Let’s talk insurance: Believe it or not claims stories

by Mark J. Ram

As summer becomes fall, we typically see an increase in claims activity. This makes it timely to revisit some of the strange and mind-boggling claims stories we sometimes come across. Here are just a few:

Thieves, not rocket scientists

A pair of thieves broke into a carrier’s secured yard and stole a tractor and loaded trailer.

A few days later, as the carrier drove down the street in his personal vehicle, he saw his trailer parked at a warehouse and decided to investigate. As he approached, he saw that two young men were off-loading the goods.

The carrier approached the two men in a friendly manner, asking if anything in the trailer was for sale.

Excited to have their first customer, the two men eagerly offered to make a sale. After a quick look at the goods, the carrier asked if he could have the two men’s phone numbers so he could get back to them. Unwittingly, they obliged.

The carrier called Markel and the police. Within an hour, it was the police who got back to the two men with an offer of two sets of handcuffs for the whole load.

One sweet mess

This one sounds like something out of a child’s dream. Late one winter afternoon in New York State, a trucker hauling liquid chocolate was travelling on I-390 when a deer jumped onto the road in front of him. When he swerved to avoid the deer, his truck jackknifed and spilled 45,000 pounds of liquid chocolate onto the road.

Due to the cold temperatures, the chocolate froze rapidly, creating the world’s largest chocolate bar. It took a crew of bulldozers seven hours to clean up the spill (no word on what they had for lunch). Fortunately, the driver suffered only minor injuries, and the deer escaped unscathed – with a satisfied sweet tooth.That’s not the end of this tale, though. This accident happened on an overpass and, thanks to gravity, a sizeable amount of the liquid chocolate found its way onto the road below.

Just as the spill was happening an unsuspecting trucker was passing beneath the overpass and as he did so his rig was showered in gallons of liquid chocolate, creating what we think is the world’s first life-sized candy-coated truck. No injuries resulted, but the sticky situation put an abrupt end to his trip and the dried chocolate proved impossible to remove without damaging the paint.

Steal, hit and run

Despite the headline, this story has nothing to do with baseball. A Canadian trucker was travelling through Michigan, just outside Detroit, when a speeding car made an attempt to pass him. The driver of the car lost control of his vehicle, skidded and rolled over in front of the trucker causing him to hit the car. Fortunately, no one was seriously injured, but much to the trucker’s surprise, the driver of the car immediately fled the accident scene on foot.When police later traced the vehicle back to the owner, they discovered it had been reported stolen shortly after the accident. They also learned that the car was not insured. The owner also said the car was parked and never driven so he had uninsured it.

Since Michigan is a no-fault insurance State, the trucking company was left with the entire bill for his repairs even though the accident was not their driver’s fault. The costs were covered under what is called the Uninsured Motorist component of their insurance policy.

High on grapefruit

This slice of life took place on a hot summer morning in Virginia. Two men hauling a load of grapefruit got more than they bargained for when the driver swerved to avoid an animal. The tractor-trailer rolled over, spilling the grapefruit all over the road.

A man who was helping clean up the mess found something strange hidden among the fruit. He called the police immediately, who discovered about 225 kilos of cocaine worth approximately $18 million mixed with the grapefruit. Unfortunately for the shipper, who knew nothing about the drugs, the entire load was confiscated and the driver was arrested at the scene.

The grapefruit, which spoiled quickly, was now worthless. The shipper, already upset at having lost his load, would become more upset after learning he would receive absolutely no money or compensation. Most jurisdictions have enacted laws stipulating that a person or company involved in a crime, even if they’re unaware, cannot profit or receive damages as a result of their association or participation in the illegal activity. Not only did this crime not pay, it also cost the owner of the grapefruit a bundle. Seeds of truth: Grapefruit and drugs definitely don’t mix.

Don’t become a punch line

Hopefully you enjoyed this little venture down the lighter side of claims. But remember, no matter what kind of accident or loss you may have, a few simple steps can help minimize your loss and, ultimately, your insurance costs.

The most important thing you can do is report your claim to your insurance company directly and immediately. By taking this simple step, you will not only increase the chance of recovering stolen goods or getting help to injured parties, but you also enable us to get you back on the road fast.

– Mark J. Ram is president and CEO of Markel. Please send your questions, feedback and commentary about this column to letstalk@markel.ca.

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