Six years ago, Cork sales manager Dan Dowling took out an insurance policy guaranteeing him €1,400 a month if he was left unable to work through serious illness.
But when he lost his eyesight after a stroke and life-threatening brain haemorrhage in April, 2006, his insurers refused to pay up, arguing he was not blind according to their rules.
Mr Dowling lost his part of his field of vision while his eyesight was left severely blurred, making him registered blind according to the National Council for the Blind in Ireland.
But the insurers said his vision was not blurred enough to meet the blindness standards of their stricter test, so they threw out his claim for a monthly payment for being unable to work.
Yesterday, Mr Dowling, aged 58, told of his 18-month battle to get his insurer to pay out — even after the Financial Ombudsman ruled in his favour.
“What I went through with my insurer I would not want anyone else to go through,” he said. “I had a massive brain haemorrhage and my family was told [at one point] that I had 12 to 24 hours to live.
“I came out of hospital after two months and I was unable to work, yet they said I did not meet their criteria [for my claim].”
Mr Dowling said he had enjoyed a good career with sound prospects until he was struck down with illness, which has left him unable to work or drive a car.
Earlier this week, Financial Ombudsman Joe Meade, who rules on complaints against banks, investment firms and insurers, revealed he had ordered the insurer to pay.
Mr Meade told the insurer to pay €21,000 in arrears and €1,400 a month, but Mr Dowling said the insurance firm has withheld money for “tax reasons.”
“I don’t know whether they decided I was compliant with the tax Revenue or not but they gave me €12,000-odd,” he said.
“Last month they were supposed to give me €1,400, but they gave me €80. They have now told me it is something to do with the tax certificates I have.”
Mr Dowling said he has been assured by the Revenue Commissioners he is tax compliant.
Mr Meade said the way the insurance firm had handled the application was unfair and unreasonable, even though Mr Dowling’s claim was dealt with according to “established practice”.
Yesterday, the Professional Insurance Brokers’ Association called on insurers to be clearer about critical illness cover, saying such policies had become a “legal and regulatory minefield.”