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Iron Van

by on July 3, 2021

Following up on my post about real-world implications of superhero movies, let’s talk about car insurance. How does that work?

I think I first wondered about this way back when I was watching an episode of Superman: the Animated Series. I don’t recall the plot exactly, but it involved Harley Quinn kidnapping Gotham City socialite Bunny Vreeland, whose father, Army General Vreeland, proceeded to give chase in a tank. As one does. In the process, General Vreeland runs over some random car in said tank. Naturally, even back then, before law school, I wondered, what about that guy’s car?

Now, I am by no means an insurance expert (and none of this, obligatory disclaimer, should be taken as insurance or legal advice in any way whatsoever), but as I understand it, the basics of the car insurance market are as follows: you pay a premium to the insurance company, they collect the money, and then they pay out when you have an accident. The idea is that they can afford to do this because they have lots of people paying premiums, and presumably all of those people aren’t having accidents all the time, so the math and the money all works out. You also have some basic rules of fault: if you caused the accident, generally your insurance company pays for it, but your premiums go up.

Okay. So far so good. How does that work in a superhero world?

If you watch a superhero show or movie, whichever it is, cars are getting smashed up ALL THE TIME. Seriously, pick a film. Any of them. Let’s take Iron Man, for example. Remember when Obadiah Stane picked up the lady’s Audi and try to smash Tony Stark with it? (Yes, I checked the make. I try to be accurate about these things). Iron Man uses his chest thruster to knock the car from Stane’s hands, catches the car, sets it down, gets run over by it. The mom in the car drives off, the battle and the movie resumes.

What happens to the lady in the car after that? We don’t know, because she’s not part of the movie now. But imagine you’re her. Once you’re home and safe, calm the kids down, try to process the fact that you’ve just survived a superhero duel, your next call is probably going to be to your insurance agent. How’s that call go? “Hello, Geico? Yes, some supervillain in an armored suit just used my car to try and kill Iron Man. Yes, we’re okay. The car’s pretty damaged, though. Can I get reimbursed for that?”

First of all, does your insurance policy even cover superhero battles? Maybe not then, because at that point in the MCU those weren’t a thing. I don’t imagine she had time to take a photo, so would the company even pay out? But let’s assume they do for a minute; after all, the battle is pretty well public; Tony Stark confesses to being Iron Man. I’m certain Stark has insurance; so now the claims come thick and fast. And then you’ve got superhero fights over the next few years, culminating in the Battle of New York, not to mention subsequent events like Sokovia, Johannesburg, DC, and the Battle of Earth. That’s only the mass-scale stuff; there’s all kinds of smaller scale things like Thor’s fight in the little New Mexico town, the skirmish in Seoul in Age of Ultron, and so on. The car insurance market in MCU Earth is going to be swamped, or changed dramatically. If insurance companies are constantly paying out because everyone’s cars are getting smashed by the Hulk or zapped by Chitauri or crushed by Sokovian debris or what have you, that’s not a sustainable business model.

So what happens? My guess is, either the insurance companies had some sort of superhero disaster coverage into their premium models or however that works, or the Avengers and associates themselves step up to provide separate help. Maybe that’s part of the Sokovia Accords (not to mention the Stark Relief Foundation that we hear about). I honestly don’t know how that would work out, but I tell you one thing; the insurance law classes would be upended for years to come.

Thank you for indulging in my superhero movie thoughts; while you’re herecheck out my novel, The Angel and the Apocalypse, available now on Amazon!”

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