A Lesson About Travel Insurance - Aussie Couple Owes $60,000

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When Ross Pointer fell snowboarding on a favourite run near Nelson, B.C., in January, he hit something hard and thought he might have broken his tailbone.

The Australian man turned around to see a jagged stump, covered in his own blood and pieces of flesh.

“I literally tore my butt open,” he told CBC.

Two surgeries and a hospital stay later, Pointer, 39, feels lucky to be able to walk.

But now the Australian man and his partner are saddled with a medical bill of more than $60,000 their travel insurance won’t pay because of a disagreement over what coverage they actually bought.

Pointer, 39, and his partner Kalindra McColl, 33, arrived in Canada last May, planning to travel all summer through northern B.C., Alaska and the Yukon, then spend the winter snowboarding in West Kootenay powder.

The Australian couple were house sitting outside of Nelson when they went to Whitewater Ski Resort Jan. 22.

On Giddyup Gully, an “extreme” rated route through trees, Pointer’s board caught on something, and he came down hard.

“I fell on my backside and was impaled on a stump,” he said. “I looked around and I just saw all my blood and flesh all over the jagged stump and I kind of got a bit freaked out.”

McColl stayed with him, screaming for help while he slipped in and out of consciousness, losing blood.

The ski patrol arrived within 15 minutes, having heard reports of McColl’s cries for help. They bandaged Pointer to slow his blood loss and loaded him into a sled, then a skidoo, then an ambulance waiting at the bottom of the mountain.

He was rushed to Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital in Trail, more than an hour away, where a surgeon was available to operate.

As the doctors cleaned shards of wood from Pointer’s right buttock, they saw how close he’d come to much greater injury, Pointer said.

“According to the surgeon, it missed ripping my colon out by about 3 mm, or the thickness of the colon wall.”

His sacrum — the triangular vertebra at the end of the spine — was shattered, and his sciatic nerve, running down the leg, was very nearly severed.

“As bad as monetary things may be, I’m very lucky to be able to walk,” said Pointer.

Ross Pointer injury (cropped)
Pointer required two surgeries to remove wood shards and his broken sacrum, after the stump tore through his right buttock, nearly reaching his rectum. (Kalinda McColl)

While Pointer’s physical recovery continues, he and McColl now say they’re in financial trouble because their travel insurance won’t cover the surgeries or hospital bills, which have reached $60,000 and may still grow.

McColl said they chose their insurer, Travel Insuranz, specifically because it offered optional coverage for snow sports.

When she bought the policy online last year, McColl says she opted for snow sports coverage over certain dates when they planned to be on the mountain, including Jan. 22.

She didn’t realize until she was at the hospital, with Pointer in agony, that the insurance certificate she was issued said “Snow Sports Cover: no.”

“I thought well that’s really strange, but perhaps because we bought a year-long policy and the snow sports only covered a very small period of that, that they hadn’t included it as part of the whole policy.”

After four days of wrangling with the insurance company, McColl said she was told it had no record of their snow sports coverage.

“Because I’ve had lots of policies before, I didn’t look through the certificate with a fine-tooth comb,” said McColl. “Obviously I’m kicking myself now.”

The couple provided a copy of their insurance certificate to CBC News, which read, “you should read this Certificate carefully and if it is not correct contact Travel Insuranz.”

Eight days after surgery, with hospital bills they already couldn’t afford, McColl took Pointer out of hospital.

In a written statement to CBC News, Travel Insuranz stood by its assertion that Pointer and McColl did not purchase additional snow coverage.

It also confirmed that an online summary of their purchase showed that to be the case, and they could have changed their coverage during a two-week grace period after they bought it.

Travel Insuranz also said McColl and Pointer confirmed they had read and understood the insurance policy’s terms and conditions before they accepted. 

“We hope that this has gone some way to explaining why the insurers were not in a position to pay the medical expenses related to the accident,” said the company.

“This is a very unfortunate case and we appreciate that it has been a difficult time for the insured persons.”

Now, the couple is warning other travellers to check their policies carefully and keep careful records or even screen grabs of their online insurance purchase.

They’re also appealing to friends and family back home in Australia for financial help, using the crowdfunding site OzCrowd.

“Project Dead Stump — Rebuilding Ross’ Buns!!!” the site reads. Between that site and the direct donations, they have raised about $2,000.

Pointer is still hoping the insurance company may change its mind.

“Financially it would put us in a very difficult situation. We can’t really afford to pay for it.”

Original article - CBC

 
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That hurts to read on so many levels from the physical injury through to the financial burden. 3mm away from ripping out his colon - aarrghhhhhh!!!!

 
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:(

The extra snow insurance is the catch.

Even make sure the snow insurance reaches your standards and remember that if you have any drugs or alcohol in your system, even from one beer it will forfeit your insurance. I would also see if you can get insurance in the area your snowboarding if you’re going back-country.

Like all insurance they don’t want to pay you out, they don’t make money off paying the bills.

 
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What I’m most curious about is this:

When she bought the policy online last year, McColl says she opted for snow sports coverage over certain dates when they planned to be on the mountain, including Jan. 22.

She didn’t realize until she was at the hospital, with Pointer in agony, that the insurance certificate she was issued said “Snow Sports Cover: no.”

That’s a big claim! They are basically saying it was selected, however, not reflected on their actual policy. Whether this is true or not we will probably never know.

I think the biggest lesson here is to check your travel insurance policy/certificate and make sure the extra coverage you thought you purchased has been reflected on the final certificate.

 
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rider26 - 06 March 2016 09:50 AM

What I’m most curious about is this:

When she bought the policy online last year, McColl says she opted for snow sports coverage over certain dates when they planned to be on the mountain, including Jan. 22.

She didn’t realize until she was at the hospital, with Pointer in agony, that the insurance certificate she was issued said “Snow Sports Cover: no.”

That’s a big claim! They are basically saying it was selected, however, not reflected on their actual policy. Whether this is true or not we will probably never know.

I think the biggest lesson here is to check your travel insurance policy/certificate and make sure the extra coverage you thought you purchased has been reflected on the final certificate.

Yep, it would’ve most likely added another cost to the premium, and then been listed on the invoice?????

Insurance is one thing people just don’t pay enough attention to, and sadly these stories will be around for years to come!!!!!

 
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Mizu Kuma - 06 March 2016 10:10 AM
rider26 - 06 March 2016 09:50 AM

What I’m most curious about is this:

When she bought the policy online last year, McColl says she opted for snow sports coverage over certain dates when they planned to be on the mountain, including Jan. 22.

She didn’t realize until she was at the hospital, with Pointer in agony, that the insurance certificate she was issued said “Snow Sports Cover: no.”

That’s a big claim! They are basically saying it was selected, however, not reflected on their actual policy. Whether this is true or not we will probably never know.

I think the biggest lesson here is to check your travel insurance policy/certificate and make sure the extra coverage you thought you purchased has been reflected on the final certificate.

Yep, it would’ve most likely added another cost to the premium, and then been listed on the invoice?????

Insurance is one thing people just don’t pay enough attention to, and sadly these stories will be around for years to come!!!!!

Exactly,

I see two or three every year about photographers/videographer having gear stolen and want people to chip in. Get insurance, read the insurance and have a great trip.

 
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It’s bad that we take leasons from incidents like this but it shows us one more time that no one cares about us, it’s just business. I always say to my friends to not take stupid risks knowing that they paid an insurance. If you have a small accident that didn’t caused much damage they will insure you, otherwise, like in this case, when they costs are bigger, the insurance company will try to escape somehow. I never took a travel insurance because I only visit cities and it will bring me just extra costs. There are so much new places to discover and I have a lot of travel ideas that I cannot limit myself to one place.

 
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Loo1ksee - 06 August 2019 05:01 PM

I never took a travel insurance because I only visit cities and it will bring me just extra costs.

Wow, you don’t need insurance in cities?  That’s a first.  So theft (personal effects), assault (medical bills), vehicle accidents (personal liability), vehicle rental (excess reduction), etc etc.  If you can’t afford the insurance, don’t go.