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January 2006 Vol. 32, No. 1   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Deep Injury: Will Your Insurance Company Be There?

from the January, 2006 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

In August, a British scuba diver got seriously bent in the Red Sea, and his insurance carrier refused to cover the nearly $70,000 in treatment costs. Lloyds TSB said 68-year-old Anthony Allen went deeper than the 30-meter limit stipulated in its small print. Allen’s sons said doctors had told them their father’s illness was caused by dehydration, and not the depth to which he dived. However, the tour company Allen was diving with confirmed that he reached a depth of 160 ft before seeking medical assistance. According to the London Evening Mail, Allen was stuck in an Egyptian hospital for a month and even faced prison if he couldn’t pay his bill. Eventually the retired factory manager wiped out his life savings, and his sons arranged a loan so he could return home for further treatment.

Could this happen to a U.S. diver? Divers Alert Network also imposes a depth limit (l30 ft/40m) on its least expensive Standard Diving Accident policy. Dick Clark, president of National Baromedical Services, which manages claims for DAN’s insurer, says this policy is meant to provide affordable coverage for the occasional diver, who is not expected to make deep dives. DAN’s higher-premium Preferred and Master Plans were created to cover more advanced divers, and have no depth limits. However, Clark points out that most decompression cases submitted to DAN involve dives deeper than 130 feet.

Clive Martin, who operates a hyperbaric chamber on Cyprus, emailed Undercurrent to point out a certain loophole in the Lloyd’s coverage. One case of DCS at his facility involved a dive planned for 28 meters, but the diver became disorientated due to nitrogen narcosis and actually went to 34 meters before getting bent. Says Martin, “Lloyds TSB had no option but to allow the claim as they are playing with an unknown entity when it comes to narcosis as individuals’ susceptibility levels differ greatly.”

Says Clark, “To my knowledge, no DAN coverage has been denied due to depth limits” since he’s been involved, over the past decade. Clark adds, “The spirit of coverage will be applied in emergencies” if, for instance, a diver has to go deeper than 130 feet to rescue a buddy. Clark couldn’t recall any DAN claims involving narcosis, but he says, “We would take each case under consideration, and would depend on eyewitness accounts to determine whether the event should be covered.” However, if you don’t have DAN insurance, check your policy for limitations.

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