Arrested on vacation! Is this covered by trip insurance?

Tamra Corrigan’s husband was arrested on vacation after a car accident. Now Corrigan wants to know if Allianz, her travel insurance carrier, owes her reimbursement for this “trip interruption.”

This story is a reminder that even the most comprehensive travel insurance policy doesn’t cover every type of misadventure. In fact, it would be surprising if any policy would cover this scenario.

Arrested on vacation

Corrigan related a story that sounded quite harrowing. She and her family were enjoying a tropical vacation when disaster (or a scam) struck. She recalls:

We had an accident and were involved in a scam, accused of hitting a body in the road. It was all a scam: being held in custody was a scam, the money we paid was a scam. Our rental car was undrivable after the accident and was towed by the police.

We didn’t have a vehicle, nor a place to stay and didn’t speak the language. The embassy finally discovered that something wasn’t quite right with our situation and that is when they escorted us to the airport to leave the country.

A court hearing and  immediate deportation

Although Corrigan did not elaborate her story to our advocacy team, the family gave an interview to their local news station. In that retelling, Corrigan asserts that they never saw a motorcycle — just a body in the road. The local police took her husband into custody. He remained in jail for two days before his court hearing. At the end of his “trial,” the family paid $1,500. The embassy staff took Patrick Corrigan directly to the airport for a rapid return home.

At the airport, the embassy staff instructed the family to purchase tickets on the next available flight. They could not use their scheduled return tickets because their airline, Sun Country, does not operate from the Santo Domingo airport. These new Delta Air Lines flights cost the family an additional $3,200.

Once they returned home, Corrigan filed a claim with Allianz for trip interruption reimbursement. In the denial response that soon followed, Allianz pointed out that the Corrigans had purchased a “named peril” policy. This type of policy lists specific events that qualify as a trip interruption — anything not listed is not covered. Not surprisingly, being arrested on vacation is not one of the named perils.

Official word: Allianz does not cover being arrested on vacation

“Unfortunately, being accused of striking a motorcyclist and jailed — then released from jail and escorted by embassy personnel to the first available flight out of the country is not included among those reasons,” the letter from Allianz explained.

Undeterred, Corrigan filed an appeal. Allianz swiftly rejected that as well. She then sent a request for reimbursement to Delta and Sun Country Airlines.

When none of these attempts proved successful, she contacted us.

With Corrigan, I reviewed the listed “named perils” on her policy and she reluctantly agreed that her unfortunate situation did not qualify for compensation. But she wondered if Delta should reimburse her.

Another path to compensation — a gesture of goodwill

Of course, when an unexpected incident ends up costing your family thousands of dollars it is natural to search for some way to recoup your losses. But I pointed out that, except for being the airline that safely delivered her and her family from a situation that could have escalated quite quickly, Delta held no responsibility here.

Our only other option was Sun Country. I thought that perhaps the Corrigan family might have a credit for their unused return flight. Although I was not hopeful, I contacted the airline and explained the situation.

The vice president of customer experience at Sun Country Airlines quickly responded. He said that the Corrigans had not canceled their return flight and therefore were not due any credit, but the airline, “sees the ‘human side’ of this situation and the right thing to do is to allow them to use some portion of what they paid towards a new ticket.”

How to check for travel warnings before leaving home

It’s unclear whether the Corrigans were caught in a scam, but it is important to remember that the laws in other countries can vary significantly from U.S. law. Checking with the U.S. State Department for advice and warnings for your intended destination is a critical part of successful travel planning.

Concerning the Dominican Republic, the State Department does not outright advise against driving there but it does point out the many perils that a driver may encounter and explains:

Dominican law requires that a driver be taken into custody for being involved in an accident that causes serious injury or death, even if the driver is insured and appears not to have been at fault. The minimum detention period is 48 hours; however, detentions frequently last until a judicial decision is reached, or until a waiver is signed by the injured party.

And this is exactly what happened to Patrick Corrigan.

A partial resolution

In the end, we could not help the Corrigans to get the reimbursement that they were seeking. Their travel insurance policy does not cover being arrested on vacation.

We hope that the previously mentioned motorcyclist has recovered and that the Corrigans can use their travel vouchers for a future vacation that, we presume, will not be to the Dominican Republic.

Should Allianz have covered this trip interruption?

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29 thoughts on “Arrested on vacation! Is this covered by trip insurance?

  1. Yes, this was an awful situation.

    I have to wonder what their justification was when the asked Delta for their money back…

  2. Ultimately the family was held due to legal issues. If insurance covered such things (and it typically does not), then the legalese contained in the contract would be increased exponentially.

    Think of all the potential reasons why one could held. If they were being charged with murder, should the insurance cover that? Most people would think not. So the contract would have to be specify all the various reasons for coverage and reasons for no coverage. Because that is what lawyers do.

  3. “Although Corrigan did not want to elaborate the story to us…”

    I think that should be the end of it right there. I don’t have an opinion on the accident or whether it was a scam, but I do have an opinion about helping a consumer that doesn’t provide all relevant information. That should be the end of It, right there. You’re not operating on a level playing field.

  4. Its quite possible that it is a scam. However, many countries have similar laws. Thus, why it is more cost effective and safer to hire a driver, rather than rent a vehicle and drive. The airlines should bear no responsibility for a refund. As for travel insurance, it totally depends on what the policy says.

  5. I want to say “no”, but it really should be YES. It’s like in Indiana Jones and the Holy grail when the bad guy picked the wrong chalice and the Templar knight said ” he chose poorly”. We shouldn’t have to choose. Insurance is for the unforseen issues…how can you purchase insurance for something you have no idea might happen?
    Your best bet is to just not vacation in 3rd world countries. We have tripocal locales here in the USA with the added advantage that you’re covered by the laws you’re already (hopefully) familiar with.

  6. Renting a car anywhere overseas is a bad idea. It’s nothing but an open invitation to get scammed. Use Uber or take public transportation..

  7. If a typical car accident in a foreign land leads to this scenario, then it is exactly what insurance should cover.

  8. Don’t drive in the DR. I rarely rent or drive overseas (and when in the US a lot less, with Uber and Lyft). I have no doubt this was a scam.

  9. Well the LW could have read the SOS’s travel advisory and then planned their insurance selection based on that info.

  10. Perhaps they’ve been advised to not go into full details of the scam, either by a lawyer or even the State Department. Helping a consumer with a problem doesn’t mean that their entire life should be exposed.

  11. Except there’s a link in the article to a news station where they gave an on camera interview.

    I can’t QUITE put my finger on it. But something is telling me there’s more to the story. I don’t have enough evidence to ascertain exactly what. I have a few ideas, but they’d be unsubstantiated speculation. I don’t think it would fair to post them. While I have no problem speculating when I have more facts, and have many times here, in this case I just don’t think it’s appropriate. It’s one thing to try to break down a gift card mileage case, it’s quite another to speculate when a story quite literally involves a “body” (in the OP’s own words – and that’s an odd choice of words) and being escorted out of a country by embassy personnel after they intervened for a detained US citizen.

  12. Cover what though? How exactly do you write the policy to cover an alleged scam vs. a perfectly legit arrest? It’s not (nor should it be) the insurance underwriter’s job to be a replacement for the justice system of the country you choose to visit.

    Trip Insurance has never covered legal difficulties you encounter on your travels, because writing such a policy in a way that protects both the policyholder and insurer would be nearly impossible.

  13. Yes, I’m having trouble picturing this; read literally, it means we have been told that somebody(s) literally took a corpse and sat waiting by the roadside for a tourist to come around the bend so they could, what, heave the body in front of the oncoming car? Let everybody run over it, until a tourist came along? Either something has been lost in an epic game of telephone, or this is a very strange scam (one rather disrespectful to the dead) I haven’t heard of before.

  14. I’m guessing auto rental insurance wouldn’t cover any of this either. You can cover damage to car, property and medical, but nothing would touch potential legal/illegal situations.

  15. I believe their story is the truth, scam is everywhere in DR. When I arrived at the Airport, the custom agents tried to extirpate money from me for no reason. I don’t give out anything and they let me go.

  16. Traveler beware. I was in the DR in January via Princess Cruise. This scam could have happened to us. We visited 2 beaches, ate in local restaurants, walked around the shops so “Oye! Americanos, donde va usted?” and a possible scam could have ensued.

  17. That would be an interesting, but totally unethical and ghoulish, way to try to obtain money to bury a recently-deceased loved one…or try to cover up a murder.

  18. I have worked in the Dominican Republic for over 10 years. Scams are a constant issue with any government agency including traffic policemen. I had the experience of seeing a person arrested, actually taken from his hotel room at the Sheraton, in the early hours of the morning and taken away by local cops. H was later charged with vehicular manslaughter. While he was at his hotel in bed his rented vehicle was “properly parked outside” and a young, drunk driver ran into it at over 65 MPH causing his death. If you are the owner or renter of a vehicle you are responsible for any harm to other associated with that vehicle. Being guilty or not is to be decided in court, and by the way, the hearing to set a court date may take one week or three years. If, as in this case, the driver of the vehicle happens to be related to any government official, say goodbye to your freedom. After this experience I had a company I worked for rent the vehicle and used a local employee as a “full time driver”. Do not drive in the Dominican Republic. This country is only safe for most tourists when you stay at certain all included resorts and don’t go anywhere unless absolutely necessary.

  19. CRIMES are not generally covered by insurance for a good reason — it would have been easier to just take a transfer service– and had he been found “here” by the police with a body in the road, he would not have expected to just skate, either (and his auto insurance would not have covered his legal issues, either)

  20. Did someone try to scam you? Or are you saying that simply by virtue of the fact that you were in the DR that it could have happened? Because anything could happen anywhere, If you’re telling people to beware just because you were there despite the fact that absolutely nothing untoward occurred…that would be silly.

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