Senior TAL executive Loraine van Eeden said the treatment of the nurse was “bullying”. Picture: AAP Image/James Ross
Senior TAL executive Loraine van Eeden said the treatment of the nurse was “bullying”. Picture: AAP Image/James Ross

Insurer ‘bullied’ out-of-work nurse

INSURER TAL has admitted bullying a customer and hiring a private investigator as it tried to find a way to stop paying her insurance benefits.

The life insurance company spent years fighting the woman's claim under her income protection policy after depression and anxiety meant she could no longer work as a nurse.

TAL's bullying and treatment of the woman, including demanding that she repay $69,000, caused her considerable distress, the banking royal commission heard.

It took her three years to start receiving her $2750 monthly benefit, in 2013.

But TAL paid a private investigator $20,000 to find information so it could avoid paying an estimated $792,000 if the woman continued receiving benefits until she was 65.

The woman had no idea she was being followed, photographed and videoed over four months by the private investigator who was recording her every move.

Senior TAL executive Loraine van Eeden agreed the surveillance was deeply inappropriate.

"It's not how to treat any claimant," TAL's claims general manager said.

TAL also forced the woman to fill out a daily activity diary so she could continue receiving her benefits, despite medical evidence that it exacerbated her condition and she was suffering severe anxiety attacks.

Ms van Eeden said the threat to stop the woman's benefits if she did not submit the daily diary was "absolutely bullying".

TAL told the woman in 2014 it was cancelling her income protection cover, accused her of fraud and demanded she repay the $68,890 she had received in benefits.

The letter was also the first time TAL revealed its surveillance to the woman.

She agreed the letter would have shocked the woman and caused her considerable distress.

"I was shocked when I saw this," Ms van Eeden said.

The royal commission will continue examining the woman's case on Friday, along with another TAL income protection insurance case that also centres on its handling of mental health and mental illness issues.

If you are experiencing mental health issues or suicidal feelings contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or BeyondBlue on 1300 224 636. If it is an emergency please call 000.