Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Lloyd's of Asgard

So far, we've discussed the issue of superhero/supernatural insurance as seen in the posts by the distinguished ShadowBanker here and here.

These posts got me thinking about insurance for superheroes. Not just insurance purchased by the public to protect against any damage caused by superheoes, but insurance purchased by the heroes themselves. Insurance firms in the real world have shown themselves willing to insure elements of an invidual such as the legs of a supermodel or a singer's voice. If these special abilities and attributes can be insured, why can't super powers?

This type of insurance would likely apply to those heroes who are not independently wealthy. If Tony Stark's armor is damaged, he has the money to repair it. But if the Punisher loses a prize shotgun or has his property crushed by an irate Russian man, how will he get a new one (especially since he has no discernable source of income)? It's up to superhero insurance to replace these tools and abilities, if possible. If the Flash loses his super-speed, the company which insures his power would be tasked with buying a rack of chemicals and getting said rack struck by lightning while Barry Allen stood next to it.

In my previously listed example a supermodel's legs contribute greatly to her livelihood. The model makes her money based on her looks and if those looks are damaged, her ability to earn money is greatly diminished. Hence the need for insurance. This is not necessarily true for superheroes. Most heroes do not derive their economic support from their powers or tools. However, the powers and super weapons do have intrinsic value for the protection of society. If Luke Cage loses his powers, there is a void in the protection of urban areas. The first goal of insurance should be to pay for an attempt to restore his powers. But if this is unsuccessful the company insuring Luke Cage's invulnerability could pay for youth centers and more police officers if Cage's powers disappear. This would be a good option in lieu of providing the money to Cage himself.

Another aspect of insuring superhero attributes and weapons would be to protect against any damage caused by them. This particular insurance could work a lot like car insurance. If your car damages another vehicle, the insurance you purchased for your car will be used to repair the damages to another individual's property. This type of coverage could be applied to the superhero world. If, for example, your mighty thunder hammer Mjolnir is used to destroy a children's hospital, the insurance you place on the hammer could be used to repair the damage up to a pre-arranged amount determined by the insurance companies.

The insurance could also protect against damaged caused by high-jacked superpowers. If the Mandarin takes control of your armor or Mimic steals your optic blasts, it would be reassuring to know that a financial institution had capital and established procedures to back you up.

Of course, there exists the question of who will pay the outrageously high premiums of items of such high value as Thor's hammer and Spider-Man's spider sense. These are items that, if placed in a Mastercard commercial, would likely fall under the category of "priceless." The cost could be partially underwritten by the government and the superhero him/herself. It's also possible that the hero could provide services of more traditional economic value (such as endorsing the company that insures them in advertising spots) in order to reimburse some of the company's investment.

Regardless, this method of insurance would center around the hero and not the environment that they interact with and could provide more focused insurance. But thoughts are welcome about how this system could work and whether it would even be feasible for any company to become involved with superhero insurance.

20 comments:

Alex said...

This brings up a separate question -- when heroes have secret identities, and they apply for say, health insurance, are they guilty of insurance fraud? After all, Peter Parker's health insurance premiums might be a bit higher if the insurance company knew that he had radioactive spider DNA coursing through his bloodstream...

ShadowBanker said...

Alex -- that's a tremendous question. We were actually e-mailed by another loyal reader about something similar (insider trading). Keep tuning it, we might make a future post about this!

SevenDollarPen said...

What if there were mandates for all metahumans to pay into an insurance pool so the wealthy ones (Tony Stark, Bruce Wayne, etc.) subsidize the poorer ones? It's going to be a hard sell asking an insurance company to cover someone with little to no income and a penchant for rampant property damage.

Mikey said...

I would expect that "power insurance" would work like life insurance. The superhero pays a monthly premium and if the superpower is ever lost (almost a certainty for someone like the Green Lantern) then the company pays an agreed upon amount. The amount paid doesn't have to really make up for the loss of the super power, it just has to be a high enough amount that the super hero feels it is worth paying for it.

The secret identity problem could be solved using some sort of trusted identity escrow service.

Does radioactive spider DNA in your blood count as a pre-existing condition? :)

Jenny S-T said...

I suspect you'd have trouble finding an insurance company prepared to cover these, even in a world with lots of superheroes - they're still a tiny minority, nowhere near the number of people wishing to insure body parts. Trying to get an insurance company to insure a category of thing they are not familiar with is very very difficult, because they need a calculation of the likelihood of it happening and the cost if it does, and they won't trust your estimates of either.

Ben said...

This really is something that the Guardians should be looking into. Here you have a loyal servant of justice who somehow loses his powers. Don't you think it would be in their interest to make sure that said hero is either taken care of or granted alternate powers? It ends up like a superpension. Although great responsibility comes from great power, it might help if there was an incentive or benefits within the service. In this instance you don't really have to worry about your secret identity coming out (who is more trustworthy than the Guardians) and payout does not neccessarily have to be monetary. Pay-in to the system then does not have to be monetary either. Since pension comes in the form of service, premiums could be payed in form of enlistment for weeks out of the year.

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The superhero pays a monthly premium and if the superpower is ever lost (almost a certainty for someone like the Green Lantern) then the company pays an agreed upon amount. The amount paid doesn't have to really make up for the loss of the super power, it just has to be a high enough amount that the super hero feels it is worth paying for it.

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I would expect that "power insurance" would work like life insurance. The superhero pays a monthly premium and if the superpower is ever lost (almost a certainty for someone like the Green Lantern) then the company pays an agreed upon amount. The amount paid doesn't have to really make up for the loss of the super power, it just has to be a high enough amount that the super hero feels it is worth paying for it.

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