Most insurance companies are accustomed to dealing with a variety of worst case scenarios- after all, you choose to insure your home, vehicles, and other valuable assets to protect them in the event of an emergency. You may have heard of some rather unusual insurance claims- perhaps about the man from the U.K. who had to file a claim on his phone after leaving it inside his cow- or the gentleman that had to use his travel insurance policy to file a claim to replace his dentures after vomiting them overboard on a cruise? Insurers deal with loads of wacky scenarios, but they are prepared to deal with a wide variety of circumstances after all.  Here in New Jersey, we have no shortage of unusual claims ourselves. From mischievous pets to folks looking to game the system, here are some of the wildest insurance claims in New Jersey.

  1. Dog Arsonist

In Alpha, New Jersey, a counter surfing German Shepard accidentally set his house on fire. After getting on his hind legs in search of snacks and hitting a knob that turned on the electric stove, he knocked some items from the counter onto the  lit stovetop. A ceiling fan then blew some of the lit items onto a nearby dog bed, lighting the bed on fire and filling the home with smoke.

While electrical fires and lightning strikes are pretty common, insurers aren’t often told that a dog turning on the stove is the source of fire damage.

  1. Comically Bad “Slip and Fall”

A 57-year-old Randolph man was looking to make a few bucks via a slip and fall scam, but neglected to consider his surroundings first. The man was working as a subcontractor at a company in Woodbridge when he decided to make his move, dumping a bucket of ice directly onto the floor and then carefully arranging himself in the mess. He then laid there, creating the ideal “slip and fall” tableau to be discovered. What he hadn’t considered before making his insurance claims for injury treatment and an ambulance, was that there were cameras that recorded the entire thing- including his artful ice arrangement. The Middlesex County prosecutor’s office didn’t take the scenario lightly, and the man was later arrested for filing false claims.

  1. The Septuagenarian Slip and Fall Queen

 Speaking of slip and falls, Isabel Parker, 72, was known as the queen of the slip and fall scam. She arranged elaborate tumbles in supermarkets, liquor stores, and retail businesses across Philadelphia, Delaware County, and New Jersey between 1993-2000. For someone of such an advanced age, she had a very busy scamming career.  According to prosecutors at the time, she treated the insurance scams like her job, filing a total of 49 false personal-injury claims and collecting a significant amount of cash before getting caught. Ultimately, she pleaded guilty to 29 counts of insurance fraud and theft in New Jersey alone. So much for early retirement!

  1. Rottweiler Gets Several Piercings

Frank, a rottweiler from Keyport, New Jersey, found himself in the running for 2019’s Hambone Award after an encounter with a porcupine. The Hambone Award is given to the pet with the most unusual insurance claim each year- the award’s unique moniker is thanks to its namesake finding himself stuck in the fridge and consuming an entire ham. 

Frank was with his owner on a birthday weekend trip to upstate New York when he came across what he seems to have assumed was a very unusual-looking cat. After getting up close and personal to check out the prickly new “friend,” he ended up with a snout full of quills. Sometimes it’s better to avoid giving every critter a good sniff in greeting. Thanks to his owner’s pet insurance, he was covered, and his face is now quill-free.

  1. The “Dead” Senator With A SCUBA Empire

In the 1970’s, New Jersey Senator David Friedland was a prominent politician, but by 1980 he was more well-known for his bad behaviors than his political career. After a conviction for taking kickbacks, he worked with federal prosecutors and entered the witness protection program. Despite being under federal protection, he refused to change his ways, and was again in major trouble after defrauding a Teamster pension fund just 5 years later. While all of this is unusual enough, it was the shenanigans he got up to after all that that has him listed here. 

After Friedland disappeared and was presumed dead in a scuba diving accident, he managed to sneakily collect on his own life insurance policies. He obtained a fake U.S. passport and eluded authorities (who didn’t buy the fake drowning story), skipping across continents for a period of time before assuming he was in the clear and setting up multiple scuba shops in the Maldives. 

While he enjoyed the life of luxury as a scuba shop magnate for a while, the authorities eventually caught up with him, and dragged him back to NJ to serve an 8 year prison sentence. Insurance fraud, among other charges, were his ultimate downfall.

  1. Dachshund-Jack Russell Mix Causes Major Destruction

Peanut’s owners love her immensely, but she’s a bit of a magnet for trouble. After having already undergone multiple neck surgeries and numerous wild animal encounters, Peanut found herself buried alive under her owner’s porch.

The 4-year-old Sicklerville pup chased a skunk under her family’s backyard deck before getting stuck and buried under the dirt for more than three hours. Her owners tried to lure her out with treats and repeated calls before realizing her barks had gotten more and more muffled. When even her favorite hotdogs couldn’t produce the pup, the family realized they’d need additional help to rescue their little skunk-hunter. 

They eventually called in the Winslow Fire Department, who ultimately had to cut multiple holes in the deck, and spent quite a bit of time digging and searching before locating a little brown paw. Peanut, and the family’s deck, were both pretty beat up after the ordeal. While worse for wear, she was successfully treated by her local emergency vet. Here’s hoping Peanut manages to avoid causing any more insurance claims for a while. 

    New Jersey has a reputation for weird across categories, and that certainly applies to insurance claims as well. Among the lessons here is that having comprehensive insurance policies is likely a wise choice, considering how much trouble these canines managed to get themselves into- including becoming the source of fire risks! In addition, it’s better not to take a page out of any of the books of the New Jersey humans found here, unless of course you’re looking for a prison sentence. Stay weird, New Jersey.