3 On Your Side

Scottsdale man upset with travel insurance denial

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David Huffman bought travel insurance but when canceled his trip to Cuba due to a government advisory, his claim was denied. (Source: 3TV) David Huffman bought travel insurance but when canceled his trip to Cuba due to a government advisory, his claim was denied. (Source: 3TV)
Huffman believed the warning fell under TravelSafe's terrorist clause and asked the insurance company to reimburse nearly $2,500 since he decided he wouldn’t be traveling to Cuba. (Source: 3TV) Huffman believed the warning fell under TravelSafe's terrorist clause and asked the insurance company to reimburse nearly $2,500 since he decided he wouldn’t be traveling to Cuba. (Source: 3TV)
TravelSafe denied the claim. (Source: 3TV) TravelSafe denied the claim. (Source: 3TV)
TravelSafe said a federal warning wasn't covered. (Source: 3TV) TravelSafe said a federal warning wasn't covered. (Source: 3TV)
(3 ON YOUR SIDE) -

David Huffman loves the memories from his many trips around the world.

“This was fairly close. I would say I was no more than a hundred yards away," Huffman said as he showed 3 On Your Side a picture he took of wild elephants while on a safari in Africa.

And, when it comes to his journeys, Huffman says he’s been to 44 different countries.

"I have traveled throughout eastern and western Europe. So, that includes Germany, France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands and the Baltics," he said.

And, Huffman’s next journey was supposed to be Cuba.

"Everything about their culture is unique. It's basically frozen in time," Huffman said.

Huffman wound up booking a trip to Cuba and purchased his airfare and hotel accommodations for just under $2,500. He also bought travel insurance through a company called TravelSafe. That way, he says if he had to cancel his Cuba trip for some reason, the insurance policy would most likely reimburse him his costs.

And, Huffman says it's a good thing he had that travel insurance because about a month before his departure, the U.S. State Department issued a warning to U.S. residents wanting to visit Cuba.

"There came a warning which was one of the most strongly worded warnings I've ever seen from the State Department," Huffman said of the warning.

According to that notice, it “…. warns U.S. citizens not to travel to Cuba..." saying, “…U.S. Embassy employees have been targeted in specific attacks.” And, that they, “…suffered significant injuries because of the attacks.”

The warning went on to say that some of the attacks happened “…at hotels frequented by U.S. citizens.”

"It really got my attention and caused me to cancel my trip," Huffman said.

Huffman believed the warning fell under TravelSafe's terrorist clause and asked the insurance company to reimburse nearly $2,500 since he decided he wouldn’t be traveling to Cuba. But, TravelSafe denied the claim.

"It totally caught me off guard because it didn't seem logical at all," he said.

So, he contacted 3 On Your Side.

"I was looking for some help. I felt as though I was all alone in this situation," Huffman said.

3 On Your Side asked TravelSafe to revisit Huffman’s claim to make sure they made the right decision in his case.

After a thorough review, TravelSafe sent us an email saying, "While a travel warning was issued, we do not have documentation the incident was deemed a terrorist act by the United States government." The company went on to say, "a travel warning alone is not a covered peril."

Huffman says he certainly doesn't agree and while he won't be going to Cuba anytime soon, he still intends on traveling around the world.

However, from now on, he says he'll be very selective when he chooses a travel insurance company.

"I just bought a new policy for a trip next summer to southeast Asia. But, it's a different company," he said.

Huffman says he appreciates 3 On Your Side’s involvement. He has also filed a complaint with the Arizona Department of Insurance in hopes that an investigation will resolve the issue.

If you’d like to read TravelSafe’s entire explanation, you can find it below. You’ll also see a link to the State Department’s warning about traveling to Cuba.

Statement from TravelSafe:

Hi Gary,

Apologies for the slight delay in getting back to you.  As I mentioned previously I am familiar with Mr. Huffman's claim but I did speak with our Claims processor about it and it appears that Mr. Huffman has filed a complaint with the Arizona Department of Insurance over this issue.  That is his right to do so but because of this we won't be able to comment beyond this response as we will now have to defer to official channels of corporate communication through the underwriter of the policy.

What I can tell you is that insurance policies, even travel insurance ones, are quite specific when it comes to covered perils.  Mr. Huffman filed a claim under our Terrorism benefit which requires, "a Terrorist Incident that occurs in a city listed on the Itinerary of Your Trip and within 30 days prior to Your Scheduled Departure Date.  Benefits are not provided if the Travel Supplier offers a substitute itinerary".  A Terrorist Incident is defined as "...an incident deemed a terrorist act by the United States Government that causes property damage and loss of life".

As you can see from the documentation you sent the U.S. State department did not identify these attacks as terrorist incidents.  While a Travel Warning was issued, we do not have documentation the incident was deemed a terrorist act by the United States government.  While we understand why Mr. Huffman might choose not to go or to postpone his travel, the policy he purchased covers trip cancellation for covered perils (i.e. Terrorist Incident as defined).  A Travel Warning alone is not a covered peril.

The U.S. State department's Travel Warnings are numerous, at last check the U.S. State department had over 30 destination specific Travel Warnings including for places like Mexico.

I know that this is not the response Mr. Huffman is looking for and that your intention is to do a story on this but I have to say it would be a shame to air a news story which concentrates on a legitimate denial instead of focusing on the many benefits that Travel Insurance and protection products provide to U.S. travelers visiting places like Cuba.

More information on U.S. Department of State Cuba advisory.

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Copyright 2018 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


Gary HarperGary Harper is the senior consumer and investigative reporter for 3 On Your Side at KTVK-TV.

Click to learn more about Gary.

Gary Harper
3 On Your Side

With more than 20 years of television experience, Gary has established himself as a leader in the industry when it comes to assisting viewers and resolving their consumer-related issues. His passion and enthusiasm have helped him earn an Emmy for Best Consumer Reporter from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. He’s also garnered several Emmy nominations

He has negotiated resolutions with companies of all sizes, including some of the biggest corporations in the nation.

Gary has successfully recouped more than $1 million for viewers around the state, making 3 On Your Side one of the most popular segments on KTVK and the station's Web site.

He's best known for investigating and confronting unscrupulous contractors. In fact, many of his news reports have led to police investigations and jail time for those who were caught. Viewers, as well as the companies and people he investigates, regard him as consistently being thorough and fair.

Gary has been with KTVK-TV since 1997. Prior to his arrival in Phoenix, he worked for WZZM-TV in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he was as an anchor and reporter.

Gary is from Chicago, but launched his television career in Lubbock, Texas, after earning a broadcast journalism degree from Texas Tech University. Following his graduation, he was quickly hired by KLBK-TV in Lubbock, where he enterprised and broke numerous exclusive reports. His aggressive reporting in Texas helped garner him Best Reporter by the Associated Press.

Gary has been married since 1994 and is the proud father of two sons. When he's not helping viewers, Gary is busy catching up on his favorite college and professional football teams as well as cheering on his beloved Texas Tech Red Raiders.

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