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In TV Land, collecting on an insurance claim can be something of a crapshoot. It's all right there in the fine print: your flood insurance only pays out for damage caused by tidal waves, your car insurance only pays out for damage caused by post-apocalyptic punk bikers, your life insurance only pays out if you're killed by a block of frozen toilet waste falling out of an airplane, your health insurance only pays out for diseases contracted from rabid guinea pigs...

If someone says they're insured—especially if it's important that they're insured—more often than not, it's going to turn out that their insurance is of this variety, and getting the insurer to pay out will be like getting blood out of a stone. On rare occasions, things will align just right that the insured can make their claim without the insurer being able to weasel out of it on a technicality; this is more likely to happen the more money (and comedy) is involved.


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  • In one insurance commercial a tree falls on a couple's car and they nervously call their insurance company to make a claim. The operator tells them their low rate plan only covers damage from a ficus
    • In another for the same company, a man finds the name "Brad" keyed into his car, but his policy only covers full names. If it had been "Bradley" or even "Brady," it would have been fine.

    Anime and Manga 
  • Towards the end of Trigun the Bertinelli Insurance Company (which is the boss of Meryll and Milly) simply decides to use its political power to call off Vash The Stampede's sixty-billion double-dollar bounty and declares him a "walking Act of God", legally washing its hands from paying for any (and that is any) kind of damage that Vash's adventures (and the Gung-Ho Guns' relentless campaign to kill and/or demoralize him) cause.

    Comic Books 
  • Daredevil: In Born Again, after Nuke's rampage through Hell's Kitchen, the owners of a diner Matt had been working at say that their insurance company refuses to pay their claim and that they don't have the money to hire a lawyer. Since Matt has been disbarred, he takes some cash from a group of criminals he beats up to help repair the diner.
  • Disney Ducks Comic Universe: One Disney comic had Rockerduck (Scrooge's business rival) insure a box of cigars for a massive policy, with one of Scrooge's insurance agencies. (Scrooge is forced to accept it, though he objects loudly.) Rockerduck at first suggests smoking the cigars to cash in the policy, but fortunately, Scrooge points out that intentional fires constitute grounds for fraud (or that intentionally lit fires aren't covered by the use of the word "fire" in the policy.) However, putting the box in a pine house in the middle of a pine forest during thunder season is perfectly legal.
  • Judge Dredd: Pop sensation Pug Ugly is murdered on stage, and the perp is killed while resisting capture. It turns out the guy had taken out dozens of life insurance on himself, planning to get killed to make his mother rich. Unfortunately, Mega-City insurance companies always include the standard "claim void if killed by a Judge on duty".
  • Rick and Morty (Oni): When Pickle Rick lasers a mook's legs off at the knees and leaves him for dead, the man's insurance calls it an act of god and won’t cover his disability.

    Films — Animated 
  • A minor plot point in The Incredibles. Mr. Incredible gets yelled by his boss at an insurance company for helping claimants get around the red tape. As Insuricare uses stall tactics to deny its clients the claims they had the right to seek, this is actually a breach of contract, leaving the company open to class-action suits and regulatory sanctions. Unfortunately, Truth in Television as insurance companies will use the "delay, deny, defend" maneuver to protect their bottom line.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In one of the Danish Olsen-banden movies, the titular gang of heroic thieves are working for a Corrupt Corporate Executive who owns an insurance-company, tasked to steal a MacGuffin containing sensitive information for him. Once they retrieve it, however, he decides that it would be cheaper to just kill them and take the MacGuffin, rather than pay them the two million he promised. Narrowly escaping an attempt on his life, Olsen — knowing that nobody ELSE would be willing to pay for the information — comes up with a plan: He takes out a life-insurance with the company, with a 2.000.000 payout. Thus, it would no longer be economical for the Corrupt CEO to kill him, since it would cost as much as negotiating, while involving more dangers. But when he shows it off to the CEO, he just laughs and points him to the 'small print', which shows the exceptions to the policy, many of which could be easily used for arranging an 'accident'. Cue Olsen tied up on a conveyor-belt over a vat of acid.
  • The plot of The Man Who Sued God starts because the protagonist's boat got destroyed during a storm and his insurance company refuses to pay since the storm was an "act of God". While he had to back down because he can't afford to deal with a trial, he sets enough of a legal precedent that the local clergy sues the company for "using God's name in vain".
  • The main character of Fatal Instinct has a life insurance policy that only pays out in full if he dies from being shot with a pistol, falling out of a northbound train, and landing in a river. So his wife comes up with a plot to do just that so she can cash in and elope with her lover.
  • Short Time: Most of the plot happens because Detective Burt Simpson, who is Mistaken for Dying, checks his life insurance and discovers that it will only pay the complete amount (which he needs to fund sending his child to Harvard) if he is killed in the line of duty (and his retirement is also two days away). Cue Springtime for Hitler as he tries to commit Suicide by Crook repeatedly and things just go "well" for him.

  • Not surprisingly, James Herriot had a few brushes with this sort of thing: in one of the books, the narrator tells about some brothers and father who got slick talked into disability insurance. However, the joke was on the insurance company as they "managed" to somehow get injured repeatedly at an amazing rate as soon as the policy was issued. They remarked how it was strange how the company dropped them as soon as the policy term ran out but that they got another company, albeit at a higher premium, to insure them.
  • Douglas Adams once suggested that insurance companies have Time Travel, which is why whatever happens to you is mysteriously excluded from the policy and always was.
  • In Guards! Guards! Dibbler promises that his "dragon protection" cream will save you from being burned to death by dragon flame, and if it doesn't work then you get your money back (upon personal application only).
  • An insurance company thought they were doing this, when they sold a policy to a young seaman in Tom Holt's Flying Dutch. But then he became the immortal captain of the Flying Dutchman, and after living to the impossibly old age that the policy required before it made any payout, the payout increased each year he survived beyond that. Now, if he dies, the insurance company is on the hook for more money than there is in the world, and through a variety of mergers, and such, they've distributed the risk to every bank and insurance company in the world, so they need him to go on living forever (Or failing that, name the insurance company as inheritor), or his death will destroy the entire world's economy.
  • In "Framför Rubrikerna" (Roughly; "In front of the headlines", a collection of amusing newspaper clips), author Stellan Sundahl notes that he heard about a guy who bought a combined theft & fire insurance to his car. Turned out it was only valid if someone stole his car while it was on fire...
  • In one of Secret City short stories there's a very successful insurance company. In setting with Functional Magic they hired best of the best for their divination department, so that they can exclude particular cases from their contracts or just refuse a particular client, because he will be eligible for payment later. Too bad for them, that Dark Court is even greedier and blocked all prediction spells concerning salesman, who participated in their scheme, which got his business damaged.
  • One character in the Serge Storms novel Florida Roadkill is an insurance executive who specializes in rejecting claims, especially if they're about something covered in the actual policy. He ends up getting shot and dies when his request for treatment is rejected because the HMO routes the request for payment to his office.
  • Averted in The Adventures Of Tom Stranger Interdimensional Insurance Agent. Stranger & Stranger strives to provide the best possible customer service in any dimension. If your home dimension has been invaded by flesh-eating blobs, and you have comprehensive coverage from Stranger & Stranger, then Tom Stranger will show up in his Humongous Mecha to honor the insurance policy and blast the invaders, then to sit down with the invasion leader and demand that the invaders pay reparations to the injured party and end their unprovoked attack. Should the invaders have insurance coverage as well (and every self-respecting interdimensional traveler must), then arbitration might be required. Played straight with Tom Stranger's rival Jeff Conundrum, whose company frequently provides bad customer service (a Berserk Button for Tom Stranger), cancels insurance coverage after a single missed payment, and runs call centers, something that has been banned by the Geneva Convention in most civilized dimensions.
    • The sequel A Murder of Manatees: The Further Adventures of Tom Stranger, Interdimensional Insurance Agent; Tom calls an emergency meeting to discuss something horrible: a mere 4.5 (out of 5) star rating of Stranger & Stranger's customer service. Tom sees that missing half-star as a personal failure and, of course, as Serious Business. The real reason? The previous story, which was written down and released as an audiobook on some Earths.
  • Arya's first mark in A Song of Ice and Fire as a Faceless Man assassin is to kill an insurance broker known to cheat some of his clients out of claims.

    Live-Action TV 
  • An episode of Dinosaurs had the Sinclairs' house (and TV) struck by a falling meteor. Earl actually had bought meteor insurance but was denied coverage since he was only covered for meteors and once a meteor passes through the atmosphere it becomes a meteorite.
  • In the "Motor Insurance Sketch" from Monty Python's Flying Circus, a vicar had bought some insurance and has now come to collect on it.
    Vicar: It's about this letter you sent me regarding my insurance claim.
    Devious: Oh, yeah, yeah - well, you see, it's just that we're yet...totally satisfied with the grounds of your claim.
    Vicar: But it says something about filling my mouth in with cement.
    Devious: Oh well, that's just insurance jargon, you know.
    Vicar: But my car was hit by a lorry while standing in the garage and you refuse to pay my claim.
    Devious: Oh well, Reverend your your we are. It states quite clearly that no claim you make will be paid.
    Vicar: Oh dear.
    Devious: You see, you unfortunately plumped for our 'Neverpay' policy, which, you know, if you never claim is very worthwhile...but you had to claim, and, well, there it is.
  • One of Dennis Duffy's scams on 30 Rock is suicide insurance.
  • On Family Matters, the Winslows' insurance company decided to heavily increase their premium payments (and implied that they will deny claims more often from now on) just on the basis of having Steve Urkel as a neighbor (whether or not he is actually to blame for whatever damages the Winslows are claiming).
  • Inverted in Home Improvement when Tim tries to collect insurance on Jill's car after he dropped a 3-ton I-beam on it. Tim is so disaster prone that he gets into accidents that would normally fit Impossible Insurance, but not regular insurance.
  • In Breaking Bad, Walter White has health insurance via his employment as a teacher—but it won't pay for the chemotherapy he needs to treat his cancer, setting in motion the events of the series.
  • The Coronation Street character Alf Roberts had a type of life insurance known as term assurance, which requires the holder to manually renew it each year. He died at eight minutes past midnight, meaning his widow Audrey was left with nothing. This storyline apparently led to a rush of people in the UK switching their life insurance policies to convertible, or "guaranteed insurability" plans which cost slightly more, but automatically renew.
  • In an episode of House, House has a water leak that significantly damages his ceiling. Unfortunately, his estimate with a contractor reveals that based on what he sees, House's home insurance agency will deny a claim based upon neglect. House proceeds to bribe the contractor, many times more than what he'd really pay for the repairs, to get the contractor to change his report. When asked why by the contractor, who is happy to accept twice the pay for the same work but is curious, House replies that It's the Principle of the Thing.

  • The MAD parody of Highway to Heaven used this trope.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • In The Gambols Gaye takes out a travel insurance policy that she is told will pay out a million pounds if she hurts herself on the England-France ferry. Which technically it does, but only if the injury is "hit by a meteorite while lying on the sun-deck". Personal application only.

  • There are a number of examples in The Goon Show, eg:
    • In "The Canal" Baron Seagoon insures his nephew Neddie against various unlikely fatal accidents - all of which he has of course arranged. The Running Gag is that Neddie always manages to escape just before the Baron can collect.
    • In "Insurance, The White Man's Burden" Grytpype and Moriarty persuade Neddie to take out fire insurance - on the English Channel. This backfires when Coastguard Crun pours oil on the sea to calm the waves during a rescue and then burns it off.
  • In I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again, a character gets insurance against being trampled by a herd of bison in Whitehall. He immediately gets trampled in Whitehall ... by a herd of buffalo.
  • On Hello Cheeky, there's an insurance policy that has you covered if you're kicked by a stag in the London underground or stabbed by a Guatemalan midget in church. "Remember the name...Furtive Insurance! Our motto — take the money and run."

    Video Games 
  • This is the final resulting insurance verdict in the Golden Ending of Return of the Obra Dinn: While it does reward the estates of victims who died valiantly in the line of duty and punishes the estates of criminals with heavy fines, some characters who killed in self-defense or accidents or executions of innocents are labeled and fined as murderers, such as the Captain (who killed three people in self-defense, which, along with his suicide, cost him his entire estate) and Henry Brennan (who fired a gunshot that killed Hok-Seng Lau, an innocent, while the other three seamen missed their mark in Lau's execution, and is labeled as a murderer as well). Charles Miner, who tried to kill a monster but hit a person instead, is also labeled as a murderer.
  • Played as a Running Gag in Kerbal Space Program where the various scientific instruments you can bring along a voyage have a warranty in case of defects... but every single one of them will void that warranty if the instrument is used as intended. The warranty for "Atmospheric Fluid Spectro-Variometer" for instance, which only functions in a planet's atmosphere, will void if the device is exposed to air.

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • When The Simpsons go to Italy, their car gets hit by Mortadella falling off a cheese truck. They got the cheese insurance, but it doesn't cover Mortadella. This counts as Fridge Brilliance since Mortadella isn't a cheese, it's actually a type of sausage.
  • In the Looney Tunes short "Fool Coverage", insurance salesman Daffy Duck convinces Porky Pig to buy an accident policy that pays one million dollars for a black eye... provided it was the result of an elephant stampede happening in his house between 3:55 and 4:00 p.m. on the Fourth of July during a hailstorm. At the end of the cartoon, that is exactly what happens! To try to save face, Daffy adds "...AND one baby zebra!" to the clause. Cue baby zebra.
  • This is the plot of the Ned's Newt episode "Trouble Indemnity". The insurance agent doesn't even need to hide anything in the fine print - Ned's parents are dumb enough to insure a seashell rabbit statue from being stolen by a weasel, a novelty mirror from being broken by a Russian dancer, and a broken record from being welded back by an earthquake (as well as a lot of other stuff). Newton's Shapeshifting skills come in handy when sending that business back at the unscrupulous insurer.
  • Garfield and Friends: When Jon Arbuckle had a car crash, the insurer's only show of efficiency was at raising Jon's monthly payments. The insurer then required several documents and, for last, the car. Garfield and Odie, as a result of trying to get food from the car, accidentally crashed it at the insurer's office. After paying for the car's repairs, the insurer tried to collect payment from the insurance company covering the office but he instead found himself at the other side of the insurer/insured relationship.
  • Family Guy: Peter Griffin once got a volcano insurance. After Eyjafjallajökull erupted in 2010, people started joking about how he got the last laugh, or at least would have had he lived in Western Europe.
  • The Gravedale High episode "Monster on Trial" had Max Schneider try to collect on his insurance after Miss Fresno falsely sued him and student driver Reggie Moonshroud for rear-ending her car. He is denied the insurance because the policy doesn't cover werewolves driving his car.
  • Rugrats: There was an episode featuring an insurance salesman selling insane policies that included "against bees IF they're a specific species that migrated from Africa".note  Then Tommy and the gang accidentally flooded the house, and Stu immediately said "so we're insured now, right?" The salesman ran away hyperventilating.

  • In his comedy monologue "Ten Days in Coronary Care", Wendy Bagwell described his health insurance as covering "Hong Kong flu. Provided you caught it in Hong Kong. From a Siamese cat."
  • Discussed in a Tumblr post about how citizens of Gotham, per the nature of the city with its countless supervillains, could only possibly get property insurance by splitting it up according to which specific villain's mayhem you wish to be ensured against. One guy gets screwed out of his "Poison Ivy insurance" because although his car was wrecked by one of her trees, it only hit his car because a completely unrelated villain tossed it around in a storm.