Can vacationers get reimbursed in wake of NC Outer Banks power outage?

A generator hooked up to power lines in Ocracoke Island. Photo by Tideland EMC. CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE


RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — With the power situation on Ocracoke and Hatteras islands set to drag on for a while, vacationers who rented places there want to know if can they get their money back and from whom.

CBS North Carolina consumer reporter Steve Sbraccia learned that even if travel insurance doesn’t cover the situation, you might still get reimbursed.

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Whether travel insurance pays under the current circumstances on the islands is not a clear-cut “yes” or “no” issue because there is so much variance in insurance policies.

But, because of the way state law is written a landlord might have to pay even if insurance won’t.

There’s no question if a hurricane struck the Outer Banks, all travel insurance policies would pay. But, with a man-made situation like the power outage, travel insurance payout becomes more complicated.

Raleigh attorney David Stradley specializes in insurance cases. He says travel policies from the same company can vary widely depending on where the insurance buyer lives.

“You’ll be offered a different policy depending on whether you live in North Carolina, Virginia, or Ohio for instance,” says Stradley.

He says some policies may only pay off if a natural disaster hits, but those same policies may have another provision that gets you your money back.

Stradley showed CBS North Carolina an example of that.

“This one has a provision for road closures,” he said.

While some policies pay only if a natural disaster interrupts your vacation, he showed us a policy that doesn’t make that distinction.

“This particular policy appears to cover a documented man-made disaster at your destination,” he said.

But, even if you were sold a policy that only covers natural disasters, attorney Stradley says the state’s vacation rental law could make the landlord pay you for your lost rental.

“If you were offered a policy and it turns out it doesn’t cover it, then as I read the statute, the landlord has to refund your money,” he said.

So how do you get that money?

“The first thing is to contact the real estate company and ask for the money back. They’ll probably tell you to file a claim first and get that claim denied,” said Stradley. “Once you have the denial and contact the broker it seems likely you will get your money back.”

However, Stradley says that process will take some time.

He also says before you do anything, read your policy carefully.

“It’s going to list in really clear terms what is covered and what is not covered,” he said.

“You may need to seek legal advice if you have something you believe is covered and the insurance company takes a different position,” Stradley added.

He also anticipates that somewhere down the road there could be lawsuits filed over some travel insurance coverage for Hatteras or Ocracoke vacations which were affected by the power outage and visitor evacuations.

Email CBS North Carolina’s Steve Sbraccia if you have a consumer issue.

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