SA couple's dream Thailand holiday turns into nightmare

2014-07-10 12:55

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Cape Town – A dream holiday in Thailand has turned into something of a nightmare for a South African couple after a scooter accident has sent their medical bills soaring and put them in danger of being arrested.  

Beeld reports that Marius Botha, 24, and Elske Roux, 21, from Vereeniging have been travelling around Thailand doing voluntary work since mid-May.

Their holiday changed dramatically, however, when on 24 June they were involved in a scooter crash on Ko Pha Ngan island. Botha injured his foot and had to receive stitches in three different places.  

Roux came off much worse, as she suffered from a brain hemorrhage and had to undergo brain surgery.  

The three stitches set the couple back R27 000, while the brain surgery cost R200 000.  

They obviously hadn’t budgeted for these astronomical amounts and found themselves in a pickle as their insurance refuses to pay the medical costs, claiming Botha had not been carrying his driver’s licence at the time of the accident. 

In the mean time the hospital has confiscated their passports, refusing to return them until they at least receive partial payment.  

To make matters even worse, the couple’s visas expire on Friday.  

We chatted to Simmy Micheli from Travel Insurance Consultants (TIC)about the couple's situation and what precautions travellers should take to avoid ending up in a similar situation. 

Q: Would insurance be less likely to pay out if you have an accident riding a scooter (i.e. your own fault) compared to being involved in a taxi/tuk tuk accident where the driver is at fault?

A: Not likely, most insurers have an engine capacity limit.  For example on TIC products we would exclude any accidents as a result of riding a bike exceeding 500.  A scooter would usually have a lower engine capacity.  

All insurers would exclude a claim if the accident occurred when the driver was driving under the influence.  

Q: If you have an international driver’s licence is it acceptable for all modes of transport?
Should you have your driver’s license on you at all times when making use of a vehicle abroad?

A: We would require a copy of the valid international drivers license but we would not normally exclude cover if it was not on the person.    

Q:The couple’s insurance company is refusing to pay out because the guy didn’t have his licence on him at the time of the accident. Their visas are expiring tomorrow. They’re in a bit of a pickle. What are their options now?

We would usually consider the legislation relative to the country you are travelling in.  

Q: Also, how would you suggest other travellers avoid this kind of situation?  

A: Besides a healthy dose of common sense, it is important to familiarise yourself with the terms of cover especially when it comes to travel insurance.  

Your mishaps and losses occur in foreign countries AND in foreign currencies and uninsured events become very complicated.  

As a matter of interest, bike accidents are a common Thailand travel claim.  

Q: What type of insurance should people take out especially if they’re going to a relatively high-risk destination like Thailand?  

A: Travelers should analyze complimentary cover carefully before relying on it.  In most cases topping free cover up is recommended.  

Travel insurers will offer a standard type of cover and a comprehensive cover.  

Most products provide cover for the same regular benefits like medical and related expenses cover, cancellation and curtailment cover, accidental death cover and luggage cover.  

Comprehensive products would include cover for special benefits like pre-existing hospital cover or manual labour cover – two incidences usually excluded on standard cover policies.  

The destination, regardless of actual or perceived risk associated to the destination, is not taken into consideration.  

Leisure high risk destinations would usually be ski destinations and business high risk destinations would be countries in Africa where Malaria is prevalent.  

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