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New Survey Finds Holiday Travelers Don't Know Travel Insurance Needs or Coverage

Many Misinformed on Coverage for Lost Luggage, Car Rentals, and Emergency Medical Care

(Alexandria, VA – Nov. 25, 2008) —As millions of Americans hit the roads and log in flight miles at hundreds of airports to criss-cross the globe for the holiday, an alarming percentage don’t fully understand key aspects of their insurance coverage, according to a new national survey on travel insurance issues by Trusted Choice® and the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America (the Big “I”).

For the survey, respondents were asked if they thought that when they rent a personal travel car their personal auto insurance policy covers any damages they may cause to the vehicle and other related expenses. They were also asked if their own insurance policies would cover lost luggage that contained gifts and if they are always covered in the event that they become ill or injured no matter where they are located during holiday travel. An alarming percentage, ranging from 30 to 75%, either didn’t think they were covered by their current policies in these situations or admitted they didn’t know.

“With so many people traveling for the holidays, it is imperative that they understand their insurance needs and rights before leaving home,” says Big “I” President & CEO Robert A. Rusbuldt. “We advise they consult with their Trusted Choice® independent insurance agent to discuss their current policies and what do to in the event that they need to file a claim while on vacation.”

“As our research shows so frequently, many consumers don’t fully understand their insurance policies,” says Madelyn Flannagan, Big “I” vice president for education and research.  “Many consumers do not know when they may already be covered or where they might have gaps while on vacation.”

“The good news for consumers is that homeowner’s insurance policies may cover lost property, car insurance policies often offer the option of rental coverage, and medical policies usually have clauses that explain where and when you are covered,” adds Rusbuldt. 

The Big “I” and Trusted Choice® provides the following tips for holiday travelers.


The IIABA survey found that about 75% of homeowners did not think or did not know if they would be covered in the event that an airline lost their luggage containing holiday gifts. Actually, most homeowners or renters insurance policies do provide worldwide coverage for most belongings. Additionally, some airlines do have reimbursement policies in the event that they lose your luggage. If you purchased the lost gifts with a credit card, you may have some level of protection with your issuers. Photographing the contents of your suitcase may also help in the event of a loss. Before purchasing baggage insurance, check your current policies. It may be a waste of money.


The IIABA survey found that nearly one third of consumers do not think or do not know if their current policies cover them in a rental vehicle. Actually, most personal auto insurance policies provide protection for any liability you incur for injuries or property damage you cause to others within the U.S. Driving a rental car is considered to be the same as driving your own vehicle for liability purposes. 

• LIABILITY DAMAGE WAIVER:  It’s not usually necessary to purchase a Liability Damage Waiver from the rental car agency since you usually already have coverage under your own insurance. Always request a copy of the rental agreement to review ahead of time with your independent insurance agent.

• COLLISION DAMAGE WAIVERS:  Rental car agencies typically try to sell “Collision Damage Waivers” (CDW) for about $8 - $15 per day. These waivers are not insurance. In effect, a CDW is simply a promise made to the rental car agency that they won’t make you repair or replace a damaged or stolen vehicle. If you already carry collision and comprehensive coverage under your own personal auto policy, your insurance will extend to the rental car. Consumers need to carefully evaluate their existing coverage and discuss whether or not purchasing a CDW is appropriate for them. 

• WHEN CDWs MAY BE APPROPRIATE:  There may be gaps in the coverage your insurance policy provides for rental cars.  For example, many car rental companies may hold you responsible for the loss of use of a damaged rental car. Rental car companies may charge you the daily rental rate for every day the car is undergoing repairs. While many auto insurance policies will pay “loss of use” charges, those that do set limits. There are other expenses that most auto policies do not cover. One example is diminished value which can amount to several thousand dollars. Consult your independent insurance agent to find out what’s best for your travel needs.

• FOREIGN TRAVEL:  As a general rule, when traveling to a country other than Canada and renting a car, you will have to purchase auto insurance in the country where you will be driving. Some personal umbrella policies may provide liability coverage for rental cars abroad; few will cover damage to the rental car itself.  Again, seek professional expert advice from an independent agent before you leave home.

• CHECK THE VEHICLE:  An important way to protect yourself when renting a vehicle is to check over the car carefully for damage in the presence of a representative of the rental car company before you leave the lot and when you return it. Request all prior damages be noted in writing. Car renters have been known to receive damage claims from rental car companies weeks after turning in vehicles. There is no way to prove your innocence at that point.


The IIABA survey found that more than 35% of respondents did not think or did not know if they were covered in the event that they became ill or injured no matter where they were located. Most individual and employer-provided health and medical insurance policies cover you when you are injured or become sick no matter where your injury or illness occurs for short recreational trips. In general, major medical health insurance plans sold in the U.S. will provide coverage for emergency medical services you require while traveling. Still, insurance companies cannot guarantee the quality of care that is available wherever you travel and some policies have territorial restrictions.

• DOMESTIC TRAVEL:  While the medical services provided in the U.S. may be among the finest in the world, not all facilities and practices may offer the standard of care or access to the latest medical technologies that you may expect.  Therefore, travelers should take some time to find out what is available in the area where they will be traveling and contact their independent insurance agent to assess just how well their insurance coverage will respond to medical emergencies away from home.

• FOREIGN TRAVEL:  When evaluating insurance policies for a brief trip or extended stay abroad, it is important to understand any limitations in coverage that each prospective policy might impose.  For example, it is not unusual for "Foreign" (called foreign even though it’s purchased here at home) health insurance to exclude coverage for injuries that occur while participating in hazardous activities. Ask questions and understand exactly what you are buying and what is covered.

• SOCIAL SECURITY CONSIDERATION:  Those who rely on the Social Security Medicare program should know that it does not cover hospital and medical services outside of the U.S. Before you leave the country, learn what medical services your health insurance will provide while you are abroad and consider the purchase of additional insurance protection.

The survey was conducted for Trusted Choice® via telephone by International Communications Research (ICR), an independent research company in Media, Pa. Interviews of a nationally representative sample of 1021 households were conducted in November 2008. More information about ICR can be obtained at

For more information on the survey results or to request an interview with a national spokesperson or local insurance agent in your area, contact Sue Nester, IIABA Broadcast Media Director, at (703) 706-5448 or Print journalists should contact Margarita Tapia, IIABA Director of Public Affairs, at (703) 706-5473 or

Trusted Choice® agencies are insurance and financial services firms.  They represent multiple insurance companies, offering individuals and business owners a variety of coverage choices, customized insurance plans to meet specialized needs as well as advocacy support.  These firms adhere to a pledge of performance, committing them to providing excellent customer service.  Go to and click on “Find a Trusted Choice® Agent” on the homepage to locate the right agency for your needs.

Founded in 1896, the Big “I” is the nation’s oldest and largest national association of independent insurance agents and brokers, representing a network of more than 300,000 agents, brokers and their employees nationally. Its members are businesses that offer customers a choice of policies from a variety of insurance companies. Independent agents and brokers offer all lines of insurance—property, casualty, life, health, employee benefit plans and retirement products. Web address:

​127 South Peyton Street
Alexandria VA 22314
​phone: 800.221.7917
fax: 703.683.7556

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