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Scientist forced to quit research in Brazil wins against insurance firm

The Pune district consumer disputed redressal forum has ordered New India Assurance Company Limited to pay Rs 1.2 lakh to city-based biologist Dr Sitaraman Vechuri for denying to open his overseas insurance policy in Brazil,thus forcing him to leave his government-sponsored research.

Written by AADITI JATHAR LAKADE | Published: May 3, 2012 4:28:42 am

The Pune district consumer disputed redressal forum (consumer court) has ordered New India Assurance Company Limited to pay Rs 1.2 lakh to city-based biologist Dr Sitaraman Vechuri for denying to open his overseas insurance policy in Brazil,thus forcing him to leave his government-sponsored research.

Vechuri was selected and sponsored by the Government of India for the ‘Plant Biologist Workshop’ in Campos dos Goytacazes village near Rio De Janerio in Brazil,for two months in 2009. He had taken the overseas mediclaim policy from New India Assurance for the period between August 4,2009 and September 18,2009. He had to opt for higher insurance coverage as was 62 at that time. The policy was inclusive of accident,illness,theft of luggage,delay in getting luggage and theft of passport.

Vechuri told the insurance company that he was going to Brazil and was asked to contact Corus International Limited’s office in Florida,USA,or Paris,France in case of any medical emergency during his stay. “The insurance company had promised of medical help not just in Brazil,but also after returning to India,” said Vechuri in his complaint.

Vechuri left for Brazil on August 4,2009 and suffered severe backache on August 9. He contacted Corus International Limited and asked them to open his case,but it never happened. They directed him to Brazil local office,but there was no response pertaining to the policy. Meanwhile,it was detected by local doctors in Campos dos Goytacazes village that Vechuri was suffering from sciatic nerve pain and could not be treated there. “In order to receive treatment in Rio De Janerio,I had to take permission from Corus International. However,there was no response from them even after mailing them my air tickets,policy copy and other documents as required,” Vechuri submitted to the court.

Having waited for almost three weeks,Vechuri had to leave his research mid-way and returned to India on September 1,2009. However,New India Assurance refused to open his overseas policy as he was back in India. They told him that the company had misplaced his documents and claimed that they had sent a letter of apology to him in Brazil,which he had never received.

On May 21,2010,Vechuri filed a complaint in the consumer court against New India Assurance,Mumbai,its Pune regional office on Karve Road and Corus Intervational’s USA and Paris branches. “It was a rare chance for me to go abroad on GoI sponsorship,but had to cut it short because of the insurance company. In future,I will have to pay from my pocket to participate in such research abroad,” he told the court. The insurance company told the court that Vechuri had never submitted the claim form,which was mandatory to avail of the policy.

The consumer court bench of Anjali Deshmukh,presiding officer of Pune district consumer forum,and S K Kapse,member of the forum,stated in the order that New India Assurance had adopted unfair trade practice by not fulfilling the claim.

“Since the policy agreement was between New India Assurance and the complainant and since respondent number 2 (Corus International) was not directly involved,the order will be only against the former company,” the order stated. The court ordered the insurance company to pay Rs 1.2 lakh as compensation within six weeks of receiving the order.

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