Disabled man waits months for insurance company to replace scooter

It took six months, several calls and emails from a lawyer, and a CBC inquiry for an insurance company to finally respond to a claim from a disabled Nova Scotia man to replace his scooter, his only means of independence and transportation.

Arthur Atwood, 60, was on his scooter in Yarmouth, N.S., in April when he was hit by a vehicle in a crosswalk. He had the right of way and RCMP ticketed the driver for failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk.

“It was a very hard hit. It knocked me off,” said Atwood, adding he was thrown almost two metres and for the first week or so was “quite shaken up.”

The $4,600 scooter has been sitting in storage ever since, damaged to the point it cannot be used. Atwood had just bought it brand new two months prior to being hit and has continued to make monthly payments on it even though he’s been unable to use it.

After unsuccessfully trying to the call what he believed was driver’s insurance company, he finally hired a lawyer, Sinead Russell, to look into his case.

“My client is completely disabled and his life is very difficult without his motorized chair, this was a brand-new purchase for him and is struggling to maintain his life without it,” she wrote in a July 31 letter to Economical Insurance.

Atwood’s scooter was damaged to the point where he could not use it. (Brenda Lee Armstrong)

Atwood lost a leg to diabetes and relies on his scooter to go everywhere. He’s currently getting around on a borrowed one, but the owners are anxious to have it returned.

Following the accident, an ambulance was called and Atwood was taken to hospital where he was checked, X-rayed and then released. He said he has suffered some physical injuries, and understands settling that part of his claim may take a long time.

But he is puzzled at why the insurance company delayed dealing with his scooter, and late last month told CBC he was “getting fed up with them.”

His lawyer wrote, emailed and called Economical Insurance five times, explaining the most urgent issued was for Atwood’s scooter to be replaced.

“He is a gentleman with only one leg and this has caused him no end of discomfort and loss of independence,” she wrote on Oct. 3.

Sinead Russell was retained by Atwood as he tried to get his damaged scooter replaced. (Submitted by Sinead Russell)

Economical Insurance, which is headquartered in Waterloo, Ont., didn’t respond to Russell’s inquiry about the scooter, but it did ask for medical records regarding his injuries. 

After CBC contacted Economical Insurance on Nov. 1, Russell received an email from the insurance company noting, “Your client has gone to the media on this matter.”

It went on to say: “Please advise your client of the claims process and that once you provide the proper documentation, we can deal with this matter.” It then requested confirmation of the cost of the scooter and “when he purchased it, etc.”

The email also noted Economical Insurance received notification of the matter in July.

On Nov. 12, Russell’s office received a cheque for the cost of a new scooter.

Insurance company acknowledges delay

In an email to CBC, Glen Bates, Economical Insurance’s regional vice-president for Eastern Canada, acknowledged “this claim should have been processed much sooner.”

“This payment was delayed well beyond the standard we strive to achieve,” he wrote, adding the company is “working with our teams to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”

Bates said each claim is treated on a case-by-case basis. The delay in Atwood’s case was caused by “a number of factors on both sides,” he said, and although not deliberate, the company understands it was a source of frustration.

“Unfortunately, the realities for this situation delayed resolution and we are working to rectify this in the future,” Bates wrote.

Atwood’s lawyer questions what “the realities of this situation delayed resolution” means.

“It is vague language couched in excuses, blaming Mr. Atwood for their incompetence and possible lack of support staff in their claims department despite the billion-dollar industry they profit from,” Russell said.

As for Atwood, he’s just happy to hear that part of his claim has been processed. His new scooter has been ordered and he expects to be driving it next week.

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