Let’s say Batman and all his disturbed archenemies suddenly settled down on the doorstep of your city.
You probably know a seven-year-old who would be ecstatic to see the Batmobile speed through town. But how much harder would a broker’s work be if a pack of colourful villians and heroes were tearing up your clients’ properties on the streets of Australia?
“If we were suddenly taken over by a school of Godzillas, then you’d find that the reinsurers would quickly write in an exclusion,” says LMI Group Managing Director Prof Allan Manning. “You’d either be unable to insure it and the government would have to sort it out, or there’d be an additional premium charge for the additional risk.”
September 11 was covered, for instance. There were no prior terrorism exclusions, which arose because it was the biggest claim in the world at the time. “Insurers said if this keeps happening, we can’t insure it because it will destroy the industry,” Manning says.
Perhaps it’s a good thing for business that Wayne Enterprises isn’t moving to Adelaide any time soon. But with Ben Affleck already working on the next instalment in the movie franchise, IRP takes a look at some classic scenes from the industry point of view.
Spoiler alert if you haven’t seen the movies.
Why so serious?
Cars explode. Businesses are smashed. Bystanders jump out of the way. Really, Batman seems to have a history with this sort of collateral damage.
In 1989’s Batman, the Joker causes a jail wall to break by a misguided missile, enabling the Penguin to escape, steal a car
and make his getaway.
“This is a very open scenario and comes back to the question: Was there a break in the chain of events and who was responsible?” says Kyle McCurran, the Team Manager, Business Claims – Victoria and Tasmania, for CGU Insurance. “Was the Penguin responsible for the theft of the car, or the Joker, who blew up the wall of the prison?”
When considering the loss to inmates or those under care in hospitals, considerations would also need to be in place for the inability to care for them, or victims who suffer a loss due to prisoners who escaped a damaged jail after the event.
Joker or terrorist?
So ongoing costs would certainly be a factor. Comprehensive motor vehicle policies for the general public and fleet policies for businesses and the police are likely to respond.
Property cover for buildings and infrastructure with multiple owners such as the local council, utilities providers, private owners and government buildings, could also come into play.
“After the event, when the clean-up ensues,” McCurran says. “Business interruption/continuance cover and potential liability claims are likely to be considerations as streets are closed for repairs or buildings are pieced back together for up to 12 to 24 months.”
In the 2005 movie Batman Returns, a deranged doctor dubbed the Scarecrow, creates a toxic gas that leaves those exposed mad with fear. This gas is let loose on the city, terrifying the inhabitants who resort to violence and necessitating an insurance response far more complex than the everyday car chase.
“The losses on this one would appear to be far greater, as the effects you can safely assume would have a longer tail, and making the island safe again would take some time,” CGU’s Kyle McCurran says. “The body in charge of making this decision would do so only once there were no traces of the gas left, or could be left.”
Workers compensation might also be applied to those who are asked to go in to assist with the situation, clearing the streets and preparing the city to be reinhabited.
Furthermore, damages caused by the crazed mob, such as business interruption and injuries to mob participants and victims, could fall to personal life policies and liability matters.
“It could come back to how the poison entered their lungs and who was responsible for this,” McCurran says.
At the end of the day, it may not be worth going after the Joker for compensation. Batman, on the other hand, could be another matter – if you could prove it was Bruce Wayne.
“You can look for compensation if the person has wealth,” says Prof Allan Manning. “If someone is being charged criminally and has caused wilful damage, you can have an order of restitution. But that person has nothing, a man of straw, you’re throwing money out the back.”
If only Heath Ledger’s Joker didn’t burn that mountain of cash in 2008.
In that regard, the damage by the burglar and the vested property would be insured subject to any limitations on the policy.