Accident in Vietnam
The Financial Services Ombudsman has found Boots’ travel insurance, provider, AIG/Chartis, guilty of unreasonably using small print to avoid a claim and ordered them to pay in full.
James Pinnington fell off a scooter/moped in Vietnam in 2008 and injured himself badly, needing an air ambulance back to intensive care in the UK. Boots’ insurers used a clause in the 50 page small print of the policy which stated that James needed to have a “UK Class A motorcycle licence” to be covered for riding any kind of moped/scooter to refuse the claim. Their local agents informed James that he wasn’t covered while he lay in a village hospital in agony less than 48 hours after the accident.
James’s father had to fly out to Vietnam and go through the trauma of arranging for his son to be repatriated. Boots suggested that he pay their specialist repatriation company, who quoted £80,000, but he managed to find an Asian Air Ambulance company to help at a total cost of £25,000.
At the time James’ father said “I was very careful to pick the best travel insurance I could find.
At the time James’ father said “I was very careful to pick the best travel insurance I could find. The Boots literature seemed good claiming “…whether you’re planning to hang out in Hawaii, chill-out in Chile, taste tea in China or backpack in the outback you’ll be able to relax knowing that you’ve got comprehensive cover… should the unthinkable happen”. Well the unthinkable happened and Boots used a caveat in the small print to avoid helping”. He decided to publicise James’s case to alert other parents to the travel insurance dangers and to try to persuade the insurance industry not to use small print to wriggle out of their ‘comprehensive’ travel insurance claims, appearing on BBC tv/radio and a number of national newspapers.
The Financial Services Ombudsman took 18 months to reach a decision but found Boots insurance providers AIG/Chartis guilty of not drawing “an onerous or significant policy term to the attention of the insured at the time of purchase” and ordered them to pay the claim.
James’ father Chris Pinnington said:
“I am delighted that the Financial Ombudsman has found in my favour and I hope that it will lead to the insurance industry to stop unfairly using small print to reject claims.”
“I was lucky that I had contacts in Vietnam to help me to arrange repatriation and could raise the funds to pay within a week but I dread to think what would have happened if I couldn’t raise the £25,000 and James was stuck in a village hospital in the middle of Vietnam.”
“Scooters/mopeds are the way people get around in countries like Vietnam and most parents believe that their gap year insurance policy will cover their kids if they get injured. I urge the insurance industry to make it absolutely clear to all gap year policyholders whether they would be covered. My daughter has just embarked on a similar trip and although she’s sworn that she won’t ride on a moped/scooter after her brother’s experiences, her travel company, STA, have confirmed that she would be covered in similar circumstances under their policy”
“The Ombudsman also criticised Boots/AIG for relying on the fact that scooter/moped riding wasn’t on their “list of activities covered”, pointing out that the list is confusing as it didn’t, for example, cover driving a car, yet the Ombudsman assumed that this would be covered. We tried ringing Boots and asking if, for example, one was injured throwing a Frisbee, whether this would be covered. No, they said, if it’s not on the list, it wouldn’t be covered. This seems utter madness and I will be trying to get the FSA to order companies to be much clearer on how they use lists of activities: if the Financial Ombudsman’s not clear then it’s not surprising that ordinary travellers aren’t”
“Boots’ response throughout has been to claim that the insurance policy is with AIG and I should complain to them but this seems wrong to me as I trusted a Boots branded product and assumed that Boots would stand behind it. If, for example, my child was injured by a Boots branded toy I assume that they would try to help and take responsibility rather than claiming that I should take it up with the manufacturer of the toy. I don’t see why their own-branded travel insurance should be any different.”
James was operated on in England and, after a week in intensive care, managed to walk within 3 months and is now a student at Bristol University, back to normal health.