Expertís warning to holidaymakers over insurance payout caps

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Expertís warning to holidaymakers over insurance payout caps

30th October 2012

Travellers who plan on driving whilst holidaying abroad are being urged to take out extra cover to ensure they do not leave themselves vulnerable if they are injured in a road traffic accident.

Katherine Allen, head of the†Travel and International Litigation†team at Fentons Solicitors LLP, said that the standard insurance policies that are taken out when hiring a car abroad will often only insure a person for the minimum level of insurance required in that country. “In addition, any motorist causing an accident in which you are injured might also only have insurance to the minimum levels,” she said. “This can prevent injured parties receiving the appropriate levels of compensation if an accident occurs.

“Not all countries have the same laws governing responsibility in the event of an accident, and they also have varying attitudes when it comes to setting levels of compensation for those injured,” said Katherine, a partner with Fentons who has many years’ experience handling compensation claims for individuals who have been inured in countries all across the world. “Although we are used to the luxury of unlimited liability insurance in this country, this is not the norm internationally. This means that although someone might be suitably compensated were they to sustain a serious injury in this country, they might not receive anywhere near the same amount in a different country.”

Katherine, who is a member of the Travel and Tourism Lawyers Association, the Pan-European Organisation of Personal Injury Lawyers (PEOPIL), and is the Secretary of the PEOPIL Road Traffic Accident European Exchange Group,said that the disparity relates not just to European countries, but also further afield including the United States of America.

“There are limits in each country, and sometimes within particular parts of each country,” Katherine explained. “For example in the USA, the minimum insurance coverage required for death and personal injury in the state of California is set at $30,000. It’s obvious that such a low amount will not even cover the expenses encountered by someone who sustains a serious injury and who will require constant and lengthy periods of care and rehabilitation, which is why it is vitally important to ensure that top-up insurance is bought when hiring cars.”

Katherine said that the insurance policy offered by most reputable car rental outlets can be extended to include something called ‘top-up cover’. “The terms of such cover can vary significantly and you will need to check exactly what benefits it provides to determine if it is worth having,” she said. “However if you get the right policy it will very often provide a driver and their passengers with additional insurance cover that will pay out, even if that driver was not responsible for the accident.

“Like most holidaymakers I myself am very cynical when it comes to buying any extras or ticking a box that means I’ll end up paying more for a service than I was originally quoted, but in this instance it is vital,” said Katherine, who was recently listed as a Leader in the Field of travel litigation by Chambers & Partners, a listing of noted firms and lawyers in the UK. “I’ve personally dealt with a number of cases where the injured and innocent victim has been left unable to pursue the appropriate level of compensation, simply because the insurance policy cap had been reached.

“In one instance, I was only able to recover $100,000 in a case where a young child was blinded in a road accident whilst abroad. If the incident had occurred in the UK, or if top-up insurance had been taken out at the time of hiring the vehicle involved in the incident, we would have been able to secure significantly more on behalf of the victim.”

Katherine said that whilst the extra cover available on hire car agreements was itself often capped, it helped ensure that at least a more appropriate level of damages could be achieved for anyone unfortunate enough to need to make a claim.

“The outlay is minimal in comparison to the difficulties it can help avoid should an individual be unlucky enough to be seriously injured,” she said. “A few extra pounds at the time of hiring a vehicle can prevent many years of struggling following an accident abroad.”

How can Fentons Solicitors help?

Fentons has a specialist department experienced in handling claims relating to†holiday accidents and illness.

If you think that you have a case or require further information, contact Fentons on 0800 019 1297 or fill in the online claims questionnaire.