Pro bono advisers win claim for dying woman

COLLETTE DEVLIN
Last updated 05:00 18/12/2012
Meg Bourke
JOHN HAWKINS/Fairfax NZ
GRATEFUL: 'Their unmitigated generosity made it possible for me to enjoy my little window of time with my loving family.'

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An Invercargill financial adviser and a Christchurch solicitor who offered their services free to terminally ill Bluff woman Meg Bourke have reached a settlement with BNZ Life Insurance Ltd.

Mrs Bourke was diagnosed with ovarian cancer last year and said she had spent much of her time battling with her life insurance provider instead of spending precious time with her family.

The insurance provider refused to pay Mrs Bourke her full life insurance cover because she had suffered from "depression" despite her saying she had never been diagnosed with the condition.

Her doctor has since written to the solicitor to say Mrs Bourke was not diagnosed with depression.

The financial adviser and lawyer believed Mrs Bourke had been wronged and offered their services for free to negotiate with BNZ Insurance for a payment.

BNZ Insurance chief operating officer Campbell Chambers said: "Both parties have come to a satisfactory and confidential resolution." He refused to comment further or say what percentage of Mrs Bourke's policy had been paid.

Mrs Bourke said she was grateful and wanted to thank the two men who secured a payment for her. "This means so much to me.

"They liaised on my behalf as I struggled with hospitalisation and procedures. Their unmitigated generosity made it possible for me to enjoy my little window of time with my loving family.

"As daily activities become limited, I now have the company of my sisters and brothers to farewell me, in what has become known by us as a living wake," she said.

Mrs Bourke also wanted to thank the "so many united voices" of readers who supported her "so enthusiastically" after her plight was revealed in The Southland Times.

She wanted to help other people avoid the same heartbreak before it was too late for them, and urged people to read the fine print and get a copy of their medical records before filling in a form.

Mrs Bourke was unaware of what had been written by her doctor when she filled out her insurance application form. Processes in the life insurance system needed to be addressed, she said.

INSURANCE PITFALLS

The financial adviser who went to the aid of Mrs Bourke has advised people filling out insurance application forms to take their time and think about their responses before writing them down.

It was better for people to overstate and explain things on an application form rather than tick a box and feel the ramifications further down the track when they were vulnerable, he said.

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Often doctors' notes needed to be clarified because lay people did not know what was important to insurers, he said. "If necessary, write on the application that you are not sure what the doctor thought and ask the insurer to check your medical records," he said.

Mrs Bourke did not know what her doctor had written and too many people were in the same situation, and went unheard, he said.

He believed the 1908 Life Insurance Act and the Law Reform Commission Act 1973 needed an overhaul.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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