The insurance world may strike us as something of a bland, not-too-distant cousin of the dull world of accounting but it seems there's far more of interest than meets the eye in this humble sector. A simple web search on insurance or accident claims reveals a plethora of sites offering their legal services to get you the highest return on your misfortune as well as videos and other sites advising on how best to best develop - or, dare we say, exaggerate - your claim to receive a bigger payout. The phenomenon of profiting from misfortune isn't exactly new; British insurer Aviva - whose former customers include Sir Winston Churchill - has archives dating back to the 1860’s. The claims range from the truly tragic to the frankly bizarre; from compensation for injuries sustained from slipping on the marble floor surrounding a luxury bath, to the far grimmer prospect of compensating victims of large scale, genuinely cataclysmic disasters.
While the world of insurance is obviously designed to compensate victims of accidents or misfortunes, Aviva’s records - and indeed the news archives - reveal that there are always those opportunists seeking to exploit the system for their own means. For some, this could mean simply elaborating on an existing accident or injury but there are others who are willing to go that extra mile for their insurance claim. Take, for example, Gerald Hardin in South Carolina: He concocted a plan to saw off a friend’s hand in order to claim the $670,000 compensation up for grabs from the insurer in 2008. Or the Canadian cyclist, who stuck a toothpick up his nose to cause bleeding then asked his girlfriend to run him over with her car to claim the $22,000 insurance pay out. Unsurprisingly, in both cases the falsity of the claims was discovered by the keen eye of the insurer and the compensation was denied. The business of insurance can mean big money for both for claimants and insurers, and a closer look at some scandalously large insurance claims can provide an interesting perspective into the business of protecting ourselves against life's unpredictable twists and turns. With this in mind, take a look at the 5 of the biggest insurance claims in recent years.
5 $1.5 million for Mr. Bean’s car
Rowan Atkinson, famed for his role as the outlandish comedy character Mr Bean, made history in the UK earlier this year for the largest car insurance claim ever recorded. Atkinson sustained a minor shoulder injury after crashing his luxury McLaren when it hit an icy patch of road in England. The car - which Atkinson purchased in 1997 for the comparatively modest figure of $1.05 million - has been through the wars before with its owner. In fact, this was the second time Atkinson had crashed his beloved sports car. Mr Bean’s crash makes our list not only for the huge insurance pay out, in spite of such a minor personal injury, but because it makes history for being the biggest car insurance claim in the UK - three times bigger than the previous record, which was a £310,000 claim - about half a million U.S. dollars - in 2010 to repair a PaganiZonda. We can guess Atkinson’s car insurance premium must be pretty high now...
4 $7.75 million for a Slip and Fall
A slip and fall on ice is an unfortunately regular experience for most of us during the winter months, but for a claimant in Virginia the fall was considerably more serious. In 2012 the victim broke several leg bones when leaving his apartment and slipping on ice in the driveway; he later developed serious complications stemming from the injury and risked having his lower leg amputated. Treatment was further complicated as the victim is also a diabetic. The case was settled for such a large figure because it was claimed that the property’s owner - the injured party's landlord - didn't remove any fallen snow from the driveway or treat the icy areas with salt or sand as required by law. $7.75 million is certainly a harsh warning to careless landlords this winter season.
3 Record $37 million in Maintenance Costs for Teenage Crash Victim
In 2012 a case in London was settled for a record £23 million - equivalent to over $37 million - for Agnes Collier, a 17 year old student who was left severely paralysed as a result of head-on collision with another vehicle in an accident which also killed her mother. She received a lump sum of $11.5 million and an annual payment to cover her medical costs. $37 million is the estimated total amount Collier will receive in her lifetime. In spite of the tragic accident, Collier appears to be making great progress with her life, and has even had some motor function return to her arms. She also received strong results in her A-level exams, which she sat with the help of a scribe, and hopes to study at either Oxford or Cambridge. A tragic story with a relatively positive - and lucrative - ending.
2 Volcanic Ash Cloud Costs Europe $3.4 Billion
In 2010 Iceland's most costly (and unpronounceable) volcanic eruption occurred. In spring of that year, Eyjafjallajokull erupted and thankfully, nobody was injured - but it still cost Europe over €2.5 billion - about $3.4 USD - according to the EU Transport Commission. The volcanic eruption released a massive ash cloud which drifted south the Atlantic and continental Europe causing hundreds of flights to be cancelled and leaving over 10 million passengers stranded for weeks on end. Considering the money due in compensation claims from the landlocked travellers, as well as the revenue lost by airlines and the hotel industry as a result of the eruption, an estimated €2.5 billion was paid out as a result of the Eyjafjallajokull incident. The eruption caused a domino effect on the economy, too: It effectively created a no-fly zone over much of Europe, impacting many international airlines based in Asia, as well as the United States. The global price of airline fuel also dropped as a result of so many flights being grounded, a factor that is not included in the EU’s estimate. Nice going, Iceland.
1 Hurricane Katrina Cost the U.S.A $130 Billion
The widespread devastation caused by the collective disasters of the consecutive hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma in 2005 is estimated to have cost approximately $130 billion in damages. Tragically 3,865 people were killed in the disaster - and the United States government was heavily criticised for its slow response to the disaster in New Orleans and other storm-ravaged areas. The enormous estimate of $130 billion in insurance pay outs comes from the costs of damage to homes and businesses as a result of the storms, as well as compensation for personal injuries and fatalities during the hurricanes. Of course, the cost of such of such wide-spread devastation is spread across countless different cases and claims. Whatever the insurance pay outs, when it comes to what the insurance companies would call 'an act of God' like this, it's impossible to equate monetary value to the social and cultural devastation.
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