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Daniel T. Murray Blog: claim

View the latest blog posts from Daniel T. Murray.

The case of the tenacious terrorist

Claims consultant Chris Tidball has worked for P&C carriers for more than 20 years, in roles ranging from claims adjusting to management. He has enough crazy claims stories to fill a  book--which, in fact, he's literally working on right now.

"Ibrahim Mohammed was a downright scary claimant," Chris recalls. Mohammed hailed from an area that was notorious for insurance fraud, where rumor had it that a lot of the fraud money was used to fund domestic and international terror cells.

Mohammed reported a stolen exotic car with expensive custom rims, that he had coincidentally purchased a rider for just a few days before the theft. The car was ultimately found, totally stripped. During investigation, the insurer tracked down the rims in the garage of a known associate of Mohammed's. 

"When we denied the claim, he threatened to bomb our claims office," Chris recalls. "We hired a security detail that stayed onsite 24/7 for about two months. I’ve had some scary situations, and this ranks right up at the top."

The case of the persistent physician 

"Dr. Katz" presented a claim for flood damage to his $200,000 Ferrari, claiming a tidal surge had reached the rocker panels and the car was totaled, Chris recalls. The insurer argued repair only and questioned the legitimacy of the claim, as there was no evidence of saltwater corrosion. 

Dr. Katz took the claim all the way to the CEO of the company "and proved that the squeaky wheel always gets greased first; we totaled the car, but also got a six-figure salvage bid," Chris says.

The case of the menacing monkey

In another Tidball tale, Chris recalls a shady body shop in Brooklyn that the insurer suspected of being behind some air bag thefts. 

"When I confronted the shop manager, he sicced his monkey on me," he says. "He had an actual pet monkey that was really mean and very aggressive."

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Posted 10:44 AM  View Comments


Like emergency room doctors, cops and priests in the confessional booth, insurance people are being asked to clean up the messes that people make--and worse, they’re expected to pay for them.

It’s little wonder that veteran insurance people can get a bit jaded. When it comes to claims--and human nature--they have seen everything.

We spoke with several long-time insurance professionals about the weirdest claims they’ve come across in their careers. Here are some of the strangest.

(Got a crazy claim story? Contact us!)

1. The case of the vanishing gold bars

Claims consultant Chris Tidball has worked for P&C carriers for more than 20 years, in roles ranging from claims adjusting to management. The client whom he recalls as the “biggest nut” was Walter A., who presented a claim for a stolen van that was carrying $500,000 in gold bars, which, of course, he wanted covered as well. “Imagine our shock when the van turned up burned to a crisp and all the gold was missing.” Walter would personally come to the office every morning at 8 a.m. to demand his check—a ritual that continued for around 90 days. “He would come in and get belligerent, then would feign having a heart attack, asking us to help him find his nitro pills. He was truly certifiable.”

2. The case of the gypsy curse

Another Tidball tale involves a gypsy who roamed around Southern California. This gypsy had a van that he reported stolen that, like Walter’s, contained lots of valuable “stuff,” which the gypsy could somehow never describe beyond saying it was important. When Tidball told him he had to deny the claim (which was “complete and utter B.S.”) the case went to trial. During an examination under oath, the gypsy pointed a magician’s wand at Tidball and started speaking a strange language in an attempt to cast a curse on the insurance man.

3. The case of the cruising cat ladies

Steve Schroeder, vice president of NFP, has been in the property-casualty business for almost 25 years, on both the broker and carrier side. One of his most memorable claims cases involved a trucking-company client that had a claim filed against a driver. The claimant alleged the truck hit a station wagon and injured the driver and her passenger. The truck driver insisted that it wasn’t his fault; the vehicle had appeared out of nowhere. Investigating state police and SIU personnel found no truck skid marks, but several dead cats on the highway at the accident site. It turned out the women, whose station wagon had been loaded with cats, had been literally driving in circles in the rural area – first in the southbound lane, then crossing the embankment and heading north. When the truck driver T-boned the station wagon, several cats flew out the vehicle’s windows and were killed. The claim was pulled.

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Posted 10:44 AM  View Comments


Your dog isn't just a good dog -- he's your best friend who wouldn't hurt a flea.

But you might have to prove it to get your home insurance company to cover him, especially if he belongs to a breed with a reputation as aggressive.

Home insurers are increasingly cautious about providing liability coverage for dogs because pooches are taking a bigger bite out of their bottom lines.

More than one-third of the dollars home insurance companies pay out for liability claims is for injuries caused by dogs. Last year, dog liability insurance claims cost home insurers more than $483 million, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III) and State Farm, the largest U.S. home insurance provider.

The average cost of a dog liability claim nationwide, which was $27,862 in 2013, has grown more than 45 percent in the last decade, thanks to rising medical costs as well as the size of settlements, judgments and jury awards given to plaintiffs, says Loretta Worters, III vice president.

Traditionally, renters and homeowners insurance has covered dog bite liability legal expenses up to the policy's liability limits. But some insurers now require dog owners to sign liability waivers for dog bites, and some exclude certain breeds of dogs, such as pit bulls, Doberman Pinschers and German Shepherds, from liability coverage, or they charge more to cover certain breeds. Some home insurers won't cover dogs, period.

Showing your dog is a good citizen

How can you prove your dog is not a risk?

In some cases, especially if your dog has already bitten someone, you might have to resort to purchasing a separate dog liability insurance policy to cover him.

But in other cases, you might be able to persuade your home insurer to cover your dog if you can document that you are a responsible owner.

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Posted 3:42 PM  View Comments


You buy insurance to protect your home and car from damage, but when an accident happens, is it in your best interest to file a claim? It seems like the answer should be a resounding "yes," but a middling "maybe" is a far better response. Why the ambiguity? The decision to file a claim can have a major impact on your insurance rates, even if the accident was minor or was not your fault.

The Claim Game
Regardless of the scope of the accident or who was at fault, the number of insurance claims you file has a direct impact on your rates. The greater the number of claims filed, the greater the likelihood of a rate hike. File too many claims and the insurance company may not renew your policy. Similarly, if the claim is being filed based on damage that you caused, your rates will almost surely rise.

On the other hand, if you aren't at fault, your rates may or may not remain unchanged. Getting hit from behind when your car is parked or having siding blow off of your house during a storm are clearly not your fault and may not result in rate hikes, but this isn't always the case. Mitigating circumstances, such as the number of previous claims you have filed, the number of speeding tickets you have received, the frequency of natural disasters in your area (earthquakes, hurricanes, floods) and even a low credit rating can all cause your rates to go up even if the latest claim was made for damage that you did not cause.

Most/Least Damaging Claims
When it comes to rate hikes, not all claims are created equal. Dog bites, slip-and-fall personal injury claims, water damage and mold are red flag items to insurers. These items tend to have a negative impact on your rates and on your insurer's willingness to continue providing coverage.

On the other hand, the much dreaded speeding ticket may not cause a rate hike at all. Many companies forgive the first ticket. The same goes for a minor automobile accident or a small claim against your homeowner's insurance policy.

Rate Hikes
Filing a claim often results in a rate hike that could be in the 20-40% range. The increased rates stay in effect for years, although the size and longevity of the hike can vary widely from insurer to insurer. At some firms the increase lasts just two years, while at others it may last for five. If your insurer drops your coverage, you may be forced to purchase high-risk insurance, which can come with extraordinarily expensive premiums.

To File or Not to File?
There are no hard-and-fast rules around rate hikes. What one company forgives, another won't forget. Because any claim at all may pose a risk to your rates, understanding your policy is the first step toward protecting your wallet. If you know that your first accident is forgiven or that a previously filed claim won't count against you after a certain number of years, the decision of whether or not to file a claim can be made with advance knowledge of the impact it will or won't have on your rates. Talking to your agent about the insurance company's policies long before you need to file a claim is also important. Some agents are obligated to report you to the company if you even discuss a potential claim and choose not to file. For this reason, you also don't want to wait until you need to file a claim to inquire about your insurer's policy regarding consultation with your agent.

Regardless of your situation, minimizing the number of claims you file is the key to protecting your insurance rates from a substantial increase. A good rule to follow is to only file a claim in the event of catastrophic loss. If your car gets a dent on the bumper or a few shingles blow off of the roof on your house, you may be better off if you take care of the expense on your own.

If you car is totaled in an accident or the entire roof of your house caves in, filing a claim becomes a much more economically feasible exercise. Just keep in mind that even though you have coverage and have paid your premiums on time for years, your insurance company may decline to renew your coverage when your policy expires.

A Strategy to Save on the Cost of Your Policy
Understanding the logic behind filing a claim only in the event of a large loss also provides insight into how to save a few dollars on your insurance premiums. Because you aren't going to file a claim in the event of a minor loss, having a low deductible on your policy makes no financial sense. If you already plan to pay for the first $500 or $1,000 dollars worth of damage out of your own pocket, set aside that amount in an interest-bearing savings account and raise your insurance deductible to match the number. Increasing your deductible will result in lower insurance rates, and the cash in the bank will cover your out-of-pocket costs in the event of an accident.

The Bottom Line
When you pay your insurance premiums regularly and on time, it may seem like you should be able to file as many legitimate claims as you want. Unfortunately, the industry doesn't work this way. Filing too many claims or certain kinds of claims can have an adverse effect on your insurance rates or even get your policy canceled altogether after the claim has been paid. To avoid unfair rate hikes and unpleasant financial surprises, do your homework and learn about your particular insurer's policies and industry practices long before you ever need to file a claim.

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Posted 1:21 PM  View Comments


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Daniel T. Murray, Inc.
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