Top 5 Strangest Auto Claims

Most of the time, car insurance claims are fairly routine affairs involving fender benders or storm damage. Truly bizarre claims, however, are rare and elusive. If you Google “weird auto 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.

Actually verifiable claims are much harder to come by; however, we’ve been able to track down 5 truly off-the-wall auto insurance claims that are just as strange as they are improbable. Below are the associated stories for each of the claims.

Also, please remember that you can always contact our office for any auto insurance accident or claim you encounter—no matter how strange it may be. Our office will be glad to assist.

Claim 1: In December 2011, Seattle news outlets reported a bizarre story involving a mattress and a three-car pile-up. A couple had failed to tie their mattress securely to the top of their SUV. As they were driving, 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 vehicle 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 had stowed away, hoping to escape the accident scene undetected.

Claim 2: A driver 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, resulting in three insurance claims!

Claim 3: An insurance agent received a 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.

The insurance company rejected the claim as the vehicle had been purposefully damaged, not by hail, but by a ball-peen hammer. The company 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, the insurance company was forced to pay the claim.

Claim 4: A farmer was driving around in his pickup truck and had his shotgun riding, well, shotgun. Arriving at his destination, the man grabbed his gun and hopped out of the cab. Unfortunately, he lost his grip and the gun discharged. He 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 insurance and the claim was paid.

Claim 5: In 1974, a young woman 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 a claim was filed with her insurance company. The woman was reimbursed 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 back in 1974.

Now owned by here insurance company, the minibus is worth about $25,000. The individual 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!

How Uber Affects Car Insurance

With more than 8 million U.S. users and 160,000 drivers, Uber is disrupting the transportation industry in an unprecedented manner. By leveraging technology, they (along with other ride-sharing companies) are transforming the way we travel, especially in crowded, urban areas.

As the ride-sharing industry continues to exponentially grow, auto insurance companies are trying to figure out how and where to properly provide coverage for drivers that participate in these services.

Most personal insurance policies exclude all livery services and commercial insurance policies are expensive. Many ride-sharing companies do provide insurance for their drivers while paying passengers are in the car; however, there are still gaps in insurance coverage that each driver needs to properly address.

Q: Why are companies like Uber and Lyft getting so much attention from auto insurance companies?

A: These companies are attracting significant attention from auto insurance companies due to their operations — providing ride sharing services by contracting with drivers who use their personal vehicles to transport passengers. These drivers do not typically have a livery driver’s license nor are their cars registered or insured as commercial vehicles.

The issue at hand is that personal auto insurance is not designed, underwritten or priced to handle livery-type services. They are written for personal use vehicles that may include the transportation of family and friends. Therefore, most personal auto insurance policies exclude all livery services as those are typically handled on a commercial auto insurance policy. In fact, most policies actually stop providing coverage from the moment a driver logs onto his ride-sharing app until the app is shut off.

Commercial auto insurance policies generally carry higher limits, are underwritten with the recognition that commercial vehicles travel more miles, and cover exposures not included in private-passenger policies due to the increased risk of accidents and subsequent claims.
Q: Why don’t insurance companies cover ride-sharing?

A: The short answer: Auto insurers have not yet determined how to underwrite the risks of personal-line policyholders using their private-passenger vehicles on a for-hire basis.

Given the proliferation of companies like Uber and Lyft, however, it is likely that auto insurers will at some point start to offer policies that provide motorists with coverage for both traditional private use of a vehicle and commercial vehicle use.
Q: What is government doing as far as insurance is concerned? Do any laws govern ride-sharing and insurance?

A: For city and state governments the two key insurance regulation questions are:

  1. Must ride-share drivers be licensed in the same way that taxi and other for-hire drivers are?
  2. If private-passenger policies do not cover ride-share drivers when they are working, how do they become properly insured?

Though many municipalities have yet to properly address the concerns above, some governments have already started passing bills that insurance requirements and regulations for ride-share drivers.

For example, California recently passed a bill with the following requirements:

  1. Requires all ride-sharing companies to disclose to drivers upfront that the driver’s personal insurance policy will not apply while using their private-passenger vehicle for work activities.
  2. Requires commercial insurance from the moment the driver logs onto the app, until the driver logs off.
  3. Clarifies that their commercial insurance is primary coverage.
  4. Requires the ride-sharing liability insurer to defend and indemnify drivers when they have a claim, or accident, while on assignment.
  5. Ensures coverage is not dependent on a private-passenger auto insurer first declining coverage.

Q: How can prospective drivers learn if they have sufficient coverage?

A: Prospective drivers should ask the their ride-sharing company what level of coverage it provides. Most ride-sharing companies provide insurance coverage for their drivers, but only when they have a paying passenger in the vehicle.

Drivers should also contact their own auto insurer to address gaps, if any, in their liability protection. It is also recommended that ride-sharing drivers review a copy of their company’s insurance contracts so they know the exact terms and conditions of the coverage.

Tips for Fire Claims

Recently there have been a number of wildfires throughout the country, many of them engulfing homes and destroying other property.   While we certainly hope you never have to deal with heartache and stress with losing your home or business to a fire, we would like to share some tips from the Insurance  Commissioner’s office on how to property deal with a fire claim.

According to the commissioner’s office you should do the following immediately after a fire claim:

  • Once you gain access to your property take pictures of the damage if it looks like the adjuster will be delayed.
  • Make sure your address is visible. You may have to spray paint the address onto a sheet of plywood and put it in view of the road so the adjuster can find it.
  • If you are not going to be at the property, let the adjuster know how to contact you.
  • Do not dispose of property until an insurance adjuster has reviewed it.
  • Save all receipts.
  • Avoid insurance adjusters and contractors that do not have a valid license or use high pressure tactics and require large deposits.

The commissioner’s office recommends you do the following to prepare for any future potential claims:

  • Review your property insurance coverage to make sure you have adequate limits.
  • Record an inventory of your possessions.
  • Make sure you store a copy of your inventory at a separate location.
  • Save all receipts.

If you have any additional questions or would like us to help prepare your company against any future claims, please feel free to contact our office.