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Top Ten Biggest Insurance Claims

1.       9/11

While the incredible loss of life was beyond measure, the terrorist attacks from September the 11th 2001 which included the destruction of New York’s Twin Towers arguably remain the single most expensive incident in insurance history.

In bare financial terms, over $40 billion was paid out including claims for business interruption, property damage, life insurance and many others.

2.       Japanese Tsunami

The Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami of 2011 is second in our list. Some estimates place the total cost at a fraction under $40 billion while others suggest that insured losses may have even combined to exceed $100 billion for the events of March 2011.

3.       China’s SARS outbreak

Historically, many of the world’s biggest claims relate to epidemics and as far as these losses are concerned, the SARS outbreak in 2003 resulted in the largest pay-out of all.

The epidemic began in the Guangdong province of China but had spread to 37 other countries within a matter of weeks. Once again, pay-outs for loss of life were supplemented by travel cancellation and business interruption which ultimately led to total claims costs that approached $1 billion.

4.       The North East Blackout

Surely a power outage couldn’t make it on to the list of top ten insurance claims? It can if it affects a wide enough area, which is exactly what happened in 2003.  In just seven hours, 10 million people in Canada and a further 45 million in eight US states suffered a widespread blackout.

The overall cost of the outage was put at $6 billion and while there are conflicting estimates on insurance claim costs, it is widely acknowledged that pay-outs for grounded flights, looting, business interruption and other issues put the incident firmly in fourth place on this list.

5.       Indian Ocean Tsunami and Earthquake

Prior to the events in Japan in 2011, the 2004 earthquake and subsequent tsunami that affected many countries in the Indian Ocean region was the biggest natural disaster in insurance terms.

The area was hit on Boxing Day and the widespread loss of life resulted in another set of claims which some suggest exceeded the $1 billion mark.

6.       2005 Hurricane Season

Hurricanes in North America can cost insurers millions of dollars every year but no-one could have foretold the disastrous events of 2005.

Three major hurricanes – Katrina, Rita and Wilma struck causing a death toll of nearly 4000 people and overall costs of $130 billion. The insurance portion of those costs ran into many millions, securing sixth place on this list.

7.       The Second Great Depression

Some claims are difficult to place in order of costs as insurer’s class this type of information as highly confidential.

The financial crisis spurred by the collapse of Lehman Brothers and others in 2008 is one such example. In terms of declared costs, it is widely put in seventh place while many claim that overall insured losses could exceed $100 billion, but this is difficult to prove.

8.       Chinese Earthquake

China was rocked by a massive earthquake in 2008 which saw it become one of the biggest natural disasters in the country’s long history.

The death toll reached 68,000 and millions of people became homeless. However, while overall losses climbed to $20 billion, many of these were not covered by insurance simply because they were either uninsurable factors or they were cases where homeowners neglected to take out cover.

9.       How not to test drive a prototype car

While this claim may be exceeded in pure costs by other natural disasters, it’s worth recalling the single most expensive car claim in history.

In 2007, engineers crashed two Bugatti Veyron vehicles during prototype testing. Once again, details and costs have been shrouded in mystery to a great extent but with both vehicles valued at around $800,000, the potential claims would undoubtedly make this the most expensive recorded car loss ever.

10.   The most expensive pet


This is another case where there are many more general losses that exceed the outlay but the most expensive pet claim ever rose to a staggering $22,000 in 2010.

The claim itself was for feline renal surgery and wasn’t, as many would expect, for a pedigree show cat. The animal in question was just a humble, mixed breed ‘moggy’.

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