Eric Bruem was on a holiday in Thailand with two friends when a car accident occurred in Huahin, 200km southward from Bangkok. One and a half week later, Eric, still in a coma, is being treated at a private hospital in Huahin, with his family who flew from Norway to be by his side.
But the Bruem’s are as worried about their son’s conditions as about the medical fees that could cost them a good half a million NOK (approximately 2 million baht), because of Eric’s expired travel insurance.
Kine Bruem (20) and the rest of the family came straight to Thailand when they learned that big brother Eric (22) are lying in a coma in a private hospital after a car accident. Photo: Private
“He had been there for half a year and it was not until after the accident that we realized that the travel insurance only valid for trips lasting less than two months,” says Eric’s little sister Kine Bruem.
The family has estimated that the stay at the hospital would cost at least half a million NOK. In addition, Eric’s transportation by the ambulance plane back to Norway may cost up to another half a million NOK. And since Eric did not have valid travel insurance, all costs must be covered by the family.
Norwegian Foreign Ministry has stated that it was out of their hands with the Bruem’s financial situation.
“The embassies can help to find a good hospital and other practical things, but if an injury occurs outside the EU you get no financial help from the Norwegian government,” Veslemøy Salvesen, Communication Advisor at the Ministry, told VG Nett.
Even though, Salvesen is uncertain of how often case like this has occurred in the past, she stated that it’s not unusual. “There are some Norwegians who have received a very unpleasant expense as a result of accidents while traveling without insurance.”
One in five travelers without insurance
Euro-Center, a Nordic travel insurance company, estimates that one out of five travelers are traveling without an insurance.
“It’s like playing Russian roulette,” said Emma Elisabeth Vennesland, Deputy Communications at Euro-center.
“If the trip goes smoothly, then, it is good, but if the accident occurs, it can be very problematic for both the injured and the family to face the financial burden. It’s incredibly sad.”
“The Foreign Ministry has stated several times that their best advice is to only travel with insurance, and we are in total agreement,” said Leif Osland, Communications Director at Finance Norway (FNO), a trade organisation for banks, insurance companies and other financial institutions.
Figures from the FNO show that so far this year, there have been 221,000 total travel injuries that have been reported to insurance companies, which is an increase of seven percent over the same period last year.
Asking for help on Facebook
The accident occurred on 27 November 2012, in a heavy rain, when Eric and friend’s car aquaplaned and hit the crash barrier between the lanes. His friend is now brought back to Norway with minor injuries.
Henry Everett (left) and Eric in Thailand. Photo: Private
Eric’s best friend Henrik Stene who first came with him on the trip, but was not present during the accident, together with Eric’s sister Kine has used the social media to help with the family’s financial situation. The two started a Facebook group called “Hjelp til å få hjem Eirik Bruem!,” where they ask anyone who are interested for financial help for the cost of the ambulance plane to Norway.
“We hope to get him home as soon as possible, and hope this group can help to obtain quick capital to help him,” said Kine.