At the turn of a pedal it suddenly went very wrong! The speed of the group of cyclists could not have been any more than 10 miles an hour such was the gradient to be negotiated. Not all the group was known to each other; not all the group spoke English; nor, I now realise, did all the group know how to ride a bike in a bunch! Without warning a rider, unknown to me, passed me on my inside and switched across my path in front of me causing me to lose my balance and fall to the ground, left arm outstretched. The pain was overwhelming.
After an hour of waiting an ambulance arrives. As the doors on the ambulance are closing I couldn't help but overhear the paramedic inform my club mates, who had been cycling with me, that the hospital I was being taken to required a copy of my passport and my medical insurance certificate before any treatment could be given. That important documentation was 40 miles away in a safe in my hotel room!
Fortunately thanks to the endeavors of my friends the required documentation was e mailed from the hotel to the hospital later that day.
Even more fortunate was that my travel insurance covered the circumstances of my accident and allowed for me to be treated (for a broken shoulder) free of charge for 3 days in a very comfortable Spanish hospital where the medical treatment was first class.
I had checked my travel insurance policy before I left for Majorca and knew that road cycling was an activity that was covered. I had not thought beyond that to consider what the extent of the cover actually was, in terms of medical cover, loss of or damage to equipment, loss of a flight home or additional or alternative accommodation that may be needed on being discharged from hospital.
The purpose of this article is not to evoke sympathy (although feel free to give!!) rather to highlight the importance of ensuring that you are adequately covered by holiday insurance when travelling abroad. This is particularly so when your holiday is an activity based trip, such as cycling, sailing or winter sports. There are many travel insurance policies available but not all offer the same extent of cover.
The following is a suggestion of what basics should be considered in terms of travel insurance;
•What medical cover is included? If travelling in some European countries. The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which is available free of charge, may not cover you for all the treatment that is necessary for the injuries you sustain. It entitles you to state healthcare, obtaining (in theory at least) the same treatment that a resident of the country you are visiting is entitled to. There may, however, be a charge by way of a patient contribution. Do not rely on the EHIC card as being free travel insurance.
•What activities are covered and which are specifically excluded. As I have said my policy covered road cycling but mountain biking was excluded (cover could be purchased at extra cost). Some policies may exclude cycling where the sole purpose of the trip is cycling. Most non-cycling specific insurance policies will exclude bike racing as a covered activity. Winter sports cover should be checked carefully. You might be covered for ski-ing or snowboarding but what if you book a ski-doo ride? Even on holidays that are not activity based don't assume that you are covered. We have all seen the inflatables being towed at high speed from behind a speed boat. Looks great fun but what if you are injured whilst taking part? Will your insurance cover you for the necessary medical treatment?
•What cover is there if you miss your scheduled flight home and require additional nights accommodation? My insurers covered an additional 2 nights at my hotel and an alternative flight home (they paid for two seats, ensuring that there was no other passenger sitting to my left in order to protect my injured arm!!).
•What about loss of or damage to personal property? I assumed that as cycling was covered by my policy, my cycling clothing that was damaged (it was cut off by the medical staff at the hospital to allow treatment) would be replaced. It wasn’t covered as it was classed as "sports equipment damaged in use". Despite being discharged from hospital at 7pm, 50 miles from my hotel and with no alternative means of getting back, my taxi fare of 70 euros could not be claimed.
•Does the policy cover public liability in the event that you are the cause of an accident? The cyclist who caused me to fall did not stop; she rode off, no doubt to a nice tapas lunch. Let's give her the benefit of doubt and say that she was not aware of the accident she had caused! Had she stopped I would have ensured that I obtained her details, just as one would after a road traffic accident. My injuries are such that I would have wanted to look to her, through her insurers, for compensation.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of what is or is not important in a travel insurance policy, nor is it to be treated as advice on what is adequate insurance cover for activity based holidays. It is simply intended as a reminder, based on my very recent personal experience, that travel insurance policies should be carefully checked before travelling.
Travel insurance premiums are one of those unusual costs that we incur in the hope that we don’t need the benefit of the investment. Painfully I can vouch, however, that the possibility that the insurance cover obtained may be needed is very real.