Hurting family's insurance fight
A WARWICK father of two who suffered severe brain damage in a tragic accident while holidaying overseas has been denied access to his travel insurance, in a move which could have a sweeping impact on Australians travelling abroad.
Polocrosse and rugby league star Sinclair Byrne was thrown from a utility on June 25 last year while on holidays in Canada.
He spent three months in a Calgary hospital before his family was able to move him back to Brisbane’s Princess Alexandra Hospital, where he remains in a coma.
There, grappling with the trauma of their son’s accident, his parents Tom and Jean Byrne discovered the family was liable for more than $500,000 worth of overseas medical and travel expenses, costs they understood would be covered by Mr Byrne’s travel insurance.
Shine Lawyers solicitor Rebecca Jancauskas is representing 34-year-old Sinclair in his legal battle against Vero Insurance.
“The insurance company is abandoning our client in his darkest hour,” Ms Jancauskas said.
“This callous response sends a warning to Australian tourists: if you get hurt overseas, don’t assume you will be looked after.”
Mr Byrne paid $611 for a travel insurance policy through Harvey World Travel from Vero Insurance subsidiary Cover More Pty Ltd.
The policy was promoted to Mr Byrne as providing up to $5 million cover if he suffered a disabling injury during his trip to Canada.
The insurer is refusing to pay any of the medical expenses incurred in saving his life and returning him home to Australia.
“My son can’t feed himself, let alone talk to us or hold his little kids,” Mrs Byrne said.
“I’m disgusted by what this insurance company is trying to get away with.
“Sinclair did the right thing, he took out travel insurance.
“Right now we should, as family, be able to focus on Sinclair and his health, not this huge medical bill.”
Her son was injured after being thrown from the utility’s tray during on-field celebrations after a polocrosse game.
Mrs Byrne said her son’s plight should make people think twice about the risk of travelling.
“Aside from the horrible state that it has left Sinclair in, he’s got no way of meeting these costs,” she said.
“He’s a responsible father, who took out the insurance to make sure everything would be looked after if anything went wrong.”
Ms Jancauskas said the insurer had “rejected our client’s claim on the basis that he contributed to the accident by consuming alcohol”.
“But there is nothing he or any of the other passengers, for that matter, could have done to get out of that car,” she said.
“Every month, thousands of young Australians travel abroad to holiday, surf, mountain climb, ski and enjoy life.
“Vero’s decision throws into doubt people’s expectation they’ll be covered.”