your trip with that specific credit card.
In The Event Of A Loss
In the event of a travel-related loss, DOCUMENT EVERYTHING.
The importance of this step cannot be overstated and could make or break the success of your claim. In California, insureds generally have the burden to prove their claim. The more you have documenting your claim, the more it helps prove it.
COMMON PITFALL #1: Not documenting your loss.
Documenting a loss includes (non-exhaustive list):
- providing contact information and your credit card number to prove you are the cardholder;
- keeping copies of all rental agreements, receipts, emails, text messages, app notifications, etc.;
- photographing / videoing damage to luggage or a rented vehicle;
- compiling a list of items that were in lost or stolen luggage and their value, a good to do before you travel;
- obtaining receipts and records for medical treatment, including letters limiting the ability to travel; and
- preparing a detailed timeline of events from the beginning of your travel to the time of the loss, and sometimes after.
Filing A Claim
Filing a claim should be done promptly and can generally be done over the phone or online.
COMMON PITFALL #2: Not filing a claim promptly.
Contact information and instructions for filing a claim can likely be found in your guide to benefits. You may also be able to call the number on the back of your card.
COMMON PITFALL #3: Not seeking advice.
Before filing a claim, consider speaking with an insurance attorney.
Not all attorneys spend their days in court or involved in lawsuits. Many attorneys, like myself, help clients without a lawsuit being filed at all. In fact, my practice mainly includes working with clients and insurance companies to resolve claims without the need for lawsuits and courtrooms.
Speaking with an insurance attorney before filing a claim has many benefits, such as advising whether or not there may be coverage, highlighting key terms and provisions, and advising of common pitfalls to avoid. If you decide to hire an insurance attorney, he or she can likely file your claim for you.
COMMON PITFALL #4: Saying the wrong thing.
Be careful what you say. When a claim is filed over the phone, the calls are likely recorded. When you file a claim online, all documents submitted are likely saved. It is critical to be truthful and detailed when reporting a claim.
But remember that anything you say and the documents you submit can and likely will be used to investigate coverage for your loss. This is important when filing a claim and remains so during the entire claim process.
Having an attorney handle your claim, or at least speaking with an attorney before filing a claim, can come in handy here.
Credit card travel insurance benefits are carefully-worded contracts and certain words may trigger or exclude coverage. Many ordinary words are terms of art in the travel insurance context and can carry a different meaning. This is particularly difficult when certain terms are undefined in the policy.
Once a claim is filed, an investigation will be launched. Although your credit card travel insurance benefits are provided through a credit card company, they are generally underwritten by an insurance company. The coverage investigation will therefore likely be handled by a third-party adjusting company or the insurance company that underwrote the policy.
The coverage investigation may involve a verbal, and likely recorded, statement and the submission of documents. This is where a detailed timeline and proper documentation of your claim simplifies and may expedite the claim process.
COMMON PITFALL #5: Not submitting documentation.
Claims handlers will likely ask you for multiple rounds of documents. It may be helpful to submit documents as you get them and advise that you are working on getting the rest.
COMMON PITFALL #6: Do not delay.
Stay in constant communication. If you cannot obtain a critical document, you may want to let the claim handler know and ask for help. Sometimes they can help you obtain certain documents or let you know that they are actually not necessary to complete their investigation.
COMMON PITFALL #7: Not following up.
Claims handlers are busy. They may not get back to you for days or even weeks after you submit documents. Follow up! Sometimes being the most persistent insured gets you more attention and your claim resolved quicker. But always be kind and respectful—claims handlers are just doing their job.
In the event your claim is denied, do not give up all hope. You may be able to file a written appeal.
COMMON PITFALL #8: Not appealing claim denials.
A denial is not necessarily final. Ask for and read a denial letter. Maybe the insurance company is missing a key piece of information or documentation. Or maybe their facts are inaccurate. You will not know until you read an actual denial letter.
If you disagree with a denial letter, you may ask for a call to discuss. Remain calm and polite, but ask questions, present additional evidence (proper documentation is key) and inquire if the decision can be reversed or further investigated.
Insurance companies can be large and have many levels of claims handlers. If your initial claim handler is not budging, ask to speak with his or her superior. If verbal discussions and/or submitting additional information and documents do not get you anywhere, you may file a written appeal.
Appeals may be handled by a different claim handler or department and could result in a different outcome. You will never know unless you try.
COMMON PITFALL #9: Not seeking additional advice.
If you believe your claim was wrongfully denied before or after an appeal, seek advice again. Claims handlers are not lawyers and their interpretation of an insurance policy may not be in accordance with the law of your state.
Insurance attorneys can perform their own analysis of your claim and do the legal research necessary to determine the merits of your claim and whether it is worthwhile to pursue your claim further, via litigation or otherwise. In a lawsuit, it may be possible to recover more than your out-of-pocket losses if an insurance company acted in bad faith during its handling of your claim.
Be sure to speak with an attorney who is qualified to handle insurance claims and is licensed to practice law in your state.
The information contained in this guide is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. The services of a competent attorney licensed to practice in the relevant jurisdiction should be sought if legal or other specific assistance is required. Any unauthorized use of material contained herein is at the user’s own risk.
Landon Greene is licensed to practice law in the State of California. Mr. Greene does not employ this guide to solicit the business of anyone in any state where use of this website may not be in compliance with any law or ethical rule.
Some jurisdictions may consider this guide to constitute attorney advertising. Hiring an attorney is an important decision that should not be made solely on advertising or on self-proclaimed expertise. Rather, an independent evaluation of a lawyer should be made prior to hiring. Mr. Greene does not offer any guarantees with regard to the outcome of any legal matter. Prior results in other claims / matters do not guarantee a similar outcome in a subsequent claim / matter.
The content of this guide contains general information and may not reflect current legal developments. Mr. Greene expressly disclaims all liability with respect to actions taken or not taken based on any or all the contents of this guide. Any information sent to Mr. Greene via e-mail is not secure, is done so on a non-confidential basis, and does not constitute or create an attorney-client relationship.
Mr. Greene does not necessarily endorse, sponsor, or approve, and is not responsible for, any third-party content that may be accessed through this guide.