Mugged in Mexico! Can Trip Mate make good on this claim?

After Lynn Strough is assaulted in Mexico, her travel insurance company is slow to cover her losses. Can our advocates help?

Question: I have been traveling as a nomad around the world for the past two and a half years and have paid 10 percent of my shoestring budget for annual travel insurance (a total of $3,150). My policy is with World Nomads, administered by Trip Mate.

About a month ago, I was assaulted in Mexico. I was injured during the assault, and my purse was stolen. My iPhone, along with cash and my identification (and other items) were taken as well. This traumatic experience has been tough on me, and now I am having difficulties with my travel insurance. Trip Mate is delaying payment on the claim.

The maximum amount my policy will cover for stolen electronics is $500, even though the replacement for my iPhone is over $1,000. None of my other personal items are covered, since they do not fit the “criteria.” I am OK with that – my phone is my most important possession. I have been going back and forth with Trip Mate for a month now, and every time I hear back (it is slow to respond), it asks for more information, and some of it is a duplicate of what was already submitted.

I sent in the required form with the police report. It was in Spanish, so Trip Mate wanted me to have the police department translate it into English. They only speak Spanish here. Then Trip Mate asked for my original phone purchase receipt and an estimate of the replacement cost. It wanted me to mail this information rather than submit it online, but in Mexico, that is nearly impossible.

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Next, it requested proof that I actually paid for the travel policy by showing the credit card charge. That one I did not get at all. It has my policy number and should know if the policy was paid. Trip Mate then asked for a copy of my round trip flight itinerary, and if it did not originate in the U.S., a copy of my U.S. driver’s license, which was stolen. It would not accept a copy of my passport, because (according to Trip Mate) it does not provide proof of residency. And now it is asking for a written note from my cell phone provider stating that I don’t have coverage.

All of these separate requests are unreasonable. Trip Mate has made it so difficult, that now I am questioning whether travel insurance is worthwhile.

As a travel writer and blogger, I use my phone for sharing my travels, photos, and communicating with the world on social media. I cannot afford to replace it until I receive payment from the insurance company.

Do you have any advice on how to speed up the claim process and make it less painful? — Lynn Strough, San Felipe de Agua Oaxaca, Mexico

Answer: Let me begin by saying my heart goes out to you for what you experienced in Mexico. Being assaulted is a scary ordeal and leaves behind a feeling of apprehension that only time can heal. It is regrettable that you are now having to wrestle with the insurance company.

When you purchase insurance of any kind, proof of loss is required. Trip Mate received that information. More documentation may be needed, but delaying the process and asking for duplicate information can make you question what Trip Mate’s game plan really is.

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According to Trip Mate’s required documentation for evidence of a loss of personal property, it states:

When personal items are lost or stolen, you must provide the date of purchase. If you are not sure of the exact date, provide the month and year of purchase. For items over $100 in value which have been lost or stolen, you must provide documentation of the original purchase price. If the original receipt is not available, benefits will be calculated based upon 75 percent of the Actual Cash Value at the time of loss.

Why did Trip Mate ask to have the police department translate their report into English? It provides multilingual interpretation as one of its benefits, which means that it should be able to translate the report.

Travel insurance can be an asset, especially when traveling abroad or on a costly trip, but as you found out, there are exclusions and limits on what it will pay. It is important to read the fine print when choosing a policy. You seemed to have done a great job on keeping a paper trail, which is integral when filing a claim.

Trip Mate should not have delayed processing your claim, leaving you without a phone for over a month, especially in light of what you have just been through. It should have been straightforward with what was required.

This segues to another area this case brings to light, and that is safety when traveling. There is always something to be learned from what others have experienced. Assaults can happen anywhere at any time — even the savviest of travelers (like you) have become victims. That was a harrowing experience, and we are thankful you are recovering from your injuries.

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This serves as a reminder that before traveling to an unknown destination, it is well worth the time to get the facts on the area you plan to visit. Find out what the crime rate is and if any travel warnings or alerts have been issued. This doesn’t mean you need to avoid traveling to that location, but knowing the risks will enable you to better protect yourself and your family and determine the best location to stay.

For country-specific information, visit the U.S. Department of State’s website, or check out the various travel guides.

Thankfully, we can close this story with some good news. Our intrepid advocates contacted Trip Mate and received a response (in two days) that your claim will now be processed. You will be receiving a payment of $585. Hopefully, this is one more step toward putting this all behind you.

Stephanie Patterson

Stephanie is a published book author and travel columnist with a focus on preparation and protocol. She is committed to helping travelers be informed and avoid potential problems while traveling. Stephanie's most recent book is "Know Before You Go: Traveling the U.S. and Abroad". For travel insight when planning your trip, visit Know Before You Go Travel. Along with writing, Stephanie does interior designing. Read more of Stephanie's articles here.

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