Disappearance and Travel Insurance

Over the past several days friends and customers have asked me about the mystery of Malaysian Air flight 340 and how the flight’s disappearance would affect any travel insurance that might be involved.  Before I address this issue I would first like to say that my thoughts and prayers are with the family members who are waiting to hear about their loved ones and that insurance can never replace the loss of a loved one.

Most travel insurance policies sold in the USA have a provision for the disappearance of an insured which occurs under circumstances that would normally be covered by the travel policy.  This provision is either referred to as “Exposure and Disappearance” or just “Disappearance”.  It provides for the assumption that if an insured disappears as the result of a common carrier accident during the term of coverage than it will be presumed that the insured died as a result of that accident after a waiting period of usually a year.

This provision would require two proofs to file a claim:

  1. that the insured traveler was in fact a ticketed passenger on the common carrier and that they were on board at the time of the accident; and
  2. that the common carrier had an accident that would have been covered by the policy.

The first usually isn’t difficult to prove since airlines will have boarding manifests and those manifests will be carefully reviewed by authorities to insure their accuracy.  The second might be more difficult since no trace of Malaysian Air flight 340 has been found and right now it is only speculation as to what happened.

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