Most of the time, car insurance claims are humdrum affairs involving fender benders or storm damage. Once in a while, police reports might contain a funny sentence or two regarding accident-scene kerfuffles. (The picture of an angry granny swatting a young punk over the head with her purse comes to mind.)
Truly bizarre claims, however, are rare and elusive. Some have become the stuff of legend. If you Google "weird insurance claim," you'll find multiple improbable rumors involving wrecks caused by drivers ogling naked pedestrians, windshields damaged in squirrel nut attacks, and even one report by a driver who claimed his windscreen melted when a plane crash-landed nearby and burst into flames.
Claims with legitimate sources are harder to come by, but we've unearthed a few for your amusement. Here are 5 genuine, real-deal, truly off-the-wall insurance claims that you'll have to read to believe. First up, a mattress that caused a three-car pile-up.
In December 2011, Seattle news outlets reported a bizarre story involving a mattress and a three-car pile-up. Apparently, a couple -- a man and a woman -- had failed to tie their mattress securely to the top of their SUV. As they were driving on I-5, the mattress loosed itself from its moorings and landed in the middle of the highway, causing a three-way crash.
As two good Samaritans stopped to help, the female driver hopped back into her SUV and fled the scene, leaving her male passenger to deal with the aftermath. Shortly thereafter, one of the good Samaritans also left. A few miles down the road, however, he spied a man's head "bobbing around in the backseat." It turned out to be the male passenger from the mattress incident, who had stowed away, hoping to escape the accident scene undetected [source: Komo News]!
As ludicrous and laughable as that police report must have been, the three innocent passersby whose cars were damaged in the accident were probably not amused. To protect yourself from liability in crazy incidents like this one, be sure to invest in uninsured motorist coverage.
Next up, we introduce one at-fault driver whose incredible misfortune resulted in three separate insurance claims.
Remember the Three Stooges? The characters Larry, Moe and Curly were a trio of none-too-bright gentleman who were always getting themselves into improbable scrapes. Known for their gut-busting slapstick, the Three Stooges perfected the art of chain-reaction physical comedy: Moe would slap Larry, who would fall backward into Curly, who would stumble into the stove, causing his pants to catch on fire, causing Moe to slap down the flames, causing Curly to slap Moe and so on.
Our next weird insurance claim reads like it was hand-crafted to be performed by the Stooges; unfortunately for the shamefaced driver, it was not. As the driver reported on his insurance claim, he was involved in a minor rear-end collision in which he smashed the taillight of a car ahead. He then reversed slightly so that he could survey the damage, but in a stroke of ill luck, he hit the front bumper of the driver behind him. Then, when he opened his door to exit his vehicle, he knocked down a passing cyclist! While those who witnessed the accident were probably in stitches by the time it was over, we imagine the unfortunate driver was less than amused.
Tim Hyland, president of Block and Hyland Inc., recalls a hail storm back in the 1990s that caused a "hail" of a lot of insurance claims. Among them was one rather suspicious claim for heavy hail damage to a car. When the adjuster inspected the damage, he was skeptical that hail could have caused the perfectly symmetrical, round divots that peppered the entire surface of the damaged car.
Hyland's company rejected the claim, telling the claimant that clearly, the vehicle had been purposefully damaged, not by hail, but by a ball-peen hammer. Hyland figured the client would be so embarrassed at being caught in an obvious attempt at insurance fraud that he would simply drop the entire matter. Instead, the man filed a police report claiming that an unknown assailant had beaten his car with a ball-peen hammer! The client then filed a new insurance claim, and this time, because they couldn't prove that the client had inflicted the damage himself, Hyland's company was forced to pay the claim.
This incident was sneaky and purposeful, but our next weird insurance claim was a random shot in the dark, literally. Intrigued? Read on.
Ron Hettler of Hettler Insurance Agency vividly remembers a claim from his first year in the business. A client of his was driving around in his pickup truck and had his shotgun riding, well, shotgun. Arriving at his destination, the client grabbed his gun and hopped out of the cab. Unfortunately, he lost his grip and the gun discharged. The client wasn't sure if he'd fired the gun while grabbing for it or if it went off by itself as it hit the ground.
The gun was loaded with buckshot and while thankfully, the man was uninjured, the truck's interior wasn't as fortunate. The entire cab of the truck -- headliner, seat covers and dashboard -- had suffered extensive damage. Luckily, the client had comprehensive (also called OTC, or Other Than Collision) insurance. As Hettler says, comprehensive insurance "is very broad and covers many weird incidents," including, apparently, shooting your own pickup truck [source: Hettler].
In 1974, Michelle Squires of Chattaroy, Washington, drove her beloved "hippie van" to an upholstery shop to have a fold-down bed installed in the back. The van then disappeared from the shop's lot and Squires, broken-hearted, filed a claim with her insurance company, Allstate. They reimbursed her roughly $600 for the vehicle, which was about what she'd paid for it.
Fast-forward 35 years when U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials in Los Angeles recovered a perfectly restored, still-running VW minibus from a shipping container bound for the Netherlands. They ran the VIN (vehicle identification) number and discovered it was the same vehicle that had been stolen from Squires back in 1974.
Now owned by Allstate, the minibus is worth about $25,000. Squires is hopeful that she can come to terms with her insurer and get her minibus back. One can only imagine the stories it would tell if it could talk!
If you've got a weird insurance tale to tell, we'd love to hear it. Leave us a comment, and find more great links and lots more information in the next section.
Is your car over-insured? Learn how to tell if your car has too much insurance at HowStuffWorks.
Author's Note: 5 Weird Auto Insurance Claims: You'll Have to Read It to Believe It
When I was doing the research for this article, I kept getting sidetracked by the off-the-wall insurance stories I uncovered. For instance, did you know that silent film actor Ben Turpin was the first celebrity to insure a body part? He took out a $25,000 Lloyds of London policy on his crossed eyes! Then there were the tall tales I desperately wanted to include but couldn't because the sources seemed suspect. (A car wreck caused by a pile of decomposing carrots? The jury is still out.) In the end, I had to marshal all my powers of self-discipline to hone in on the auto-insurance stories that seemed most plausible. I think I managed to find some good ones, and I hope you enjoyed them!
- Bertoni, Steven. "When Really Rich People Do Really Stupid Things." Forbes Magazine. Sept. 28, 2011 (March 30, 2012) http://www.forbes.com/global/2011/1010/companies-people-rich-people-stupid-things-chartis-bertoni.html
- Business First."What Is Your Most Interesting Auto Insurance Claim Story?" Sept. 17, 2007. (March 30, 2012) http://www.bizjournals.com/louisville/stories/2007/09/17/focus2.html?page=all
- Hettler, Ron. "Strange But True Auto Insurance Claim." Hettler Insurance. Sept. 1, 2011. (March 30, 2012) http://hettlerinsurance.com/2011/09/01/other-than-collisioncomprehensive/
- Irvine, Chris. "Bizarre Car Insurance Claims Revealed." The Telegraph. Aug. 17, 2008. (March 30, 2012) http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/2573739/Bizarre-car-insurance-claims-revealed.html
- KHQ.com. "Local Woman's Beloved 'Hippie Van' Located After 35 Years." Nov. 8, 2009. (March 30, 2012) http://www.khq.com/story/11466484/local-womans-beloved-stolen-hippie-van-located-after-35-years?clienttype=printable
- Komo News. "Errant Mattress Starts Bizarre Chain-Reaction On I-5." Dec. 24, 2011. (March 30, 2012) http://www.komonews.com/news/local/Errant-mattress-starts-b-136191758.html
- Magliozzi, Tom and Ray. "Where to Start When Car Falls Off Tow Truck." Bellingham Herald. Oct. 28, 2011. (March 30, 2012) http://www.bellinghamherald.com/2011/10/28/2253213/car-falls-off-tow-truck.html
- Maronese, Nicholas. "Lamborghini Catches Fire At Car Show." Sympatico.ca. Jan. 30, 2012. (March 30, 2012) http://autos.sympatico.ca/weird-automotive-news/13009/lamborghini-catches-fire-at-car-show
- Schwartz, Ben. "Wilmington, Delaware Car Accident Involving Seven-Car Rear-End Chain Reaction Illustrates Value of Good UM Insurance." Schwartz & Schwartz, Attorneys at Law. Feb. 16, 2012. (March 30, 2012) http://www.schwartzandschwartz.com/wilmington-delaware-car-accident-seven-car-rear-end-collisio/
- Virgin Media. "Bizarre Insurance Claims." (March 30, 2012) http://www.virginmedia.com/money/features/bizarre-insurance-claims.php?ssid=10