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The mercury’s rising


Suspected mercury poisoning

Tom was travelling in Europe in September 2013. He fell ill and said he was diagnosed with mercury poisoning resulting from his 27 year old tooth fillings. Upon returning to New Zealand Tom had ongoing medical expenses relating to mercury poisoning. Tom submitted a claim for these costs to his travel insurance company, Travel Insure Limited.


Tom said Travel Insure had accepted that the policy provided cover for ongoing medical expenses incurred by Tom for 12 months following his return to New Zealand.


Tom said he and Travel Insure could not agree on the quantum of his claim which was complicated by a disagreement about whether Travel Insure would cover the costs of alternative as opposed to conventional medical treatment. Travel Insure had offered to pay $2,500 to Tom, which Tom did not accept. Tom also felt that Travel Insure had not dealt with his claim in a timely manner.


Travel Insure’s view on the complaint

Our case manager contacted Travel Insure. Travel Insure said it had not actually been determined whether Tom was suffering from mercury poisoning and that it was sending out a claims assessor to meet with Tom. Travel Insure said it had apologised to Tom about the way the claim had been handled. Travel Insure said that if it could be determined that Tom was suffering from mercury poisoning, it would look to pay his claim for medical expenses.


The parties reach a resolution

After a delay in the assessor meeting with Tom, he contacted FSCL and said he was moving overseas for work and wanted to accept Travel Insure’s original offer of $2,500. Tom said his blood test results did not show definitively that he was suffering from mercury poisoning. Tom also said that his new overseas employer was going to assist with some of his medical costs, and as he was due to leave the country very soon, wanted to get the dispute with Travel Insure resolved.


Our case manager spoke again with Travel Insure. It said there was a delay in the assessor issuing their findings as Tom’s file was a large one. We said to Travel Insure that as Tom was heading overseas, it may defeat the purpose of him having ongoing medical costs in New Zealand covered by his insurance.


Travel Insure offered to make a payment to Tom of $3,000 which covered a reasonable portion of medical expenses he had incurred upon returning to New Zealand. Travel Insure said it made the offer on the basis of the tests being inconclusive about whether he was suffering from mercury poisoning.


Tom accepted Travel Insure’s offer and his complaint was resolved.