Saturday, November 27

Family insurance claim by Whakaari volcano victim rejected on technicalities


When Jason Griffiths spent thousands of dollars on his American Express credit card to buy tickets for his next cruise to New Zealand, he thought he was covered with complimentary travel insurance for his entire trip.

Jason Giffiths, left, and the couple Karla Mathews and Richard Elzer.

From left, Jason Griffiths, Karla Matthews and Rick Elzar of Coffs Harbor were victims of the Whakaari / White Island eruption.
Photo: Supplied / DFAT

But more than 18 months after the 33-year-old was fatally injured in an explosion in Whakaari / White Island, the insurance company behind the credit card has now rejected a claim for loss of life from his grieving family, relying on a technicality. .

Griffiths, who lived on the north coast of New South Wales, had been on a cruise with eight friends, including Karla Mathews and Rick Elzer, who also died in the explosion on December 9, 2019.

Chubb Insurance, which underwrites insurance for American Express, recently wrote to attorneys representing the Griffiths family rejecting the claim because it was “roaming” the island and not being transported to or from the cruise ship.

Her mother, Karen Griffiths, said it felt “like a kick in the stomach,” prompting her to speak up to warn other tourists about the dangers of complimentary credit card insurance.

“It’s so bad on so many levels,” he said.

“I had the American Express [card] due to the supplementary insurance that is attached.

“He has used it a couple of times on vacations he has been on.

“For anyone else who owns American Express, I’d think twice, really.

“The only thing that matters to them is the people who use their card and take all the money in interest and everything that goes with it.”

The loss did not arise from ‘transportation’

After previously asking for details about the location of Griffiths when he was fatally injured, a Chubb Insurance representative wrote to the family’s attorneys earlier this month and denied the claim.

The representative said the policy only covered time spent on the cruise ship, transportation to and from the ship, and while waiting at a terminal, but not while “traveling” during layovers.

“Chubb previously expressed the opinion that Mr. Griffiths was on tour or otherwise visiting White Island when he was fatally injured,” the letter read.

“It appears that Mr. Griffiths was walking away from the crater when he was mortally wounded.

“Unfortunately, in any way, there is no loss derived from the ‘transport’ to or from a Public Transport Transport for which the corresponding coverage is contracted.

“Mr. Griffiths was not using a vehicle or other system or mode of transportation.

“In any scenario, regardless of whether Mr. Griffiths was returning to public transportation, he was not using ‘transportation’ …”

A volcano with a large ash column.

Twenty-two people died in the explosion or from their injuries.
Photo: Supplied / Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust

Karen Griffiths said the decision has only added to her family’s trauma.

“They wanted to know if Jason was on his way back to the ship when it all happened and we got evidence that he was walking back from the crater to the boat that would take them back to the ship and we thought that was enough for Chubb because that’s what they wanted.” , said.

“Then they came back and said ‘no, I had to be in the boat to get back to the boat.’

“What’s the difference, was he still on his way back?”

“If he had been on that ship, we would not be in this situation now, he would have been alive today.”

Lawyer urges insurer to act in ‘good faith’

Maurice Blackburn’s lead attorney, Josh Mennen, said the insurance company’s interpretation of the claim was “appalling.”

“Insurance companies write these contracts and, in this case, they have written it in a way that gives them a maze of complex ways to reject the claim,” he said.

“I think Chubb really needs to reflect on the actual commission [into financial services] who dealt with these types of insurance products and the way these insurers deal with these types of claims.

“Chubb should really think not about what it can get away with if it relies on the fine print of an insurance contract, but what the community really expects from an insurer in their place and what their duties are, taking into account their obligation to act in the utmost good faith “.

Mennen said that most consumers would assume that when they buy a travel insurance policy, they will be covered from the moment they set out on their trip to the moment they return home.

“Unfortunately, with this product and many complementary travel insurance products, that is not the case.”

“Here we have seen this game in really tragic circumstances.”

Maurice Blackburn has offered to represent the family to appeal the decision.

After being contacted by ABC News, a spokeswoman for American Express said that while the policy did not cover deaths of that nature, it would contact the family to offer some “financial support,” but declined to give details.

“We offer our condolences to the Griffiths family,” he said.

“Mr. Griffiths’ estate filed a claim under a transportation accident benefit on the policy.

“Unfortunately, Mr. Griffiths’ death was not caused by a transportation accident but rather by a volcanic eruption and, therefore, his death was not covered by this benefit.

“Given the extraordinary circumstances involved, American Express and Chubb are in the process of reaching out to the family to provide financial support.

“We are also exploring whether there are other expenses that we can help with, given that Mr. Griffiths was eligible for a variety of emergency medical and related expenses.”

– ABC


www.rnz.co.nz

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