Ferret bites, catapult strikes, confusing poison with sleeping pills: How bizarre insurance claims have been around since Victorian days
- The farmer, who was bitten by a rat, received £132 and the merchant bumped his eye with rice at a wedding for £50
Throwing away fruit peels often led to insurance claims in Victorian England. An undated Aviva drawing from the archives shows a man falling
Strange insurance claims aren’t just a modern-day invention – they were common in Victorian Britain.
Allegations of rodent and fish bites, eye strikes from slingshots, slipping on orange peels and confusing poison with sleeping pills All made in 19th century East Anglia.
Fascinating documents discovered in Aviva’s Norwich Archives have revealed a stunning catalog of accident claims dating back to the 19th century.
The adage that where there is blame, there is a claim was as true in Victoria in England as it is today if a search of the records of Aviva, formerly Norwich Union, is anything to go by.
Discarded banana skins, stray horses, and simple follies were also revealed as some of the major hazards of the day.
East Anglian claims include a shipbuilder from Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, who swallowed a herringbone and was awarded £1,000 in damages in 1901.
A farmer from Sudbury, Suffolk, received £132 when he was bitten by a rat in 1887 and a merchant from Essex who had an eye injury from rice thrown at a wedding in 1892, received £50 compensation.
Remarkable documents discovered in the Aviva Archives in Norwich have revealed an astounding catalog of accident claims
Strange claims from last year included:
- A shipbuilder from Great Yarmouth who swallowed a fishbone received £1,000 in damages in 1901.
- A Lancashire grocer slipped while playing the blind man’s trick and paid £15 in 1878.
- An Essex merchant received £50 in 1892 after he injured his eye while throwing rice at a wedding.
- A tailor of Launceston, Cornwall, missed his chair when going to sit and paid £58 in 1887.
- He paid £1,000 in 1878 to an innkeeper of Handsworth, Birmingham, who took a poisonous potion which he believed was a sleeping drug.
Anna Stone, an archivist at Aviva, spent months examining documents for an exhibition at the insurance company’s General Insurance headquarters in Norwich.
‘It certainly proved to be very interesting reading material,’ said Anna.
Sports injuries are also common, with fencing slips, blows from hockey sticks, and golfers tearing their legs off bunkers.
Not to mention the writer who was paid £36 for an injury caused by a fellow heel strike while diving.
Anna added, ‘I have to say I have a few personal favorites from around the country that are absolutely idiosyncratic – like the deputy who fell while playing leap frog, or the guy who missed a dog while trying to kick it. Instead, he hits the couch, injuring his big toe.
Records also reveal that by 1958 Sir Winston Churchill was the longest serving client in the company’s personal accident books.
But unlike many of his contemporaries, he never made any claims.
Anna Stone, an archivist at Aviva, spent months examining documents for an exhibition at the insurance company’s Norwich headquarters.
Personal accident policies covered a wide range of professions and groups, from railroad commuters and fox hunters to surgeons and lawyers.
“Obviously insurance claims change as lifestyles change, but some accidents seem to have been as common then as they are today,” said Rob Townen, Aviva property claims manager.
‘Even in primitive and proper Victorian times, people still tripped on pavements, fell on ice and slipped in cobbled streets, though at the time discarded orange peel seemed to be the main culprit.
“The most traditional slipping hazard, the banana peel, is supposed to appear only once in our archives, in 1904.”
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