Going Out on a Limb: 11 Surprising Body-Part Insurance Policies
Honestly, I haven’t stopped laughing at this title since I thought of it. Have you ever wondered how much it would cost if you really did go out (financially and morbidly speaking) on a limb? What if your only source of income is your left foot? Or your vocal career is what puts food on the table?
As crazy as it sounds for us average folks, celebrities can take out body-part insurance policies for seven figures or more. And it’s not just those with Heidi Klum good looks who are covered. I compiled this zany list below.
11 of the Highest-Insured Body Parts
Lloyds of London seems to be the main body-part insurance company. Since the 1920s, Lloyd’s of London has been making headlines for insuring the most random of celebrity, ahem, assets. Here are some body-part insurance policies that it proudly mentions on its site:
1. Crossed Eyes
In the 1920s, silent film comedian Ben Turpin took out a $25,000 insurance policy in case his famous eyes ever uncrossed. Indexed for inflation in 2018, that would come out to about $360,000 for crossed eyes.
The seriousness of the policy is open to interpretation, according to Lloyd’s, as many celebs did (and still do) it for the publicity. But it’s still a hefty sum to envision. Pun intended.
2. A Particularly Large Nose
Jimmy “the Schnozzle” Durante, an American singer and actor, insured his trademark big nose for $140,000 in the 1930s. This is the equivalent of $2.1million dollars today, which I found out using this funky inflation calculator. I also used this to calculate the average price of a house in the 1950s ($7,354), which is the equivalent of almost $79,000 today.
Out Body-Part Insurance?
I reached out to Jonathan Thomas, head of property and specialty and accident-and-health underwriter, at Lloyd’s of London to answer the question of why celebrities take out this kind of insurance.
- True risk transfer, such as the female news anchor wishing to protect future income diminution due to facial scarring or the foot model wishing to cover her feet and lower legs alone because nothing else gets seen on camera.
- Media-driven rumors for promotional purposes may or may not be true. In this case, the urban myth about Jennifer Lopez’s bottom being insured for huge sums actually may have some truth to it. However, I couldn’t say she ever bought a policy, and she doesn’t admit to it, as far as I understand.
- Professional athletes obtaining some coverage for otherwise excluded body parts in policies that they, or their employers, buy for loss-of-services protection. John Elway had knee-only coverage for years because of this need.
3. A Couple of Beautiful Voices
Marlene Dietrich ($1 million) and later Bruce Springsteen (£3.5 million, or about $4.6million) insured their pipes in the event that they ever lost or damaged their voices. This doesn’t come as much of a surprise. After all, Springsteen has sold over 135 million records worldwide to date.
4. Hourglass Figure
Bette Davis, who had a 21-inch waist, insured it for $28,000, to discourage her from gaining weight. I wish I had an insurance policy to encourage me to lose weight, but that’s another story.
5. Multiple Sets of Pins
Bette Grable, a pin-up girl from the 1940s, started the trend of insuring those stalks for $1 million. Following her lead, Russian ballet dancer Rudolph Nureyev, dancer Michael Flatley, and soccer player David Beckham all insured their moneymaking legs, with Beckham’s reaching the shocking sum of £100 million (about $132 million).
6. A Treasure Chest
Dolly Parton has insured her infamous 40DD bosom for about $5 million. Let’s be fair, it’s definitely not only her music that she’s known for, so this makes sense.
Another well-known woman also felt the need to insure those particular assets: Porn star Holly Madison insured hers for $1 million.
“I’ve heard about people getting body parts insured and I thought, why not? Because if anything happened to my boobs, I’d be out for a few months and I’d probably be out a million dollars,” she told People, adding, “I thought I’d cover my assets.”
Can’t really argue with that, can you?
7. Magic Hands
The iconic Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards insured his hands for $1.6 million. We can’t get no satisfaction without them, after all.
8. A Set of Choppers
British comedian Ken Dodd had his famous overbite insured for £4 million (about $5.2million). And actress America Ferrera, best known for her role as Ugly Betty, has her beautiful teeth insured by Aquafresh White Trays for a whopping $10 million. I hope she still flosses.
9. Taste Buds
Food critic Egon Ronay insured these for a delicious $400,000. And that’s more common than you may think. Yvonne Lorkin, a high-profile New Zealand-based wine critic, has her taste buds insured for a delicious $1 million with Lloyd’s.
Why? She has been the chief tasting officer (um, that’s a job? Where do I send my résumé?) for WineFriend, a wine subscription service, since 2015. Thousands of subscribers rely on her delicate palate. If her taste buds went out of business, so would she, so it’s no wonder WineFriend was concerned enough to insure them.
10. Luscious Locks
This one blows my mind. In 2010, former Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu’s hair was insured for $1 million by the shampoo brand Head and Shoulders, the shampoo.
I have no idea what has to happen to his hair before a payout would occur, but that must be one of the most valuable heads of hair on the planet!
I wonder if Polamalu’s hair was insured when this happened? Poor Troy Polamalu.
11. The Brain
This is my favorite one on our list. In 2006, an England soccer fan insured himself against “psychic trauma” from a poor performance by his team in the World Cup. The policy was taken out with Britishinsurance.com for £1 million ($1.3 million). That leads me to . . .
Can Only Celebs Get Body-Part Insurance?
As our good man the England fan taught us, anyone can insure herself for almost anything if she finds a provider and is willing to pay the premium. I wonder what Kylie Jenner has insured.
Lloyd’s is the best-known body-part insurance company, but reaching out to other agencies may be fruitful. “Death and dismemberment” coverage is not as fun as saying you got your pinky toe insured, but it is fairly common and might be a good way to go about covering your whole body — not just one specific area. There are life-insurance providers can help you there, such as Haven Life and the National Family Assurance Corporation.
So there you have it — body-part insurance will cover your assets. Side note: All of this might seem irrelevant to most of us, but this information could stand you in good stead in the future.
“While this may not seem to directly help millennials with their financial planning, it does get the message across that insurance needs to address needs, however specialized they are,” says Jonathan Thomas, accident-and-health underwriter and head of property and specialty at Lloyd’s. Don’t sell yourself short on that football career just yet!
Fun Facts About Body-Part Insurance
Thomas has a few facts and figures to share.
Most Commonly Insured Body Parts
It’s difficult to say the most common “parts only” policies, but they’re probably functional rather than aesthetic driven ones. Think voices, hands, and noses (perfumiers) for people whose profession depends upon them. The celebrity angle is just what gets an easy headline because of the public’s often excessive interest.
Most Expensive Body-Part Insurance Policy
The maximum sum insured is probably in the tens of millions and would be for an excluded body part of a non-U.S. NBA player seeking to play in a World Championship for his home country.
NBA teams with coverage on players with exclusions can manage the uncovered risk for the players when playing for them in the NBA. But once out of their control, their appetite for risk changes somewhat. Hence the exclusion buyback for the body part in question. The home country would buy the policy for the benefit of his NBA team for the duration of the champs.
That gritty reality of covering a real commercial insurance need (rather than the more obvious celebrity vanity buy) is why Lloyd’s is the most specialized insurer in the world for this and so many other insurance needs.