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A ski trip goes downhill

Justin travels to Japan

Justin went on a skiing trip to Japan with friends in February 2015. He purchased travel insurance through Snow Insurance before he left.

During the trip, one of his friends, a travel companion, committed suicide. Justin had to travel back to New Zealand with his friend’s ashes and attend the funeral.

Justin made a travel insurance claim to Snow Insurance for the costs of $1,200, for coming back to New Zealand and then resuming his travels. Snow Insurance declined the claim on the basis of its suicide exclusion clause in the policy.


The policy

Snow Insurance’s suicide exclusion clause stated that “To the extent permissible by law, we will not pay if your claim arises from suicide or attempted suicide”.

Justin thought the clause was ambiguous, and was meant to exclude losses arising from an insured’s suicide. That is, if Justin had committed suicide, there would not be cover.

Snow Insurance’s response was that the clause is clear: claims arising from suicide are not covered.


FSCL steps in

Justin came to FSCL because he was unhappy with this outcome. Early on in our investigation, Snow Insurance offered Justin an ex-gratia payment of $1000 without accepting any liability. Snow Insurance was sympathetic to Justin’s circumstances and wanted to make a goodwill payment. Justin accepted this offer.


The lesson

It’s good to be aware of the cover your travel policy provides. It is common for travel insurance policies to have widely-worded exclusion clauses relating to suicide and other mental health issues.