Insurer’s 325 years of claims, from elephant breaking into car to a leapfrog injury

Aviva has trawled through its archives to unearth a “treasure trove” of insurance claims ahead of its 325th anniversary next month

A top insurance firm has revealed some of the quirkiest claims from its centuries-old history – including a leapfrogging vicar and a hungry elephant.

Aviva has trawled through its archives to unearth a “treasure trove” of claims ahead of its 325th anniversary next month.

The company’s roots can be traced back to the Hand-in-Hand Fire and Life Insurance Company, founded in 1696.

Its first policy was taken out on January 15, 1697 and the first claim was paid on May 11 of that year, when houses in St Stephen’s Alley, Westminster, were “damnifyed by fire”.

Although the company was then an insurer against fire, the organisation evolved as people’s needs changed, to cover homes, personal possessions, motoring, travel, health and personal injuries, pensions and investments.

And researchers found that injury claims appeared throughout the archives – particularly when health and safety rules were less comprehensive than they are today.

In 1884, a surgeon suffered a “poisoned hand” when unpacking a box of drugs.

Another man injured his arm when his finger was caught in a woman’s corset in 1888, as he was trying to save her from drowning.

And, in the same year, £10 was awarded to someone who lost a toenail while getting into bed.

Aviva said that while many of its older claims are light on detail, they also include a vicar who was awarded £120 after falling while playing leap-frog in 1875.

In another case, a London hotel keeper was awarded £25 and 10 shillings in 1878 after being hit in the eye with a cork after opening a bottle of champagne.

Looking at 20th century claims, a window panel of a Morris Minor van was broken in 1934 after a circus passed by.

One of its elephants put its trunk through the window, discovered the driver’s lunch and ate it, finishing it off with a loaf of bread.

Unfortunately, the elephant was a tight fit in the van.

In another case, in 1948, a policyholder and his family went away for a holiday, and for safety, his wife placed her jewels in the stove.

On their return, the stove was lit by the husband – with disastrous results for the jewellery.

Anna Stone, Aviva archivist said: “It’s been a joy to have another opportunity to look at some of our oldest and quirkiest claims.

“Some of them never fail to raise a smile but, in each case, we’ve been there to help customers as they’ve faced the unexpected.

“Aviva’s origins can be traced back 325 years so, as we celebrate this landmark, I’ve enjoyed reminding myself of the likes of a driving red setter and a hungry elephant.

“Although it has to be said, we’re still adding to our log of unusual claims even today.”

Aviva has also been an insurer to some famous customers, including Sir Walter Scott, Agatha Christie, Percy Bysshe Shelley, former prime minister David Lloyd George, and royals Queen Victoria and George V.

The company celebrates its 325th anniversary on November 12.