What do you think is the biggest reason for people to claim on their travel insurance? A cancelled trip? Or maybe lost luggage?

In fact, costly medical expenses made up a majority of the £385 million claims paid by UK insurance companies in 2017, new figures have revealed.

A total of 159,000 travellers received insurance pay-outs last year to cover medical expenses, with an average of nearly £1,300, at a total cost to insurers of £201 million.

According to the Association of British Insurers (ABI), which provided the figures, one Brit required £90,000 of treatment for a fractured rib and punctured lung, whilst another required a £20,000 pay-out to treat a blocked intestine. Even a smaller injury, such as damage to a knee ligament, cost as much as £3,800 to treat, the ABI said.

Rise in trip cancellations 

The travel insurance pay-out total of £385m in 2017 was the highest since 2010, when £455m was paid out after airlines were severely disrupted by the ash clouds caused by eruptions of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano. 

The number of claims also increased, by 30,000 to 510,000, which was largely driven by an 11% increase in the value of claims for trip cancellations, from £130 million to £145 million.

The ABI said this increase was driven by airline disruption – which included BA’s late May bank holiday weekend IT failure – bad weather at home and abroad, as well as the rising cost of family holidays.

Delayed or lost baggage and money accounted for a further 86,000 travel insurance pay-outs last year, worth a total of £17 million.

Charlie Campbell, the ABI’s policy adviser for travel, said: “Medical expenses can often cost tens of thousands of pounds, whilst the large increase in cancellation claims shows just how important it is to purchase your cover as early as possible. Our question to consumers today is: can you afford to not have travel insurance?” 

Travel insurance tips

The ABI advises that people buy their travel insurance as soon as they book their holiday, rather than leaving it to the last minute. It also recommends:

  • Shop around: travel insurance policies vary to suit different needs, and the cheapest policy may not cover all that you need.
  • Ensure you have a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) when travelling in Europe: it’s free and gives you access to state-provided healthcare available to a resident. But, it’s not a substitute for having travel insurance as it will not cover all medical costs, or the cost of emergency repatriation back to the UK. 
  • Take care and stay safe: drink alcohol responsibility, check safety before taking part in any activity, and follow laws and customs. Generally, travel insurance policies will not cover accidents if someone has not taken reasonable care or had excessive amounts of alcohol.
  • Check the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) travel advice and information pages for your destination before you travel.
  • Tell your insurer about any medical conditions when you take out a travel insurance policy.
  • Know how to contact your insurer if you need to: take note of their emergency phone number. 
To find out more about insurance cover go to Solved.