18 February 2021 by Christina Sharp
Typically when deciding to buy travel cover, ‘personal accident insurance’ is not always at the forefront of a customer’s mind and is unintentionally overlooked. Naturally consumers think about having protection against booking cancellations, delays, lost luggage or for when plans might fall through. Even then, “up to 8.6 million Brits travelled abroad uninsured in the summer of 2019” and “nearly a quarter of Brits travel without any form of travel insurance” (according to ABTA, ABI and NimbleFins).
Personal accident insurance (also known as personal injury insurance) is important should any critical accidental injuries happen that cause you permanent disablement or death. It can be extremely costly to you or your family should any serious personal accidents occur when travelling when you don’t have insurance.
Unlike some medical insurance, personal accident insurance usually provides a fixed monetary sum for serious permanent bodily or medical impairments such as loss of sight or limbs, accidental deaths or permanent disablement. It's particularly useful for unforeseen medical incidents that are caused by accidents such as a car accident or a fall and not by predetermined or natural causes. Minor injuries that will heal with time such as a broken wrist or strains are not usually picked up by personal accident insurance. The major purpose and benefit of personal accident cover as part of your Travel Insurance (also referred to as Permanent Disablement) is that it provides a fixed sum benefit for your accidental death, total permanent disability such as loss of sight or limb. Whereas the standard Emergency Medical Section of Travel Insurance will usually cover you for other unforeseen emergency medical and repatriation costs for accidents or illness while you’re abroad.
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Personal Accident / Permanent Disablement cover and the level of Benefits and pay-outs on travel insurance vary a lot and it won’t always be included as part of Travel Insurance. There is also usually a difference with benefit level depending on age – with older and younger insureds usually having a lower benefit payment. Sums can be as high as £25,000 or higher and as low as £1,000. Always check the benefit levels, policy definitions and T&Cs as each insurance cover varies. Some policies will be very specific with their terms, for instance ‘an accident has had to cause permeant disablement for at least 12 months and medical assessments show that the condition will never recover fully which prevents them from work or normal life experiences’. There can also be special clauses that if an insured person already has a disability before an accident that makes their condition worse, the insurer will have a payment that is relative to the change of their lifestyle and what is based on their medical assessment.
It’s worth noting that usually higher-risk activities may mean that the Personal Accident / Permanent Disablement Section does not apply while you are participating in that activity. So if you are permanent injured, or die while participating, there wont be a benefit payment under that section. Always check whether you're covered for medical expenses for the adventure activities you plan, otherwise you could be left without protection if there is an accident.
Most insurance policies will have a list of accepted activities as standard, and others where you may need to pay an additional premium. This means you will be covered for medical expenses if the activity is accepted by your Travel Insurance – but you still may not have Personal Accident Cover while participating, so check the terms that apply. That way you have peace of mind knowing what protection is in place should the worse happen!
The likelihood of severe accidents happening abroad are fairly slim, but the risks are always there and depending on where you travel to, the risks of fatal accidents such as road collisions, drowning and falling can increase considerably. For instance, the road traffic death rate in countries like Venezuela and Thailand are much higher than countries in Europe as shown in the World Health Organizations Reports.
Wherever you are travelling, it’s worth checking how much cover you will have for personal accident before choosing your travel insurance. Regardless of the statistics, accidents can happen so ensuring you have some accident insurance within your travel policy means you’re protected.
It means that if you suffer a serious permanent disability, you will have an additional sum of money to help you for the future.
Our final tip is to be thorough with your research. Travel insurance policies are never the same so look beyond the headlines. The cheapest policy may not be the best, neither may the most expensive.
Important travel advice: Whenever and wherever you travel, always check the FCDO’s travel advice for your chosen location and follow your government advice on any travel restrictions to ensure you stay safe and travel aware.
Read more: Why Buy Your Annual Travel Insurance Now?