Just when you think you knew it all…

Posted on by in Editorial Musings

At a certain point in your career, you think you have seen it all. Even more dangerously, you might even think you know it all.  This past weekend, I  made what I now know was a complete rookie mistake and one that will have me revisiting all of my policies with a clear eye.

I have been lucky in my nearly 20 years in the industry. I have had very few clients have a need to make a claim against their travel insurance policy. I have had none make a claim against my agency or our Errors & Omissions policy. I thought I covered my bases until this weekend when a client ended up in the hospital with a punctured lung after falling from a horse.

I was escorting a group of single parents and their kids to an east coast “dude ranch.” It is a weekend trip that we do twice each year to the point where the transaction is nearly as simple as spelling my own name. We have been coming to the ranch for more than 12 years and many of our clients are repeaters (the best kind). The ranch knows the drill, I know the drill, and the clients know the drill…until something goes awry.

Just before dinner on Saturday, I receive a text from a woman asking if I could send someone to the hospital to pick up her daughter. It caught me off guard because I had not heard of any accidents; but more importantly, I had not been notified of any. As it turned out the girl’s father took a fall from a horse on the trail. Initially, he just wanted to rest in his room and then the pain became worse and the ranch drove him and his daughter to the local hospital. The daughter called her mom who called me. We ran into a bit of an issue with the hospital allowing a minor to go somewhere with out the father’s permission (he was having tests), much less on the authority of some woman on the phone.  In the end, I spoke to the mother to explain why her daughter could not just be sent back to the ranch, spoke to the dad, explaining what we were going to do with his daughter, and made arrangements to have the daughter picked up and looked after overnight.

The diagnosis was not favorable and the father’s punctured lung and broken rib was going to keep him in the hospital for at least three nights. His ex-wife had to come to the ranch to pick up her daughter and gather his belongings to check out.  His car was going to be left there until we could jointly figure out what the next steps involved. There were quite a few questions…

  • How was he getting home?
  • Will he be able to drive himself?
  • Will his ex wife be willing to help him get home?
  • And probably a few more that we have not uncovered yet!

As I write this, I am on a train back home with 29 ½ families on their way home and another ½ family spending another night in a strange hospital. Tomorrow the saga will continue and we will find out the answers to the questions. But, this is something that we had never experienced—the man was an advanced rider and had ridden here on 6 of our past trips. Aside from a few bumps and scrapes in the pool and a burger that disagreed with a child one time, we had never had any real issues. But now the game has changed and we will need to re-evaluate our policies and procedures.

Periodically, take a look at what you do. Imagine what can go wrong, and develop a plan as to what you can do to mitigate the issue. Whenever you have an issue develop, make sure you do a post-mortem on it to make sure you did all you could do, and have taken the steps to prevent a recurrence. For us, we will now make sure that the properties know that we are to be contacted (escorted or not) if any adult guest requires any medical attention in case we need to be a go-between between that adult and an ex-spouse. On escorted trips, we will make sure that the property, the adults, and the children have a way to contact the group leader and know to make the call. I will also have mu attorney review my disclaimer to be sure that I am adequately covered. And as this latest incident wraps up, I am sure we will add a few more changes.

Have you ever had a similar situation? Repatriation of a client? Do you have any lessons to share?

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