Like emergency room doctors, cops and priests in the confessional booth, insurance people are being asked to clean up the messes that people make--and worse, they’re expected to pay for them.
It’s little wonder that veteran insurance people can get a bit jaded. When it comes to claims--and human nature--they have seen everything.
We spoke with several long-time insurance professionals about the weirdest claims they’ve come across in their careers. Here are some of the strangest.
(Got a crazy claim story? Post your story in the Comments section below!)
1. The case of the vanishing gold bars
Claims consultant Chris Tidball has worked for P&C carriers for more than 20 years, in roles ranging from claims adjusting to management. The client whom he recalls as the “biggest nut” was Walter A., who presented a claim for a stolen van that was carrying $500,000 in gold bars, which, of course, he wanted covered as well. “Imagine our shock when the van turned up burned to a crisp and all the gold was missing.” Walter would personally come to the office every morning at 8 a.m. to demand his check—a ritual that continued for around 90 days. “He would come in and get belligerent, then would feign having a heart attack, asking us to help him find his nitro pills. He was truly certifiable.”
2. The case of the gypsy curse
Another Tidball tale involves a gypsy who roamed around Southern California. This gypsy had a van that he reported stolen that, like Walter’s, contained lots of valuable “stuff,” which the gypsy could somehow never describe beyond saying it was important. When Tidball told him he had to deny the claim (which was “complete and utter B.S.”) the case went to trial. During an examination under oath, the gypsy pointed a magician’s wand at Tidball and started speaking a strange language in an attempt to cast a curse on the insurance man.
3. The case of the cruising cat ladies
Steve Schroeder, vice president of NFP, has been in the property-casualty business for almost 25 years, on both the broker and carrier side. One of his most memorable claims cases involved a trucking-company client that had a claim filed against a driver. The claimant alleged the truck hit a station wagon and injured the driver and her passenger. The truck driver insisted that it wasn’t his fault; the vehicle had appeared out of nowhere. Investigating state police and SIU personnel found no truck skid marks, but several dead cats on the highway at the accident site. It turned out the women, whose station wagon had been loaded with cats, had been literally driving in circles in the rural area – first in the southbound lane, then crossing the embankment and heading north. When the truck driver T-boned the station wagon, several cats flew out the vehicle’s windows and were killed. The claim was pulled.
4. The case of the soaked survivalists
Schroeder recalls another case where the elderly owners of an older but newly renovated home made a $350,000 water-damage claim after heavy rains and an inadequate sump pump ruined what they described as thousands of “valuable items” in their storage area. After a closer investigation by the claims adjuster, it turned out the storage area was actually a bomb shelter dating back to the Cold War era that the couple kept secret from family and friends. Stuffed in this shelter were thousands of meticulously arranged items set aside for an apocalypse—soap, toothpaste, canned goods and more. The owners claimed these items were worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, even though most of the items were useless. The insurer ended up paying around $200,000 to settle the claim.
5. The case of the conniving construction workers
Schroeder recalls a contractor client that filed a claim involving the death of a foreman on the building site of an eight-story apartment complex. A team of four had been loading a huge pipe onto the top floor of the structure when the foreman fell and was killed. His three coworkers all insisted that the crane operator was at fault, although the operator denied this. The claim went to mediation and was set to settle for $3.2 million. All parties were at the meeting and ready to sign the paperwork when the foreman’s widow whispered to Schroeder that she had to speak with him immediately. After going to a private room, she told Schroeder that she wanted all of the settlement money to be placed into a structured settlement for her two children, ages 2 and 4. It turned out that her deceased husband was not well liked by the crew, two of which had proposed marriage to the widow, knowing the death settlement would make her a millionaire. However, the police could not prove foul play so the case had to settle.
Want to read about more crazy claims? Check out the complete story in the upcoming October issue of National Underwriter Property & Casualty!