The Most Expensive Insurance Claims of All Time

Think that your ‘fender bender’ has cost your insurance company dear? A rear-end shunt is nothing when compared to the world’s most expensive insurance claims to date. (We say, ‘to date’ because the changing climate could mean future weather-related claims could be eye-wateringly huge, especially if sea levels start to rise).

So, let’s take a quick look at some of the biggest claims made, and look at the consequences of those claims, as well as the cost.

The world banking crisis 2008

This is the big one. When you’re talking about businesses and even countries losing trillions of dollars, the potential for astronomically big claims increases exponentially. And in 2008 the unthinkable happened – a worldwide collapse of the financial sector that saw banks go under, businesses fold, and huge economies teeter on the brink of bankruptcy.

The insurance claims put in by businesses who were impacted because of the crisis ran into a staggering $21.5trillion. The result is that we are still seeing higher business insurance premiums today, and a refusal by some insurance companies to provide cover in the event of a global market collapse.


The terrorist attacks of 9/11 on the World Trade Centre in New York and the Pentagon in Washington changed the world. Not only were thousands of lives lost in one of the most tragic events in modern times, but the world went to war as a result. On a financial level, the attacks cost the US billions as it waged a ‘War On Terror’, with around $40billion paid out as a result of claims for property damage, life insurance and interruption to business.

Icelandic ash clouds

When the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull erupted in 2010 the skies across Europe and North America were suddenly empty of planes as fleets of aircraft were grounded for days due to safety concerns. Across the world passengers were stranded, businesses came to a stop and hundreds of flights were cancelled. The cost to the airline and hotel industry ran into around £3.4billion of lost revenue, with many struggling to make successful claims through their insurance as the event was classified as an ‘Act of God’.

The single largest personal insurance claim

This accolade goes to the actor and comedian Rowan Atkinson (of Blackadder fame), who in 1997 put in a claim for $1,497,560 after he crashed his McLaren F1 sports car. The damage was so severe that it took McLaren a year to repair and rebuild the car. We’re also guessing that Mr Atkinson’s no claims bonus was a write-off too!

Our furry friends

Pets are a major part of our lives, but when they become ill the vet’s bills can be astronomically high. Most people now have pet insurance to cover their furry friends in the event of illness and injury, and in 2007 it was just as well for one scientifically bred moggy, who had to have renal surgery that cost the equivalent of $22,000 (or approximately £13,750). Fortunately, the scientists had had the foresight to get pet insurance beforehand.

The moral of this story…

From hurricanes and tornadoes to earthquakes and tsunamis, electrical blackouts to once-in-a-lifetime floods, this planet can throw a host of challenges at us. To make sure we don’t suffer financially, insurance that protects our homes, our families, our cars, our businesses and even our pets is essential. After all, those billion-dollar claims are usually made up of hundreds of thousands of individual claims from ordinary people whose lives have been devastated by a single event.