Most insurers expect you to pay smaller medical expenses and all other expenses you intend to claim for yourself, and later apply for reimbursement. They will often pay large medical bills, such as those arising from hospitalization or evacuation, directly. If you are hospitalized, they should be informed as quickly as possible, since they need to agree that the treatment and associated costs are necessary. There is usually a clause stating that they will refuse to pay for medical assistance that they deem unnecessary. If you are incapacitated, your travel companions or contacts at home will need to deal with the insurer; make sure they have contact details. Many insurers have a 24-hour hotline that you can call. Often, this service is an advice hotline and the insurer may transfer you to their professional staff or those in your area to advise you about medical facilities and services available. If you or a travel companion can first inquire locally about medical capabilities, that can be useful information.
Do not arrange your own evacuation unless your life is in danger and you or your companion(s) cannot talk to the insurer first. As above, your insurer may have fully-effective, alternate means to arrange what you need and avoid costs. They won't pay (or pay fully) if evacuation is otherwise self-arranged. In case of unavoidable self-arranged evacuation, go no further than is necessary to obtain proper care, not (in most cases) all the way home.
For anything that is likely to result in a large claim, inform the insurer as soon as possible.
All claims should be filed promptly. Most insurers have a limited period of time after a given event for which you can claim associated expenses...usually no more than a year.
Claims will need to be documented. Where you are claiming expenses, you will need receipts. If you're claiming for a theft, you will need a copy of the police report made when you reported the theft to the police and evidence of the value of the item...possibly proof that you owned it in the first place (proof of the original purchase will cover both requirements).
Finally, don't file a claim for reimbursable or (to be) reimbursed costs, or avoidable costs.
- Your trip insurance is secondary coverage for your trip. Your credit card (if used) may provide some coverage, you need to ask for and may receive refunds from some providers for all or part of the costs of tours, lodging, etc., that you had to cancel.
- You have a duty to diligently avoid unnecessary costs as you arrange for the premature end of your trip, e.g., notify tour operators/hoteliers of your circumstances and cancel what you can to obtain all possible refunds, don't use (or make claims for) five-star hotels and first-class air for the rest of your group if that was not already part of your trip.