If you’re drunk, you’re not insured

We’re used to it with car insurance – drive drunk and your insurance is null and void. ? But why are insurance companies paying out if you’re off your face causing damage to yourself and others in other situations? ? It appears that’s not going to last much longer.

Southern Cross Travel Insurance – New Zealand’s biggest travel insurer – has rejected a $2.6million claim from someone seriously injured in a “balcony surfing” incident after drinking in the US, chief executive Craig Morrison said.

Accidents caused by alcohol consumption could be very expensive, and insurers would look at them on a case-by-case basis, he said. “If you’re on holiday by the pool and you’ve had a couple of margaritas at 3pm and trip and break your ankle, [we’d] go a long way to saying that’s just what people do on holiday.”

But if someone had consumed 15 margaritas by 3pm, the response was likely to be different, he said.

Another key issue was when the injury happened. “After midnight, everyone has only ever had two drinks, even if their blood-alcohol level is through the roof. We’d look very strongly to decline that claim on the basis of alcohol being the primary driver of the injury.”

Investigators could be hired to interview witnesses when claims were for more than $100,000 and there was disagreement over how much of a factor a person’s drinking was, he said.

Southern Cross declined about four cases a year where alcohol had been a factor in injuries.

Morrison’s message to travellers is: “Don’t get out of control on booze, and go to bed before midnight. Use good judgment.”

Fellow insurer Allianz revealed it was turning down one claim a month from travellers due to levels of intoxication.

“We get a lot of claims from people who go to Fiji, Raro, Thailand and start doing wild things,” Will Ashcroft, chief of sales, said. If people ended up in hospital and a toxicology report showed they were very intoxicated, their claim would be declined.

I’m not a fan of insurance companies backing out of their obligations, but I’m gobsmacked to learn that they’ve had a fairly relaxed attitude to claims that had an intoxication component; ?only declining the most extreme of claims.

Insurance isn’t a license to increase the risk on yourself or the insurance company.

Coming home with a $2.6M medical bill would be sweet justice in return for an expensive personal education in my book.


– Susan Edmunds, Herald on Sunday