Sondra Wolf fractures her patella on a trip to the Canadian Rockies. Although she files a valid travel-insurance claim, Trip Mate is stalling on her payment. Why?

Q: I recently took a Grand Circle tour of the Canadian Rockies. I purchased travel insurance through Trip Mate.

While I was on the tour, I tripped on uneven concrete in front of the Waterton Lodge in Waterton, Alberta, and slammed down directly onto my right knee. I was treated in a hospital and, two days later, managed to get to the airport and fly home. A subsequent MRI revealed that I had suffered a fractured patella.

I contacted Trip Mate, and a representative advised me to file two claims — one for my medical expenses and one for trip interruption. Trip Mate paid most of the interruption claim. On the medical claim, a representative advised me to submit my claim to my primary insurance carrier. I’ve done that, and it has covered everything except $828. I’ve resubmitted the claim to Trip Mate, but it hasn’t paid. Do I have to file a lawsuit to get the money?  

— Sondra Wolf, Marlton, New Jersey

A: I’m sorry you couldn’t finish your trip in the Canadian Rockies. It’s one of the most scenic places in North America, and I hope you’ll have an opportunity to finish the trip someday when your knee heals.

Your case is a reminder not only of the importance of travel insurance, but also of the fact that some trip coverage is secondary. For you, that meant you had to first file a claim with your primary health insurance. Trip Mate will then cover the rest, which for you is $828.

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Your problem also underscores that travel-insurance claims can take weeks or months to process. You want your travel-insurance company to process its claims carefully, of course. But both of these claims should have been settled a long time ago.

That may suggest that foot-dragging is part of the travel-insurance industry’s business plan. But while it’s true that some travelers just give up when they don’t get their money, I have no evidence that the slowness is intentional or systemic.

I’m proud of you for sticking with it. A look at your paperwork shows that you had two perfectly valid claims. You also followed my proven methods for a resolution — you were patient, persistent and polite. Actually, you were very patient. I don’t blame you for wanting to go to court after your long wait.

When a travel-insurance company takes its sweet time with a claim, you can always rattle its cage. I publish the names, numbers and email addresses of the Trip Mate customer service executives on my nonprofit consumer advocacy site.

I reviewed your paperwork, and it appeared you’d done everything correctly. There was only one thing left to do: Ask Trip Mate about your claim. I contacted the company on your behalf to find out if maybe you’d incorrectly filled out a claim form. In response, Trip Mate express-mailed checks for the entire balance due.