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Travel Insurance Coverage For A Natural Disaster – The Things You Should Know

Travel Insurance Coverage For A Natural Disaster – The Things You Should Know

We cannot speak for all the travel insurance companies, but this article gives you information on travel insurance coverage for natural disasters. What is written in this article holds true for most travel insurance companies in the USA, including detailed notes from Allianz Travel Insurance. A natural disaster often means something like a large fire, a large flood, an earthquake, volcanic eruption or hurricane. Here are the things you should know about getting travel insurance coverage for a natural disaster.

Defining A Natural Disaster

Your travel insurance company will probably define a natural disaster an extreme environmental event, or an extreme weather event. To be a natural disaster, it has to be a large-scale event, which means numerous people are affected in one way or another.

A large-scale event must damage property, disrupt utilities and disrupt transport. Otherwise, it must endanger people. In many cases, a large-scale event will endanger people, and it will disrupt or destroy.

The Endanger Enigma

Be careful when you play the “Endanger” card because we have seen many cases where the word “Endanger” is often used to the benefit of the insurance company.

One example we saw most recently was through a terrorist bomb threat within a tourist area in a city. The occupants of a hotel were told to clear out for a day, but the travel insurance company didn’t pay for the lost day because the hotel was not within the zone that had been cordoned off. One may argue that the policy holders should have been paid for missing a day in their hotel, but the claimants highlighted the fact that they were “Endangered,” so the travel insurance company grabbed their opportunity not to pay. If the claimants had made a bigger issue of the hotel staff not allowing guest back into the building, and had provided proof of their claim, they would have been paid in this case, but they tried to prove they were endangered and the travel insurance company wiggled out of paying.

By all means, if your policy covers you for being endangered by a natural disaster, then claim for it, just make sure you can prove you were endangered, and show proof of everything else that happened too, such as your driver refusing to pick you up, and/or your hotel locking all the guests out, and so forth.

Your Plan Will Not Cover Natural Disasters

Travel insurance is supposed to pay out if you take a loss due to unexpected events. Even though large-scale environmental or weather events may be unexpected, they are rarely covered in a standard travel insurance policy. In most cases, you need to buy extra insurance that covers natural disasters. For example, some people buy trip-interruption insurance that covers them against floods and fire. For example, you may buy travel insurance to go skiing that also includes cover against storms and avalanches.

Most Travel Insurance Policies Do Not Cover Natural Disasters

A standard travel insurance policy will not cover natural disasters. If you are looking for that sort of thing, then you will either have to buy a policy that is specifically for a certain type of natural disaster, or you will have to buy a policy that compensates you for natural disasters. For example, travel delay insurance, cancellation coverage, and trip Interruption coverage will often have some sort of protection against natural disasters.

That Is Where I Learned To Mistrust Comparison Websites

Even without the help of our research team, I have seen the flaws in comparison websites. I have looked up insurance such as travel delay insurance, cancellation coverage, and trip Interruption coverage, and the cheapest often specify that they do not cover against a set of listed natural disasters. Pick the cheapest on comparison websites, and you are almost guaranteed to have no travel insurance coverage for a natural disaster.

When Cheap Policies Are Presented To You, Ask What You Are “Not” Getting

I would say you should read the small print if you are looking to buy travel insurance coverage for a natural disaster, but few people are actually going to pour over all the details before buying. Instead, I suggest that if you are hoping to buy travel insurance coverage for a natural disaster, and yet your insurance quote is rather cheap, then check to see where you are not covered. Find out why they are able to charge such a low prices; it is usually because you are getting the royal screw-job.

It Has To Be A Large-Scale Event Causing Damage/Disruption Or Endangering Human Life

Not every environmental event or major weather event counts as a natural disaster. For example, a hurricane may disrupt your vacation because it brings heavy rain, yet you couldn’t claim for that disruption on the grounds that it was a natural disaster.

Insurance Companies Are More Likely To Pay Claims When A Disaster Is Declared/Announced

A natural disaster must be announced. For example, in the USA, a natural disaster may be announced by a state or territory in order for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to start managing the disaster. If things are very bad to the point where local services cannot help, then the president of the USA may declare/announce a disaster.

The problem is that you are visiting another country, and they all have their own methods and protocols for announcing a natural disaster. Why does this matter? It matters because there are people who have tried to make a claim for a natural disaster who have had their claims denied because the natural disaster was not announced or declared by authorities.

Natural Disasters And Trip Cancellation Coverage

Trip cancellation insurance will repay you for prepaid trip costs and non-refundable costs if you have to cancel your trip before you leave. In that case, trip cancellation insurance should cover you against natural disasters. In my opinion, there are several good reasons why you should buy trip cancellation insurance, but there are also several circumstances where I wouldn’t recommend buying trip cancellation insurance. I have written an article on the reasons why you shouldn’t buy trip cancellation insurance.

No Name, Stronger Claim

Trip cancellation insurance will not cover you for a natural disaster if the natural disaster is named prior to you buying your travel insurance. For example, if a hurricane is blowing around somewhere and it is named, and you buy trip cancellation insurance, you cannot claim if you need to cancel. This counts for any named disaster, and it counts even if the disaster was unexpected.

For example, if hurricane Sally is roaming around New York, and you visit Cuba, and Sally decides to change course and destroy Cuba, your claim will not be paid. Nobody would have expected hurricane Sally to skip off and destroy Cuba during your vacation, but you cannot claim because the hurricane was named prior to you booking your insurance. Those are not the only cases where travel insurance is a wasted investment, as shown in this article called, “Scenarios where travel insurance is useless.”

How Not To Pay When You Don’t Need To

If your trip has a refund policy regarding natural disasters, then maybe you should avoid getting trip cancellation insurance. If the travel company you are using has a very generous refunds policy, then getting trip cancellation insurance may be overkill because there is no way your travel insurance company will pay.

When you make a claim for the natural disaster, the first thing your travel insurance company will research is if you can get a refund. In fact, if your travel insurance company is cheap enough, they will make you prove you “Cannot” get a refund prior to checking your claim. If you can get a refund for all/most of your trip, then your trip cancellation insurance will not pay your claim. I give a fuller example in my article called, “Why Is Travel Insurance So Expensive? Can I Cheat It Cheaper?

Trip Cancellation Coverage – Find Out What “Uninhabitable” Means

Before giving a few examples surrounding natural disasters and trip cancellation insurance, let us first consider what “Uninhabitable” means. Each travel insurance company has its own meaning for the word “Uninhabitable,” and this is because it is a term that is just vague enough to allow a travel insurance company to wiggle out of paying your claim. Here is a fair definition of “Uninhabitable.”

Uninhabitable Means:
Uninhabitable, in terms of a natural disaster, is when fire, wind or flood does enough damage to make a reasonable person find their destination or home unfit for use or inaccessible.

That is the definition for natural disasters, and it counts for both your destination and your home. If your home burns down and becomes uninhabitable, then that is a good enough reason to cancel your trip. Some travel insurance companies have similar policies for non-natural disaster events, such as burglary. For example, Allianz Travel Insurance offers trip cancellation insurance that allows you to cancel your trip if your home is burgled or vandalized so much that a reasonable person would find it unfit for use or inaccessible (aka uninhabitable).

Uninhabitable Also Means:
A destination (your hotel/apartment/etc.) or a home may be considered uninhabitable if a natural disaster causes the extended loss of gas, power or water.

To reiterate, most travel insurance companies that sell trip cancellation insurance are going to cover your home and your destination. Obviously, if your intended hotel is smashed to pieces by a hurricane, and a suitable replacement cannot be found, and you are not given a refund, then your trip cancellation insurance will pay up.

Trip cancellation insurance often includes the destruction of your home as a fair reason for canceling your trip. If your home is smashed to pieces by a hurricane, then that too is also deemed a fit reason to cancel your trip and have your claim paid.

Ask Yourself If These Apply

I have said it in previous travel insurance articles and I will say it again, your travel insurance company is always the last to pay. With that in mind, ask yourself these questions when submitting your claim for travel insurance coverage for a natural disaster.

  • Was the place rendered uninhabitable because of a natural disaster?

For example, there are many occasions where the hotel manager is the one stopping you from getting into your hotel and not the natural disaster itself. This confuses some claimants because they go out of their way to prove it was a natural disaster, when really they need proof that their hotel manager was the one making the hotel inaccessible.

  • Was it actually a side-effect of the natural disaster that rendered my place uninhabitable?

If your trip, destination, or home was ruined and/or rendered uninhabitable as a side-effect of a natural disaster, then there is a chance you will not be paid. For example, if a hurricane knocks out power to your destination airport and your flight is canceled, there is a chance you will not be paid. On the other hand, if a hurricane knocks out power in your destination hotel and it is off continually for 24 hours or more, then you may be able to claim on your travel insurance.

  • Can you get a refund for all or part of your trip?

Don’t run straight to your travel insurance company. Try to get refunds for as much as you can if you decide to cancel your trip. If you exhaust all refund possibilities, and/or if you receive partial refunds, then your claim will be processed faster. If there is a chance that another company may refund you, then your travel insurance company will either reject your claim, or will ask that you try getting refunds before filing your claim.

  • Will your other insurance policies pay up first?

Your travel insurance company will always pay last. For example, if your home is rendered uninhabitable because of a natural disaster, and you have to cancel your trip, make sure your home insurance or another insurance policy will not pay you for the trip before you make a claim to your travel insurance company. Are there other insurance policies that may cover your losses for the trip cancellation, and if so, you need to approach them first and prove you were refused before you try your travel insurance claim.

  • Will anybody else pay up first?

As unfair as it sounds, there are people who have had their claims denied because they could have got their money back from other companies (including credit card companies). Sometimes, places such as hotels will cancel your room simply because they do not want to risk the liability of you getting injured if the natural disaster gets worse. In such cases, there are hotels that refuse to give refunds because their booking contracts/agreements do not force them to. However, canceling for such a wishy-washy reason is often enough grounds to contest the payment on your credit card and have the credit card repay your money for you. That is just one way that another person may pay before your travel insurance company will.

  • Did your policy actually include natural disasters?

I am not screwing around with you on this one. There are plenty of low-cost travel insurance policies that people have bought from comparison websites because they were the lowest, and they have not covered natural disasters. Just because your policy says it includes trip cancellation insurance, it doesn’t mean natural disasters are covered. What is more insidious is that some cheap travel insurance companies will count things such as hurricanes, earth quakes, and volcanos as natural disasters, but they will not count wild fires and flood as natural disasters, which leaves people thinking they are covered for all natural disasters when they are only covered for a few of them.

  • Could you have recovered or found another way to take your trip?

People are sometimes horrified to hear that their trip cancellation insurance is not going to pay their claim for canceling because the airline or hotel offered a suitable replacement. For example, people who have had flights canceled due to storms are often offered alternative methods for arriving at their destination. If the airline/travel company can get you there within 24 hours of your planned arrival time, and you turn it down and cancel your trip, then your travel insurance company may not pay your claim.

Trip Cancellation Coverage – Wildfire Example

Let’s say that a wildfire burns down your home, and your travel insurance covers you for natural disasters, then this may be enough to have your claim paid if you decide to cancel your trip. If your home becomes uninhabitable, then that is enough reason for you to cancel your trip and get your money back under the terms of your trip cancellation insurance for natural disasters.

On a similar note, if your hotel or vacation apartment is burnt down by wildfire so that it is uninhabitable, and the vacation company cannot find you a reasonable replacement, and they will not give you a refund, then you may be able to make a claim under the terms of your trip cancellation insurance for natural disasters.

Trip Cancellation Coverage – Volcano Example

Let’s say that a volcano erupts and forces the cancellation of all flights heading to your destination. If there are no flights to your destination for the duration of your intended stay, then you have a very strong claim if you bought trip cancellation insurance that includes natural disasters.

If a volcano erupts and all flights are canceled, and a replacement flight cannot be found, and you cannot get to your destination within 24 to 48 hours of your original arrival time, then you may be able to claim if you bought trip cancellation insurance that includes natural disasters.

To clarify, let us say that your intended arrival time was 10am on Wednesday, but the volcano has disrupted flights and the replacement flight cannot get you there until 11am on Thursday, then you are behind schedule by 25 hours, which means you may be able to claim if you bought trip cancellation insurance that includes natural disasters.

Beware Of The Loophole – As you are probably aware, insurance companies create more loopholes than a crocheting champion, and there are plenty of loopholes with this scenario. Here are a few loopholes you may encounter:

  • Your travel insurance company says your trip needs to be delayed by 48 hours before you cancel rather than 24 hours.
  • The travel insurance company says you may only claim if your trip is over 24 hours delayed and your intended trip duration is four days or fewer.
  • Some travel insurance companies say that you cannot claim if a natural disaster delays your flights because that is trip interruption and not a reason to cancel your trip.
  • You cannot claim if your travel carrier gets you to within the city limits of your original destination, even if your original destination is miles and miles away from where your travel carrier dropped you.

Trip Cancellation Coverage – Flood Example

Let’s say that you were planning a tour of a historic river that is flooded over and deemed too dangerous by authorities. Your tour guide and travel company cancels on you prior to your departure. In this case, you may be able to file a successful claim for trip cancellation. The trouble is that one may expect such a tour to be refundable. Plus, there are some circumstances where you may not be able to file a claim unless it is a multi-day tour.

There are many occasions where events within your trip are not covered. If you lumped the river tour in with your trip cancellation insurance policy, then you may be able to file a successful claim. However, in most circumstances, you are not able to file a claim for things that happen within your trip. For example, let’s say you were planning to take a free seminar course, but you are told before your departure that it is canceled because of flooding. If you were to cancel your trip, you would be unable to claim on your trip cancellation insurance because the flooding didn’t affect your flights or your hotel. Even though your reason for taking the trip has disappeared unexpectedly, the travel insurance company has no reason to pay your claim.

Trip Cancellation Coverage – Hurricane Example

There are quite a few negative reviews about travel insurance companies that were born from frustration about a hurricane. Let’s say you book a vacation and take out travel insurance, and then a hurricane hits just before you were to set off and it disrupts your flight or makes your hotel inhospitable. Let’s also assume your vacation has no refunds, you couldn’t get suitable replacement flights or hotel rooms. In this case, you are likely file a successful claim; especially if the hurricane is named after you take out your travel insurance policy.

Here is a similar hurricane example where you would lose your claim. There is a named hurricane in the same region as your planned vacation, but it has not hit your planned vacation area. You book your vacation and take out travel insurance, but the hurricane moves and hits your planned destination before you arrive. In this case, you will not be able to file a successful claim with your travel insurance company because the hurricane that destroyed your vacation was already named when you took out your policy.

Here is another hurricane example where you would lose your claim. You buy your vacation and take out travel insurance, but nearer the date of your vacation, there is a hurricane forecast for your area. If you call and cancel your vacation, you will not be paid for your claim from your trip cancellation insurance. No travel insurance company will pay you for canceling your vacation/trip based on a forecast. There are some exceptions to this rule, such as:

  • If the authorities/government orders a mandatory evacuation 24 hours before you are due to depart for your vacation, then that is an acceptable reason to cancel your vacation/trip.
  • If the authorities/government has a mandatory evacuation in effect 24 hours before you are due to depart for your vacation, then that is an acceptable reason to cancel your vacation/trip too.
  • A mandatory evacuation due to a natural disaster that affects your flight or your accommodation may be suitable grounds to cancel your trip.
  • If the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) or overseas equivalent issues a hurricane, typhoon or cyclone warning at your trip’s destination as many as 24 hours before your departure (or while you are taking/on your trip), then that is an acceptable reason to cancel your vacation/trip too.

Be careful with the details of your circumstances and call your travel insurance company before canceling because what some deem as suitable canceling reasons, others will deem a simple trip interruption. Remember that you must have purchased your travel insurance policy before the warning or evacuation order was given. The same is true with all natural disasters, especially with natural disasters that are named such as hurricanes and storms.

Natural Disasters And Trip Interruption Coverage

Some people buy travel insurance coverage for a natural disaster, and sometimes it includes trip cancellation insurance, and sometimes it includes trip interruption insurance, and sometimes it includes cover, cancellation cover and trip interruption cover.

If a natural disaster delays your trip (there or back), then trip interruption coverage may come to your rescue, but beware that cancellation cover and interruption cover may differ by just a few hours. For example, if your flight is delayed by 12 hours or fewer, then it is an interruption, whereas if it is delayed by 12+ or 24+ hours, then it may be covered by cancellation insurance.

Already There When The Disaster Hits

If you are already on your trip and a natural disaster strikes, then that is where trip interruption insurance benefits will kick in. Don’t forget that some secondary effects of natural disasters may be claimed for with your trip interruption insurance, such as if your hotel loses power constantly for a period of time so that your hotel becomes uninhabitable. There are many overlapping circumstances where trip interruption may cover you if your trip cancellation insurance doesn’t, these include:

  • If your home becomes uninhabitable
  • If your destination stay becomes uninhabitable
  • Your travel carrier causes a 24+ hour delay
  • Your destination has a NOAA warning/mandatory evacuation issued
  • If you miss 50% of your trip/vacation because of a natural disaster

Trip interruption is not just about paying claims for interruptions. There are also benefits such as paying for extra expenses that you incur. The most typical are extra transportation costs that you had to pay out that you wouldn’t have paid out if the natural disaster had not happened. Travel insurance companies also tag on their own benefits to their trip interruption policies, such as how Allianz Travel Insurance offers 24-hour Emergency Assistance phone lines where they help you make new travel arrangements if you are stuck due to a trip interruption.

Quickly Covering Travel Delay Coverage

Many travel insurance companies lump travel delay cover in with their trip interruption cover. However, there are many travel insurance companies that have plans where travel delays are explicitly mentioned. In such cases, a travel insurance company may offer benefits for people who are delayed by a minimum amount of time. If a natural disaster means you are delayed by a certain amount of time and you have to pay for extra expenses, then the plan may help you cover those expense.

For example, with OneTrip Prime, or One Trip Premier Plan, with Allianz, they have a specified “Trip delay” segment in their contracts where they will pay you $100 per day for covered travel delays where you only need to prove your delay. You will not need to prove your delay-related purchases with receipts.

Quickly Covering Natural Disasters And Medical Coverage

I am covering this quickly because if you have taken out travel insurance with medical insurance lumped in there, then it shouldn’t matter if the injury or illness was caused by a natural disaster or not. There are very few (if any) travel insurance companies that will reimburse you more for injuries caused by natural disasters. In most cases, if you have travel insurance that has medical insurance, then your insurance will cover any injuries or illnesses regardless of if they had anything to do with a natural disaster.

The only place where natural disasters makes an impact on your travel insurance claim is if your injury or illness was caused by risky behavior. For example, if a flood contaminates your drinking water without you knowing it, and you become ill, then your travel insurance should cover your medical costs. However, if you are trying to take photographs of wildfires and you become injured, then your travel insurance will probably not pay your claim. Travel insurance companies will not pay out if they think you were taking part in high risk behavior. They are often smart enough to know if you were tornado chasing or trying to record video of real-flowing lava.

Sorry, But Whoofi Goldberg Is Not Covered

Small dog in a traveling bag

A natural disaster has to endanger human life. It doesn’t count if it endangers your pet’s life, or even if it takes your pet’s life. Is there even travel insurance for pets? I hope so. I hate seeing those YouTube videos during floods and hurricanes where people throw pets into the water and then video the “dramatic rescue” of the pet to become temporary Internet stars.

A Final Shout-Out To Allianz

As I mentioned in the introduction, a fair portion of our information came from the professional advisers at Allianz, and they didn’t charge us for their time or information, so the least we can do is give them a shout-out on our website. Here is a link to the Allianz Travel Insurance website, so if you are thinking about getting travel insurance, then at least give them a look. They are the biggest travel insurance company in the USA, so they must be doing something right.

About The Author

Ash The Great

After a varied career in different industries from the hospitality industry to the financial consultancy industry, Ash now spends his days working as a professional writer.

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