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Get falling-down drunk on your hols and your insurance may be wiped out

Robin Bowman

Robin Bowman
Jan 31, 2018

If your idea of a great holiday is sun, sangria and… a siesta – well, you might want to reconsider the sangria.

At least you might want to at least limit your intake.

Drink too much, and you could find your travel insurance won’t pay out on a claim, holiday revellers are being warned.

The Financial Ombudsman has issued the warning in its latest newsletter – advising that insurers are within their rights to turn down a claim if the claimant was drinking to excess.


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The ombudsman highlights several cases as advice to anyone going away this summer.


All night session

A man who stumbled and cracked his head after “drinking all night” was refused on a claim – and the ombudsman agreed this was fair.

Another claimant slipped in a nightclub’s toilets after having had a drink on holiday was also refused his claim – but in this case the ombudsman said it should have been met.

The message, it says, is drink by all means, but don’t go bonkers!

The cases have been highlighted by the ombudsman demonstrate how it’s important to check the small print when taking out travel insurance.

But it stresses, you don't have to be stone-cold sober to win a claim. And it is up to the insurer to show that you were drunk if they dispute a claim.


Excessive boozing

Lots of travel insurance policies include a phrase about claims being refused if an accident is caused by ‘excessive alcohol’. What’s excessive, though, is going to be a matter of opinion.

It comes down to what seems reasonable.

The ombudsman looked at almost 900 complaints about travel insurance claims from last year, just during the last three months of the year.

"Insurers may choose not to pay out if they believe someone's been drinking excessively, although this doesn't necessarily mean holidays should be totally alcohol-free," said chief financial ombudsman Caroline Wayman.

"In each case, we'll need to carefully weigh up all the evidence to decide, on balance, whether the insurer has made the right call.

"Encouragingly, compared with recent years, we're generally upholding fewer travel insurance complaints. This suggests, while there is still clearly work to do, that many insurers are increasingly treating their customers in a fair and reasonable way."

When an insurer claims a claimant was drunk at the time of an incident, the ombudsman, if it gets involved, will decide ‘on balance’ which is most likely.

In one case it draws attention to, the claimant’s medical records from the local hospital referred to "acute alcohol intoxication". Proof, it was decided, that the claim could be refused.

The record also said the claimant wasn’t able to sign a form when he arrived at the hospital.


21 million holidaymakers

The ombudsman said figures show more than 21.9 million people from the UK went on summer holidays abroad in 2017.

These led to 3,000 complaints over travel insurance claims that reached the ombudsman.

In 60% of cases, it ruled in favour of the insurance companies.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) said: "Travel insurance is a lifeline for people who run into trouble overseas, with insurers paying out more than a million pounds every day.

"More than half of this funds emergency medical treatment for people who have been badly injured or have fallen seriously ill. As with any insurance, customers do have a responsibility not to behave recklessly.

"Insurers know people will likely want to drink alcohol while they are on holiday and they don't expect you to stay sober all the time, but there is a danger of invalidating your cover if you drink so much that it makes you act dangerously or means you are out of control."

The financial ombudsman dealt with 81,647 cases between October and December last year. Over 50% were over the mis-selling of payment protection insurance.


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