I’m often critical of insurance companies in this column, but the industry does offer an essential service – and the majority of cases turn out OK. However, some insurance policies are flat-out weird. And people really will insure anything they can. Here are some of my favourites.
◆ Body parts. Insuring your best bits was popularised by Hollywood star Betty Grable, whose legs were insured for $1 million (in 1948). Of course, this was a hugely successful publicity stunt but the policy was absolutely legitimate. Other strange body parts insured by celebrities include two more pairs of legs for David Beckham (£100m) and Michael Flatley (£25m), Ken Dodd’s teeth (£4m), Egon Ronay’s tastebuds ($400,000), Dolly Parton’s breasts (reputedly anywhere from $600,000 to £3.8m), Bruce Springsteen’s voice (£3.5m) and Keith Richard’s fingers ($1.6m).
◆ Alien abduction. Some reports suggest as many as 30,000 policies protecting people against unauthorised space kidnap and probing have been sold, but a more realistic figure might be 4,000. Typical policies will cover you for kidnapping, organ removal/mutilation, pregnancy, chip removal and (my favourite) repatriation.
◆ Lottery winner’s insurance. So you run a small business and your staff chip in to a lottery pool each week. One Monday you arrive in the office and you wait and wait but no-one arrives for work. Then you turn on the news to see that a group of local people have just won the lottery and… tumbleweeds. It’s a fantasy that many might have dreamed of, but if you’re a small or medium sized business owner, your team getting lucky could cost you big time. That’s why there’s a policy to cover you for staff deserting en masse with all the subsequent expenses.
◆ Hole in one insurance. This is a policy designed to cover golfing events where there’s a big cash prize for golfers who hit a hole in one. Again, because of the statistical unlikelihood of this happening, these events can sometimes offer a huge prize for a low premium, due to the low chance of the event happening.
And here are two you may be more likely to use.
◆ Weddings. Nuptial insurance is increasingly popular these days – and while this cover isn’t weird, the claims I’ve seen most certainly have been. In short, it won’t cover perfection so if that horse you wanted painted baby blue turns up pink, tough (this actually happened). Therefore, wedding insurance may not be suitable for Bridezillas or uptight grooms. Payouts cover things like the flowers and cars – but not, sadly, being left alone at the altar.
◆ Gazumping. It’s a sad world we live in where you might have to consider insuring against someone gazumping you when you’re trying to buy a property. But buying a home can involve a multitude of costs, from surveys to solicitors. We’ve checked out the policies on the market and for a flat fee of under £100, most offer cover up to £1,500 for many of the costs you might incur as a result of unscrupulous sellers. But, those costs are capped and there’s a time limit of around six months. So this one might be for the more cynical – or unlucky – among you.
James Walker is the founder of online complaint-resolution service Resolver.co.uk