We are living in uncertain, anxious times, where handwashing is at the forefront of our daily activities. Health experts have urged us to wash our hands for 20 seconds, even suggesting songs to sing while performing this ablution.
“Happy Birthday” was suggested at first, but my own preference leans toward unsingable (at least by me) Sleater-Kinney (last 20 seconds of “Youth Decay”) or Ben Folds Five (chorus of “Song for the Dumped”). No wonder no one wants to hear me sing!
Without delving into my musical taste, the future of the virus, our government’s response, or anything remotely political, one story I saw in the paper recently made me think about travel insurance generally.
Most of us are aware of travel insurance, although not that many people actually pay for it. Typically, people rationalize not buying the insurance by figuring that if they have the money to travel, they can afford to lose the money allocated for travel.
My wife and I recently cancelled a planned trip due to concerns of spreading the virus to aging relatives we were going to visit. We had not taken out travel insurance. However, we were able to procure refunds on most of the costs of the airplane tickets, and nearly everything for Airbnb accommodations, car rental, and similar expenses.
It will not always work out that way. It may be a good idea to purchase travel insurance, especially for major trips (like an African Safari or a two-week trip to Asia).
But be aware that travel insurance, like other types of insurance, will not cover everything!
I started thinking about travel insurance recently, after I read an article about a Chicago Public School student and her father who had paid $4,500 for a trip to see the WWII battlefields in Northern France. The trip was organized in a partnership between CPS and a private travel company. They purchased travel insurance through that company.
Due to travel concerns about the coronavirus (COVID-19), the trip was cancelled. The father and student assumed they would be refunded their money. But they were told that cancellations due to a public health emergency are not covered.
Even if they were able to obtain a voucher for a future trip, the father mused that it would not do his daughter much good, since next year she’ll already be in college. He also does not trust the trip vendor will remain solvent as claims come in from trips cancelled on account of the virus.
There is another group of CPS students who were supposed to travel to Greece who also are trying to get refunds. They have been told that CPS is working with the trip organizers to “make them whole.”
If you read my recent blog about Acts of God, you know that insurance policies are written specifically to exclude as many things as possible, thus increasing the profit of the insurance company. It is the entire point of selling insurance — make a gamble that you will take in more money than you pay out.
The problem is that many consumers fail to understand the specifics of what their insurance actually covers — and what it does not cover. This disconnect is yet another reason why I continue to recommend, whenever possible, purchasing insurance from an independent broker.
This is great advice in every situation.
But what if you are a harried parent trying to send your senior in high school on that “once in a lifetime trip,” while simultaneously preparing dinner, driving your other kid to soccer practice, and keeping an eye on your work emails?
Are you really going to read that travel insurance policy? Probably not.
Would you have the time to request the policy and read it? Unlikely.
Well then, what should you do before spending $4,500 on that trip?
At the very least, understand that travel insurance, like most other insurance, does not cover every eventuality. It is never a panacea. There are no panaceas to a pandemic. Much like the “Act of God” gust of wind that blows a tree down on your neighbor’s house, your insurance policy might not cover every eventuality or situation.
Needless to say, there are plenty of people wondering how a private entity can offer travel insurance that doesn’t cover one of the major reasons a trip may be cancelled. There are also many people questioning why the various state, local, and national authorities have not stepped in to require the insurance industry to cover these scenarios.
I suspect there will be plenty of litigation arising out of these situations, which could inform what regulatory agencies and legislators do in the future. In the meantime, it is just one more part of our life that has been upended by this global pandemic.
As in all cases involving injury and potential liability, if you have been hit by a vehicle, immediately get medical treatment, report the crash to police and your own insurance company, and contact a lawyer with expertise in your type of case, such as auto accidents, bicycle accidents, or pedestrians hit by cars.
If you've been in an accident and have questions, contact Chicago personal injury attorney Stephen L. Hoffman for a free consultation at (773) 944-9737. Stephen has nearly 30 years of legal experience and has collected millions of dollars for his clients. He is listed as a SuperLawyer, has a 10.0 rating on Avvo, and is BBB A+ accredited. He is also an Executive Level Member of the Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce.
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