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Are you a risk manager who feels stuck in a rut? Are you an underwriter feeling unenthused?
If your days at work ever seem humdrum or you notice eyes glazing over when you explain your profession over cocktails, just remember the offbeat, colorful side to risk management and insurance.
Business Insurance has investigated recent sightings of insurance claims and coverage for losses relating to UFOs, werewolves, vampires, reincarnation and prostitutes.
Consider, for example, the responsibilities of the "technical officers" who work for the city of Amsterdam, the Netherlands. These officers are charged with enforcing new safety standards that are putting some working girls and their employers out of business.
Although it is illegal in the Netherlands to operate a brothel, Amsterdam has graciously turned a blind eye to the establishments. "The city council doesn't want to close them but wants better regulation," explained a spokeswoman for the city's mayor.
Under new regulations passed last year, the city's 250 brothels were required to implement a number of new safety standards and pass an inspection to ensure compliance.
Technical officers have flunked at least 14 brothels and ordered them closed.
Amsterdam's brothel owners are fighting mad, protesting in an unsuccessful suit against the city earlier this year that
the requirements are unfairly onerous. Still, the loss control juggernaut rolls on.
So what are some of these requirements?
Many are the same as for other Amsterdam businesses, such as those requiring access to fire escapes and heating systems that operate properly.
Other regulations are in place to ensure an injury-free workplace. "It's for the safety of the women and also for the clients," said the spokeswoman.
Beds must be bolted down. The brothel work area must be of sufficient size to allow a comfortable working environment. Floor space must be at least 11.9 square feet, and rooms have to include a washing corner with hot water.
Amsterdam's window prostitutes are required to display themselves behind reinforced glass in a room with at least 6.6 square feet of floor space.
The houses also must provide a safe for customers' valuables.
There are no insurance requirements for brothel owners or prostitutes, but the working girls may want to consider coverage that is written through a London underwriting agency.
Goodfellow Rebecca Ingrams Pearson Ltd. offers for an annual premium of 100 pounds ($162) coverage that pays prostitutes for loss of earnings due to backaches and other conditions that keep them out of work. The insurer recently said it has paid no claims on that.
The coverage is written through a consortium of unnamed U.S. and European insurers.
This isn't Goodfellow Rebecca's most popular coverage. The agency's alien abduction coverage is taking off at a time when the subjects of UFOs and the supernatural are growing increasingly popular.
The unusual coverages are offered as a way to draw attention to Goodfellow Rebecca's more mainstream business of writing disability insurance for professional athletes, explained Simon Burgess, director of the agency.
A former Lloyd's of London underwriter, Mr. Burgess said he began writing alien abduction insurance about 15 years ago just as "a bit of fun, a brain holiday from the more tedious business."
The consortium of insurers had issued about 100 policies over the years for coverage against a close encounter until Hollywood frightened Britons into buying more.
Last summer's blockbuster film Independence Day and airing of "The X-Files" on British television has driven residents to seek out insurance against pesky otherworld invaders. Goodfellow Rebecca now has about 3,000 abduction policies in force.
"We have a policy of parting the feeble-minded from their cash," said Mr. Burgess.
One policyholder, however, doesn't appear so feeble-minded. The question is, who has been taken for a ride?
The skies were clear the evening Joseph Tagliarini and his friends went out to search for UFOs in the countryside. They had spotted flying objects buzzing the skies over Swindon Warminster several times before, he said. "It's a hot spot in Europe. It has a great history of past activity."
The 24-year-old former electrician said the group spotted a triangular shaped craft that he first thought was a police helicopter come to shoo them away. "We were trespassing," he admitted.
But the beam of light that shone from the craft was not the searchlight of a helicopter. "It was a gravitational beam that lifted me off the ground. When I awoke, I was inside the craft," he told Business Insurance.
Inside, he said, was lots of vegetation and two luminous orange mini-UFOs.
A couple of shots from a disposable camera he carried were destined to become part of the claim file.
But suddenly, trouble!
From behind, a pointy headed, slit-eyed, dolphin skinned, telepathically communicating extraterrestrial startled Mr. Tagliarini. "It scared the hell out of me. I lashed out at the creature and hit it."
That's when it communicated, mind to mind, in B-grade movie lingo. "It said: 'Do not be afraid. I mean you no harm,' " Mr. Tagliarini recalled.
When he awoke back on terra firma 45 minutes later, Mr. Tagliarini found himself with a wealth of evidence for his insurer. The claw sticking to his coat would be a convincing piece, along with the photos he had taken and videos taken by the group.
For being in the right place at the right time, Mr. Tagliarini received his unworldly payoff, policy limits of 1 million pound ($1.7 million) for being abducted. He swears he didn't fake the evidence. "I would have to be Steven Spielberg's cousin to pull this off."
Goodfellow Rebecca isn't too upset about paying Mr. Tagliarini. The agency has recouped more than the claim amount by selling the evidence to an unnamed U.S. entertainment company.
Mr. Tagliarini, a believer in offbeat insurance, holds several policies written by Goodfellow Rebecca that provide coverage for a number of supernatural events. The coverage provided peace of mind as he was shark fishing in the Bermuda Triangle after collecting his claim payment.
Nothing unusual happened there, he said, but if it had, he was pretty sure he would have been covered for it.
The London underwriting agency offers not only alien abduction insurance but other non-traditional policies that pay the same 1 million pound for such unlikely occurrences as death and injury from poltergeist activity and conversion to a werewolf or vampire.
Goodfellow Rebecca isn't the only source for alien abduction insurance, although the agency has a decidedly better procedure for paying claims.
UFO Abduction & Casualty Insurance Co. in Altamonte Springs, Fla., offers $10 million in coverage for a single lifetime premium of $19.95. The policy arrives in an attractive frame and is the only coverage offered by the "company."
There are some interesting terms to the coverage. Double indemnity is payable in the event that "aliens insist on conjugal visits," "if the encounter results in offspring being referred to as the next missing link" or "the aliens refer to the abductee as a nutritional food source or the other white meat."
Claimants who submit proof of an abduction will receive $1 per year for 10 million years or for 20 million years in the case of double indemnity.
A policyholder in upstate New York convinced the insurer he was abducted and is being paid, said Mike St. Lawrence, owner of the company. "He's received four or five dollars, and he's very happy."
Mr. St. Lawrence said a number of insurance company executives have copies of his policies hanging on their office walls. "Insurance people are probably our No. 1 one purchasers. A lot of agents use it as icebreakers with their new clients."
A sister company, The Future Life Insurance Co., offers reincarnation insurance with limits of $10 million. "If you come back, you have a $10 million policy waiting for you," Mr. St. Lawrence explained.
He suggested policyholders who return as lower life forms may have to seek help filling out claim forms.
The London market, particularly Lloyd's of London, has a long reputation of writing coverage for non-traditional risks. And it isn't only UFO-watchers who are chasing some of the coverages.
When the national lottery appeared in England in 1994, workers in offices across the country began forming syndicates to buy blocks of tickets. An employer's nightmare was a telephone call on the morning after the drawing when he would learn that his workforce was still crawling through pubs with fistfuls of money.
Thus was born coverage that would indemnify a company whose workers won the lottery and lost the will to work against resulting production losses. A spokesman for Lloyd's said the coverage is written on a line slip at the marketplace, and the price is carefully calculated against the odds of such an event actually happening to an employer.
Lloyd's has gained a reputation as a place to indulge the coverage quirks of movie stars, coverage of Betty Grable's legs as a well-known example. Rock stars also are drawn to the marketplace, with Bruce Springsteen purchasing 3.5 million pounds ($5.9 million) of coverage for his voice.
The spokesman for the marketplace provided a list of some of the more unusual risks Lloyd's has covered over the years. Syndicates have written coverage for:
The world's largest cigar at 12 1/2 feet long. It was insured during an exhibition in London for its retail value of 17,933.35 pounds ($30,334). The stogie was rolled to launch a new brand.
Loss of souvenir sales due to the cancellation of royal weddings.
A grain of rice with a portrait of the Queen of England and Duke of Edinburgh engraved on it. Limits were $20,000.
Payment of a 1 million pounds prize by Cutty Sark whiskey to anyone who captured the Loch Ness monster alive.
Payment of a $1 million prize by a Memphis radio station to anyone who captured Elvis Presley alive.
The taste buds of food critic and gourmet Egon Ronay.
A comedy theater group against the risk of an audience member dying laughing.
It isn't all fun and games in the risk management and insurance business of course. But it ain't as dull as some people make it out to be.