Most of the time, insurance claims are run of the mill. Sometimes, claims fall on the wrong side of the law, like when a driver torches his own car. Occasionally, a claim that crosses an insurance adjuster's desk is downright bizarre. Here are a few favorites -- just don't try these at home.
Who let the dogs out?Man's best friend makes for numerous unusual claims. According to Veterinary Pet Insurance, or VPI, the largest provider of pet insurance in the United States, dogs get mixed up in all sorts of trouble.
That includes a dog that locked itself in a refrigerator during the holidays and ate the family's entire Thanksgiving ham while waiting to be found. The pooch suffered from a mild case of hypothermia but no serious injuries. VPI also paid the medical bill for a Boston terrier that had shut itself into a recliner.
- Play the video to the right for advice on insurance claims.
Um, it looked like food: Then there was the mixed breed that chased its own tail and caught it, coming close to chewing it off, a French bulldog that ingested more than 50 small candles and a Labrador retriever that ate a box of disposable razors. In each case, the owners made claims for medical treatment, and the insurance company paid.
Sharp smell: In another case, a Jack Russell terrier ate a wild turtle, and part of the shell got lodged in the canine's nasal cavity. The problem was undiscovered for weeks until the dog had to have surgery for respiratory problems. Pet insurance covered the medical bill.
Replacing the irreplaceableThe hits of the party: Some damaged items just cannot be replaced. Take mummies, for instance. Chauncey Nickson, who works in State Farm's claims department, specializes in replacing rare and unique insured items. In the early days of his career with State Farm, he dealt with a claim for two Egyptian mummies. The ancient duo (insured at $40,000 apiece) were stored behind glass in two individual sarcophagi inside someone's home.
"The homeowner had a party, and someone had too much to drink and broke the glass," Nickson says.
The ancient human mummies were left unscathed, but the broken glass scratched the wooden surface of their sarcophagi. Priceless artifacts, they could not be replaced, but State Farm paid to have them restored.If he only had a brain -- wait, he did: In another case, the insurance company was asked to replace a human brain. A doctor had insured a brain (not his own), which he kept inside a jar. It had long been a family heirloom. One day, his office was burglarized and the prized brain stolen.
"Well, it was illegal for us to purchase a (human) brain," Nickson says. "So we were able to replace it with a plastic brain instead, and he was happy with it."
Not just a toilet seat: But what do you do when it's next to impossible to determine a claim's value? Nickson had one of those cases, too: a toilet seat that had been painted by artist Jackson Pollock.
"The policyholder was friends with Jackson," Nickson says. "One day, they had a party, and Jackson had too much to drink and locked himself in the bathroom and decided to paint on the toilet seat."
Decades after Pollock's death, the policyholder's home was greatly damaged in a fire -- including the toilet seat. When the claim was filed, insurance adjusters were scratching their heads when trying to figure out the toilet seat's value.
"His paintings were going for $1 million each," Nickson says. "So we had to come to some sort of average between a $1 million painting and a $20 toilet seat." The final decision: The man settled for $820 cash.
Touched by Elvis: As you might expect, people have a tendency to insure items once owned by celebrities. Nickson says State Farm insures a variety of memorabilia, especially items once owned by The Beatles and Elvis Presley. Whenever possible, Nickson's job is to replace the item.
For example, a lot of folks insure scarves once owned by Elvis (he was known to wipe his sweat on them). During his career with State Farm, Nickson has replaced two Elvis scarves, including one that was blown away by a tornado. The insurance company replaced both scarves with others that Elvis once owned.
"I have a relationship with people throughout the country, so that we can get our hands on these types of items," he says.