Until we know what is happening with Brexit and the European Health Insurance Card (always risky to start a piece by referring to Brexit, because the situation is rather fluid) all UK motorcyclists would be very well advised to have travel insurance before they venture overseas.
However, before you rush off to the meerkats’, or the moustachioed opera singer’s websites, be aware that just about every travel insurance provider excludes injuries arising from ‘proper’ bikes from cover, and many exclude even hire moped-caused injuries.
The comparison websites compete on price so, for a known risk, if you choose a company that offers uncompetitively low premiums, you will end up with one that will either cut cover, or try and avoid claims. Therefore, comparison websites are not a good place for motorcyclists to go for travel cover. By all means, if you are content to read through the exclusions and the policy documents and check the position on motorcycles for 15 or 20 policies, use the comparison websites. I have actually been through this exercise, and I think I got to about policy number seven on one of the comparison websites before I gave up and did what I should have done in the first place, which is look at cover first, then premium.
Also, and almost unbelievably, travel cover offered by motorcycle brokers also frequently has the same exclusion as to motorcycling so, if you want insurance you can rely upon, you MUST read the small print. If you cannot be bothered to read the small print then you travel at your own risk. The documents are not actually that difficult to read. So, before you even start looking for quotes, bring up the policy that you are interested in on the internet, and then read the part about excluded activities.
I will give you two examples of well-known policies, the Carole Nash policy says in clear terms that you are covered for harm to yourself but not others (that is a road traffic risk) for driving motorised vehicles, other than quads, for which you hold a UK licence, so long as you are wearing a helmet. So, nice and straight forward and entirely clear. You are covered on your bike. Then we look at another reputable insurer, Direct Line, which does not aim at the motorcycle market in the way that Carole Nash would, but it only covers for a motorcycle up to 125cc with a helmet worn so, if you fell off your KTM 990, you would have no health cover. Direct Line will extend cover, if you declare your use of a bike, and they insured me on my own Husqvarna 701 without increasing my premium in the EU, all of Europe and Morocco.
This brings me onto my next point which is geographical cover. Most policies adopt a default position to the EU, then all of Europe, then Europe and one other continent, and then some go worldwide, but travelling in the USA packs a pretty hefty insurance premium. Get the geographical cover that you need and no more. Do not mistake Monaco for Morocco. Your health cover for Morocco requires you to have African cover. The amount of times that I have had people tell me that their insurers have reassured them and that they are covered for Morocco, a wild and beautiful African Kingdom bordered by the Atlantic and the Sahara for the small Principality of Monaco in Southern France, is truly terrifying, There is quite a difference, I have been so reassured myself. Luckily I know the difference.
The third factor is your application for a policy. You will be asked a number of questions about your health and activities. Mental health issues can send insurers scuttling, especially schizophrenia. This follows a truly tragic case of a schizophrenic lady who rather overindulged herself on a cruise, did not take her anti-psychotic medications and wound up spending a very significant period of time in a psychiatric institution on a Caribbean island. Her travel insurers and the Cruise Liner ended up picking up the bill for that. So you now get asked a lot of questions about mental health. Treated anxiety and depression will usually result in exclusion for treatment arising for mental health issues on the policy, but likewise, taking statins for cholesterol can exclude heart related problems. Just remember the insurers are in this for a profit, and what they do not want you to do is to buy a travel policy, let a condition which you know about get worse, and then be treated at their expense.
In my experience, and I have dealt with a number of people who have had terrible travel insurance problems arising from either being taken ill whilst overseas, or being involved in motorcycle accidents whilst overseas, shows there is a very clear correlation between the cheapness of the policy and the swiftness of the rejection of the claim. There are a number of travel insurers who are extremely professional, sympathetic, and efficient. However, as you go down the premium price, the cheaper the policy the more resistant the insurers are to a claim, and I am absolutely certain that there are a number of insurers who reject every single travel claim in the hope that you are put off.
The final point is that I have known, in my professional practice, numerous UK insurers to go bust. When a British insurer goes bust it is a bit of a mess, but eventually the rest of the British insurance industry pick up the pieces. If your insurer is Danish or Latvian and goes bust, would you know how to pick up the pieces? Because that German, French or Moroccan hospital still needs paying.
So, if you are going to adventure overseas on your motorcycle, whether it is all road, or a mix of road and dirt, take away these four basic points;
- Does the policy cover the motorcycling that you are going to be doing? I have seen one policy which specifically excludes injuries caused on “unmetalled roads” so if you are doing the Trans- European Trail which is largely unmade trails, this policy is of minimal use to you, but this is a very, very rare exception.
- Does it cover the country that you are going to be riding in?
- Answer every question honestly. Insurers do not have to pay out on a policy which you have tainted by being dishonest or careless in your proposal form. It matters not whether or not the careless or dishonest answer was given to something which was completely irrelevant. If they ask you “are you on medication” and you say no, and you fall off your bike and break your leg, the fact that you are on medication for diabetes and you have not declared it means that the entire policy can be voided.
- Do you know who is underwriting your policy? Is it a name that you feel comfortable with? For me, I want an under writer based within the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom. That may be an excess of caution on my part, but it has worked so far.