The Biggest Insurance Payouts Ever

Injured dog at the vet resulted in biggest insurance payout


Think your insurance company is going to stress about paying for your cracked cellphone screen? Trust us: they've seen worse.


Spend enough time with people in the insurance industry and you'll start hearing crazy stories of huge claims and big-money payouts. One of our favourites is the one of Larry Rutman, a guy from Kentucky in the United States who in 2015 sued himself for bodily harm after throwing a boomerang that – you guessed it – flew back, knocked him unconscious and gave him amnesia. Legend has it that he was awarded $300,000 (about R4 million at the time).


Sadly, that story turned out to be untrue. (The amnesia part was a bit of a giveaway.) The rest of the stories on this list are, however, completely legit – and reason enough to make sure you update your own insurance policies.


Business Insurance: R132 million


So maybe this doesn't strictly count as business insurance, but it's still a great story. In 1994 London's Tate Gallery loaned three paintings (two by JMW Turner and one by Caspar David Friedrich) to an art gallery in Germany. When they were stolen, the Tate's insurance company paid it £24 million (about R132 million at the time) in compensation. And that's where the story would have ended... if investigators hadn't then tracked down the artworks and bought them back from the thieves for a fraction of the insured price!


Car insurance: R11.4 million


There's a story zooming around the car insurance industry of two engineers who took their prototype Bugatti Veyron supercars out for a test drive in 2007... and crashed them both. Word around the workshop was that the two vehicles were insured for a combined $1.6 million (about R11 million at the time).


That tale may or may not be true, and we promised you legit stories only, so here's one that's totally factual. A guy named Andy House crashed his Veyron into a lake in Texas and claimed $2.4 million from his insurance company. House said he'd been distracted by a passing pelican. Unfortunately for him (but fortunately for truth and justice), someone caught the crash on camera, and the video went viral. Like, 9 million views viral. The insurance company noticed that there were no pelicans to be seen and House was busted for insurance fraud.


The prize for biggest car insurance claim goes to none other than Mr Bean. That's right: in 2011 actor Rowan Atkinson crashed his ultra-rare McLaren F1 supercar, leading to a whopping £910,000 insurance claim (about R11.4 million back then). And there you thought he only drove around in that clapped-out green Mini...


Life Insurance: R2.2 billion


In 2021, a South African insurer paid out its biggest unclaimed benefit ever, handing over an eye-watering R6 million to the beneficiary of a life insurance policy. Notice the 'unclaimed' in that sentence? Local insurers regularly check with the Department of Home Affairs to see if any of their policyholders have died, and then seek out the beneficiaries to take care of the payouts. So that's R6 million that the recipient wouldn't have seen coming.


But that's not even a drop in the ocean compared to the world's most valuable life insurance policy. In 2014 an unnamed Silicon Valley tech billionaire bought $201 million (about R2.2 billion, with a B) worth of life insurance. The policy was reportedly split across 19 different insurers, with each holding about $20 million worth of risk. And before you ask... no, the mystery billionaire's name was never made public, so we don't know if it's been paid out yet or not.


Pet Medical Aid: R640,000


In 2018 a US pet insurer paid out a handsome $24,782 (about R340,000 at the time) after a seven-year-old male Egyptian Mau cat named Simba fell out of a fifth-storey window. Poor Simba broke bones in his shoulders, jaw and feet, but after a blood transfusion and surgery, he made a full recovery. We're told he avoids windows these days. (You can insert your own I-thought-cats-landed-on-their-feet joke here, you old meanie.)


But Simba's claim wasn't the biggest pet insurance claim ever. Heck, it wasn't even the biggest claim of 2018. That honour went to Lupa, a German Shepherd who got infected with toxic tetanus. She was taken to the vet, where she landed in the ICU and stayed for nearly three weeks. Lupa's treatment, which included IV fluids, antibiotics and an antitoxin, cost just over $52,000. Fortunately, her insurance covered $46,569 (about R640,000) of that.


(And before you ask, yes, pet medical aid is a thing. It is very much a thing.)


The insurance industry has paid out millions – no, billions – nay, kajillions – in insurance claims over the years, including the mind-boggling sum of £15.4 trillion (about R225 trillion, which we estimate to be the equivalent of a whole bunch of SpongeBob ice lollies) paid out to cover the 2008 global financial collapse.


In 2021, South African insurers are tallying up the costs of multiple life insurance and business insurance claims stemming from the COVID-19 crisis. So who knows? Maybe a few of the records on this list will yet be broken.


One thing we do know is that nobody can afford to go without insurance cover. To see if you're still getting the best deal for your needs, compare quotes on everything from car insurance to life insurance, business insurance and pet insurance using our free comparison tools.


This article is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as financial, legal or medical advice.

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