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Help! My travel insurance company won't pay to bring my husband's body home

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Q: On a trip to Malaysia last summer, my husband was hospitalized with an infection and died. We had two active travel insurance policies at the time, one with Liverpool Victoria and the other with Seven Corners. The two policies overlapped by a couple of days.

When my husband became ill, we had two days left on our policy with Liverpool Victoria. I didn't pursue a claim at the time because I was emotionally incapable of dealing with it, but also because I had the policy with Seven Corners, which began the date he was hospitalized.

When I came home, I submitted all of the required paperwork to Seven Corners. The company came back at me several times requesting more paperwork -- pretty much what I'd already submitted. Months would go by and I'd get in touch to see how it was going, and they'd ask for more paperwork again and claim they were working on it.

A few weeks ago, when I hadn't heard from the company for a while, I sent another email and got a reply that the claim had been transferred to a different person, and now she's asking me for all the paperwork again. Can you believe it?

I'm appealing to you for help and guidance. Can you help me recover the $19,166, which covers the repatriation of my husband's remains and airfare? -- Talor Min, Seattle

A: I'm so sorry for your loss. Your insurance company should have promptly reimbursed you for your expenses, which are covered under your policy.

I can understand how you would be too upset to do any paperwork at the time of your husband's death, but even so, you did end up filing a claim with Seven Corners' policy on time: You have a year to file, according to the company.

It appears you were stuck in a paperwork loop of some kind, where the company kept asking you for the same forms over and over again. I've seen that happen before, although rarely with this kind of case. Travel insurance companies typically are very sensitive to surviving family members. Chances are, after hearing your complaint, Seven Corners tried to transfer your case to someone more senior who could help expedite your claim.

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A travel insurance company should never apologize for asking for documentation; its underwriters require it. But it should be sorry for requesting the same receipts over and over. That's just wrong.

You could have appealed this to someone higher up. I list the names, numbers and email addresses of the Seven Corners managers on my consumer-advocacy site: http://www.elliott.org/company-contacts/seven-corners/.

I contacted Seven Corners on your behalf. The company said you hadn't sent the documents, which included a kinship affidavit, proof of medical bills paid and proof of funeral expenses paid. Indeed, it appears you had sent some of those forms to Liverpool Victoria instead, the other insurance company.

With a little encouragement from my advocacy team, you re-sent the paperwork. Seven Corners agreed to pay your claim.

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Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine and the author of "How to Be the World's Smartest Traveler." You can read more travel tips on his blog, elliott.org, or email him at chris@elliott.org. elliot@ngs.org

(c) 2018 Christopher Elliott. Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

 

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