Money Grouse: Travel insurance did not go very far for pensioner

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The Independent Online
BEFORE you pack your suitcase for your summer holiday, take heed of the distressing experience of Nancy Thomas, who has fallen foul of the wording in her travel insurance policy.

In April last year, Mrs Thomas booked an Aegean Turkey cruise with the travel company, Voyages Jules Verne.

She took out the travel insurance suggested by the travel company. The insurer was IGI Insurance of Nottingham. Four weeks before Mrs Thomas was due to travel on 29 August, she cancelled her holiday: her brother-in-law had developed terminal cancer.

Mrs Thomas said: 'In no way could, or would, I have left my sister while he (her husband) was so ill. He died the next day. On the instructions of the travel company, I wrote to the insurers on 2 August, asking for a return of my deposit of pounds 1,083.'

The insurance company refused to pay. The policy did not extend to cancellation due to the death or illness of a brother-in-law.

If her spouse, parent, parent-in-law, grandparent, child, grandchild, brother, sister, or even close business colleague had died or was ill the policy would have paid out. As sisters were covered, Mrs Thomas then asked IGI to consider a claim based on her sister's ill health.

'My sister's doctor wrote that my presence was essential given the strain she was under and the sense of shock and grief she experienced when her husband died so unexpectedly.'

IGI also turned that down. It said that the claim was not submitted on that basis. In any event it would not have been paid as the policy is 'clearly subject to an exclusion of mental illness, anxiety or depression'.

Mrs Thomas is a pensioner and the holiday was to be the trip of a lifetime. Voyages Jules Verne has paid her about pounds 500 towards her lost deposit, but IGI is adamant that she has no claim that is admissible under the insurance.

IGI does offer other policies without these upsetting lists of relatives. According to a spokesman, cancellation cover varies from 'causes beyond the control of the insured' in some policies to very specific reasons for cancellation in others. However, mental illness is always excluded.

Before you buy a travel insurance policy, ask to read it first. Lists of dying relatives and exclusions for mental illness should be avoided, if possible.

Norwich Union, which provides cover for Thomson holidays, said that cancellation due to any cause beyond the control of the insured would be considered. Exceptions included things like strikes and acts of government.

The Norwich Union Holiday Plus policy, sold to individual travellers, covers cancellation caused by the death or illness of 'any relative'. Mental illness is covered provided it is certified by a doctor.

Commercial Union considers claims for cancellation for any 'fortuitous cause'. The policy also covers mental illness, provided it is not a previously diagnosed anxiety state.

Write to Money Grouse, The Independent, 40 City Road, London EC1Y 2DB. Please do not send SAEs or original documents as we cannot guarantee to deal with every letter personally.

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