A 65-year-old Sudbury, Ont., woman has spent much of this year dealing with paperwork after being beaten and robbed during a trip to Las Vegas, leaving her with nearly $100,000 in U.S. medical bills.
Sandra Cartledge was all set to have a great trip in Las Vegas starting on Halloween 2018. However, the vacation went horribly wrong on the day she was set to return home.
"Through a series of unfortunate events, I was mugged, robbed of everything, all identity, all money, everything in Vegas, the day I was to leave,” said Cartledge.
That incident not only left her without any money or her passport, it put her in the hospital.
Once she was released, she went to the Canadian Consulate in Los Angeles, to get a temporary passport, so she could travel home. However, she was told she had to wait upwards of five days until it was ready.
Stressing for lodging, she decided to head to San Francisco for cheaper hotel prices.
Cartledge had another two visits to the hospital after more falls; one which she says left her in a coma for a few days.
"So, at the end of the week, I’m thinking ‘I don’t know at what point my insurance, which I’ll have to figure out when I get home, tops out at.’ All insurance tops at something,” said Cartledge.
She says her first hospital visit is being covered, but she’s on the hook for the following two. She says her insurance company told because the other visits fell outside of her original travel window, they will not be covered, leaving her portion at about CDN $100,000.
"The problem I’m facing today is looking at declaring bankruptcy or losing whatever equity I can get on a quick sale out of my home,” Carledge said.
After reaching out to the local MP and MPP’s offices, she was directed to local insolvency firms, which provided her with a few options. Cartledge says she’s been told she could outwait the collection agencies, in the hope that they go away, but as someone who says she pays her credit card on a daily basis, that stress is too much for her.
According to the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA), the specifics of Cartledge’s case are rare, but negative experiences to the United States for travellers do happen.
"Travel insurance can save you from bankruptcy,” says Jayme Schuler, manager of Travel Services Call Centre for CAA North and East Ontario. “That would be an extreme case, but yes, especially when you are travelling down to the states because the medical bills that you can rack up very quickly to the cost of what an insurance policy would be.”
Allianz Global Assistance Canada, Cartledge's travel insurance provider, gave this statement to CTV News:
"We continue to review this file with our customer to identify the expenses that can be covered within the period for which the travel coverage was purchased. We advise all travellers to review the terms and conditions of their policy and, in the event they require medical treatment, travellers should contact their insurance provider as soon as possible."
While some may overlook the details of their specific policy, Schuler stresses it is important to know what you are covered for.
"Make sure you understand what your coverage is, because insurance companies don’t all cover for the same thing, and so you want to make sure that you understand your policy inside and out. You understand what is covered, what is not covered, the minimum, the maximum,” said Schuler.
When travelling, Allianz Global Assistance Canada recommends being familiar with daily limits and coverage extensions of their specific plans.
As for Cartledge, she’s feeling alone and unsure what to do next.
"I’ve worked all my working life. I’ve paid everybody. I’m beholden to no one and now this,” said Cartledge.