If you sit back and think about the "normal" kinds of insurance people have, you can probably only think of a few. If you're fortunate, you will have insurance for covering your life, health, car, home and, maybe, one or two more. Most people don't know it, but you can get insurance on some pretty strange things, too. Just look at celebrities who insure their body parts. In this market, insurance companies often offer policies that pay if something affects the appearance or purpose of a body part. Best foot forward: David Beckham's legs and feet are insured for $70 million. Celebrities wouldn"t think twice if insuring a body part merits it. European wine-maker and taster Ilja Gort insured his nose for $8 million (Rs35.5 crore). He, in fact, took the policy after hearing about a man who lost his sense of smell in a car accident. Ilja says the nose, which can differentiate between millions of different scents, is the most essential asset in his occupation. His nose is so crucial to his job at his French vineyard that Lloyd's of London wrote an insurance policy protecting him should he lose either his nose or his sense of smell. The policy has a few catches. 'The Associated Press' reported that he was not allowed to ride a motorcycle, take up boxing or work as an assistant to a knife thrower or indulge in 'fire-breathing'.
Perhaps the strangest insurance policy comes from Lloyd's of London. Over the years, they have sold policies for vampire bites, werewolf attacks, and alien abduction. More than 40,000 policies have been sold to insure against alien abduction. If you claim to have been kidnapped, can pass a lie detector test, and have video or a third-party witness, then you walk away richer by £1 million (about Rs8 crore). Goodfellow Rebecca Ingrams Pearson (GRIP) is a London insurance brokerage that has tapped the twilight zone market. You can also buy coverage from GRIP against being injured by a ghost, eaten by an alien, or hit by an asteroid. A mugging and carjacking policy is offered to families in the US as family protection insurance. It covers you for direct and additional costs from crimes such as home invasions, child abduction, mugging and carjacking.
For the Las Vegas-style approach to insurance, New York agency Worldwide Weather insures against the elements. You pick the dates, the place and the kind of weather-it'll come up with a price based on historical data from the US National Climatic Data Center. For $404, for example, it will pay $3,000 if there is more than 0.01 inch of rainfall between 10am and 4pm on five or more days between 1 September and 9 September to cover a vacation on the island of St Maarten/Juliana in the Caribbean.
The animal kingdom gets its fair share, too. Whenever a much-loved animal dies, it's painful, but when a highly trained animal dies, it can be an expensive loss. Performance animals and working animals undergo thousands of dollars worth of training, and when they die, the owner loses that investment. The Lester Kalmanson Agency Inc. in the US specializes in offering animal mortality insurance and covers all types of animals from alligators to zebras.
In case you think, like most people do, that insurance is nothing but dull, here are just some of the policies Lloyd's of London has written over the years:
- $70 million for footballer David Beckham's legs and feet
- $1 billion for American singer, songwriter Mariah Carey's legs
- $6 million covering American songwriter, singer and guitarist Bruce Springsteen's voice
- $5 million for German supermodel and actor Claudia Schiffer's face
- $10 million for America Ferrera's smile (she plays the part of Ugly Betty on TV)
- Lloyd's also provides animal insurance-covered a transatlantic flight of 10 elephants (all on the same flight, mind you).
India is no longer untouched. Bollywood leads the way by insuring its mega stars against any eventualities. So, pick a disaster, any disaster, and there's probably an insurance policy to cover it. Before long, I'm sure they'll be available in India, too. Until then.
(The writer is managing director of Royal Sundaram Alliance Insurance Co. Ltd.)