Travel Insurance for Hurricane Coverage – Timing is everything

Hurricane Irma slams into the Caribbean

Many of the Caribbean Islands, and the Florida Keys were wiped out by Hurricane Irma.   But this was just the first of many to come.  Hurricanes are coming in record breaking strength.  Meteorologists attribute these unusually large storms as the result of warmer water from global warming.   They don’t expect this trend to diminish.   When category 1 storms were the norm, clean up was fairly easy and fairly quick.  The threat of these storms actually ruining a vacation were fairly slim.  If category 3 to 5 storms are now the norm, complete islands are being stripped of inhabitable buildings, water, food, and electricity.   If you are traveling to regions that could experience tropical storms, you need to get travel insurance.   But what are the restrictions, and how do these plans actually protect you?   Most don’t realize that timing is everything when it comes to hurricane protection.  The sooner you buy the travel insurance plan, the better the coverage for named hurricanes.

Travel insurance coverage for a hurricane is restricted to plans purchased before the tropical storm is named.   Once the storm has a name, it is considered a known risk, and you cannot buy insurance to cover a known risk.   The travel insurance company will compare your purchase date with the date the storm was named.  If you purchased before it was named, you are covered.   If purchased after, they will refuse the claim.  This prevents people from buying insurance when they realize that a storm may wipe out the island they are visiting and they already know they are filing a claim.  You need to buy the plan before the risk exists so that you are covered in the event a storm appears.

Travel insurance plans have two general features for hurricane protection – hurricane warning and inclement weather coverage, and hurricane destruction of your home or destination.  Check the policy declarations to make sure you get both of these protections.  US Fire’s Gold plan features both of these protections:

Your Destination Is Rendered Uninhabitable

Your or Your Traveling Companion’s primary place of residence or destination being rendered uninhabitable by fire, flood, burglary or other Natural Disaster. We will only pay benefits for Losses occurring within 30 calendar days after the Natural Disaster makes Your destination accommodations uninhabitable. Your primary place of residence or destination is uninhabitable if: (i) the building structure itself is unstable and there is a risk of collapse in whole or in part; (ii) there is exterior or structural damage allowing elemental intrusion, such as rain, wind, hail, or flood; (iii) immediate safety hazards have yet to be cleared such as debris on roofs or downed electrical lines; or (iv) the property is without electricity or water. Benefits are not payable if a storm, snow storm, blizzard or hurricane is named on or before the Effective Date of Your Trip Cancellation coverage;

Travel Warnings and Inclement Weather

Inclement Weather that causes complete cessation of services for at least 12 consecutive hours of the Common Carrier on which You are scheduled to travel;

A government-mandated shutdown of an airport or air traffic control system due to a Natural Disaster;

Mandatory evacuation ordered by local government authorities at Your Trip destination (or official public evacuation notices or recommendations without a mandatory evacuation order issued) due to adverse weather or Natural Disaster;

 A cancellation of Your Trip within 36 hours of Your Scheduled Departure Date and time if Your Trip destination is under a hurricane warning issued by the NOAA National Hurricane Center, provided the cancellation of Your Trip occurs more than 14 days following Your Effective Date of coverage for the Trip Cancellation Benefits; [14 days after you purchase the plan]

No travel insurance will cover you for a “bad” vacation.  If there is no financial loss, or your loss does not fall into the clauses outlined above, the insurance company will not pay a claim. This is the source of many upset clients that really don’t understand the limits of their hurricane coverage.  Here are a few of the scenarios that we have reviewed with the insurance companies’ claims departments.

A couple was visiting an island in the Caribbean.   A hurricane veers off its expected course and slams into their island hotel.  It wipes out power, water, and most of the food available at the resort.  It also shuts down the airport so there is no way to leave the island.  The couple eats peanut butter and jelly sandwiches supplied by the hotel, and sits in the dark of their room for days.  There is no where to go on the island.  On their day of departure, the airport reopens and they can take their regularly scheduled flight home.   In this case, their vacation was ruined, but they suffered no financial loss.  They could not cancel the vacation in advance, and there was no way to even evacuate the island if they want to do it.  They asked if the insurance would cover the nights of hotel sitting in the dark in a living horror, but unfortunately there are no insurance plans that will cover “a bad vacation” and no actual financial loss.

A couple buys travel insurance months before hurricane Irma is named.  They are covered for trip cancellation for hurricane Irma.  Their cruise leaves in late November two months after the storm and visits 3 islands that have been wiped out.  There is no chance these islands can recover in time for their vacation.   Can they cancel their vacation and be covered?   They are not staying in any hotel on these islands because the boat provides their accommodations.    They can’t cancel under the clause of an uninhabitable destination.   There is no hurricane warning in November when they depart so they can’t cancel under that clause.  Their only recourse is to contact the cruise company and see if they can pick a new destination that does not involve visiting devastated islands.

If you need help figuring out what will be covered by the hurricane provisions, or need help picking a plan that has the best hurricane coverage, just send us an email or give us a call.   We can help you pick the best travel insurance plan to cover any risks of travel to hurricane prone destinations.   What is most important is to buy the travel insurance plan for hurricane coverage as soon as you can so that you will be covered for any future hurricanes that do come up.

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