February 26, 2017 3:18 pm
Updated: February 26, 2017 3:33 pm

B.C. woman injured in California warns of need for proper travel insurance

WATCH: A crash victim speaks out about getting proper amount of travel insurance.


Seventy-four-year-old Janet Derkacz is back in B.C. but she still has a lengthy recovery ahead of her.

“I have to have skin grafts and I have to have my pelvis healed and I have to have my ankle bone healed,” Derkacz said. “My ribs are sore. I’m still really quite down.”

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Derkacz and her husband Robert decided to escape B.C.’s winter weather by taking a road trip to Arizona to visit friends. On Jan. 30, the couple stopped for dinner in Mojave, California and were struck by a vehicle.

Robert, a 79-year-old Canadian war veteran, died at the scene. Janet suffered critical injuries and was transferred to Antelope Valley Hospital in Lancaster, California.

Each had $500,000 in travel insurance but the bills added up fast.

“Every sponge, everything is billed,” daughter Mitzy Bryson said. “It was over 400 pages …that was the bill.”

WATCH: What to do if you get sick abroad?

But the medical bills exceeded her coverage by about $160,000. Bryson wonders if that amount could have been smaller if the insurance provider, Allianz Global Assistance, had acted faster.

“I was phoning them three or four times a day and they said it was their doctors — their doctors not Fraser Valley Health doctors — that had to speak to the doctors in California,” Bryson said. “We spent three days; the doctors there carried a cellphone around with them everywhere they went to wait to get a call from the travel insurance company. [They] never did.”

Bryson questions why her mom was cleared to fly on a Wednesday but the air ambulance wasn’t arranged until the following Saturday, the same day she contacted Global News.

“In a perfect situation it could be within a day but in some cases we’ve seen it take up to one week or two weeks depending on where the patient is being brought back to,” Dan Keon, Director of Marketing and Communications with Allianz Global Assistance, said.

WATCH: B.C. woman injured in California

“We are not able to move someone back until a bed has been found. So in this case my understanding was that it did take a few days to secure the bed.”

Derkacz is speaking out to thank everyone who has helped her since the crash and who donated to a GoFundMe page that was created to get her home to B.C.

She also has a warning: double-check how much insurance coverage you have to avoid getting stuck with an unexpected medical bill.

“There’s still a long way to go yet,” she said.

– With files from Jill Bennett

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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