Listen to some funny extracts from genuine insurance claims and learn some vocabulary to describe car crashes and driving (badly).
Introduction Transcript / Episode Notes
Hello LEPsters, how are you today? The weather here is grey, overcast. The conditions are perfect for recording and listening to an episode of Luke’s English Podcast, so here we go.
In this episode I’m going to read through some insurance claims, which contain some very funny descriptions of people attempting to explain how they got into accidents while driving. I think it should be pretty amusing and as usual there’s lots of English to learn from it.
So we’re talking about driving and having accidents, collisions or crashes in a car. Have you ever been in a car crash? What happened? Did you have to do any insurance paperwork afterwards? Did you have to describe what happened in your crash?
If you have an accident while driving in the UK the insurance company sends you a claim form which you fill in, and often there’s a big space on the back that says “Give, in your own words, a description of how you think the accident occurred.”
So this is where people give their account of the accident.
And they always try to make it sound like it wasn’t their fault or they weren’t breaking any speed limits.
“I was driving down the road at 28mph…”
These are genuine claim form extracts from real people’s insurance claims.
I have to say that I got inspired to do this episode by Jasper Carrot, a comedian from the 70s, 80s and 90s in the UK.
Jasper Carrot (who used to live down the road from me, growing up) used to do a routine about funny insurance claims. He would basically read out the insurance claims on stage and bring them to life, make comments about them and stuff. He said all the claims were all true and I’d always been interested in finding some of those claim forms online, and after doing some searches I’ve managed to find loads of those real insurance claims so I’ve selected some and we’re going to go through them one by one. Some of these are the same ones that Jasper Carrot used to read out in his comedy shows.
The cool thing about this for learning English is not just that these are really funny and stupid descriptions, it’s that they include moments when the language becomes a bit ambiguous and can mean several things at the same time (like a joke) and also there are descriptions of movements and accidents that contain some nice bits of English.
And we’re going to go through all the vocab that comes up as we go along, including a vocab review at the end.
So if you don’t find these particularly funny, you can at least learn some English from it all.
And we’re talking about vocabulary for movements, accidents, collisions and driving, verb tenses for storytelling and all that kind of thing.
Just think about that for a second. How do you describe moments when accidents happen? They’re often quite difficult to describe.
Have you ever had an accident? Can you try to describe exactly what happened in English?
I was in a car accident once. Let me describe it to you.
I did end up with whiplash and I remember making an insurance claim for it, which I never applied for eventually, because I think I only missed about 2 shifts working at the pub and the whole thing didn’t seem worth it.
Anyway, what about these claims? Let’s go.
See if you can notice what is funny or strange about these claims, and also what is happening linguistically which makes it funny. It’s often due to slightly bad writing that these things end up sounding like something else.
- “Going to work at 7am this morning I drove out of my drive straight into a bus. The bus was 5 minutes early.”
- “The accident happened because I had one eye on the lorry in front, one eye on the pedestrian and the other eye on the car behind.”
- “I didn’t think the speed limit applied after midnight”
- “The car in front hit the pedestrian but he got up so I hit him again”
- “I pulled away from the side of the road, glanced at my mother-in-law and headed over the embankment.”
- “I collided with a stationary truck coming the other way”
- “The pedestrian ran for the pavement, but I got him.”
- “In an attempt to kill a fly, I drove into a telephone pole.”
- “Coming home I drove into the wrong house and collided with a tree I don’t have.”
- “I thought my window was down, but I found it was up when I put my head through it.”
- “The guy was all over the road. I had to swerve a number of times before I hit him.”
- “I had been driving for forty years when I fell asleep at the wheel and had an accident.”
- “As I approached an intersection a sign suddenly appeared in a place where no stop sign had ever appeared before.”
- “To avoid hitting the bumper of the car in front I struck a pedestrian.”
- “I saw a slow moving, sad faced old gentleman as he bounced off the bonnet of my car.”
- “No one was to blame for the accident but it would never have happened if the other driver had been alert.”
- “I bumped into a lamp-post which was obscured by human beings.”
- “The accident was caused by me waving to the man I hit last week.”
- “A house hit my car.”
(A house was being moved by a large truck. My friend had his car parked on the side of the road correctly. The house began to tilt off the truck and eventually fell off the truck, landing on my friend’s car. He eventually had the insurance paid, after lengthy explanation and the moving company confirming the story.) (Ben Keirnan)
Now let’s go through them one by one and break them down
Things to consider
- What’s funny? (in some cases it’s obvious, but sometimes more subtle)
- In the case of ambiguously or badly worded sentences:
- What is the writer trying to say?
- What does the writer seem to say?
- How could it be rewritten?
- “Going to work at 7am this morning I drove out of my drive straight into a bus. The bus was 5 minutes early.”
Fairly clear. It’s funny because he blames the bus for being early, as if he doesn’t look, just judges traffic by the bus schedule.
2. “The accident happened because I had one eye on the lorry in front, one eye on the pedestrian and the other eye on the car behind.”
How many eyes do you have?
3. “I didn’t think the speed limit applied after midnight”
4. “The car in front hit the pedestrian but he got up so I hit him again”
Sounds like it was intentional. He hit him again because he got up.
“So I couldn’t avoid hitting him” “He got up and I couldn’t avoid him”
5. “I pulled away from the side of the road, glanced at my mother-in-law and headed over the embankment.”
Again, it sounds like it was intentional and that he did it because of his mother in law. I think it should be “I lost track of where I was going when I glanced at my mother in law and then went over the embankment”. Headed sounds like he chose to do it, maybe.
6. “I collided with a stationary truck coming the other way”
Technically the truck couldn’t have been coming the other way because it was stationary.
The whole “coming the other way” thing should be dropped.
7. “The pedestrian ran for the pavement, but I got him.”
Haha. This sounds like he’s glad or that he intended to do it. Bad choice of words.
He ran for the pavement but I still couldn’t avoid hitting him.
8. “In an attempt to kill a fly, I drove into a telephone pole.”
Sounds like the fly was on the telephone pole.
I was trying to kill a fly that was in my car and I hit a telephone pole.
9. “Coming home I drove into the wrong house and collided with a tree I don’t have.”
I accidentally drove into the wrong drive and hit a tree I didn’t expect to be there.
10. “I thought my window was down, but I found it was up when I put my head through it.”
Self explanatory really.
11. “The guy was all over the road. I had to swerve a number of times before I hit him.”
Again, it sounds like he did it on purpose.
The guy was driving very erratically and I had already had to swerve a few times to avoid him before I eventually hit him.
12. “I had been driving for forty years when I fell asleep at the wheel and had an accident.”
I was a very experienced driver who had never had an accident until one day I fell asleep at the wheel and had an accident.
13. “As I approached an intersection a sign suddenly appeared in a place where no stop sign had ever appeared before.”
Self explanatory? I didn’t expect to see a new stop sign in a spot where there had previously been none.
14. “To avoid hitting the bumper of the car in front I struck a pedestrian.”
I accidentally struck a pedestrian while I was attempting to avoid hitting another car.
15. “I saw a slow moving, sad faced old gentleman as he bounced off the bonnet of my car.”
16. “No one was to blame for the accident but it would never have happened if the other driver had been alert.”
Contradiction in terms and sounds very petty and vindictive.
17. “I bumped into a lamp-post which was obscured by human beings.”
Sounds like The Day Today
Sounds like he might have hit some people.
It’s just weird to call them human beings, why not people?
18. “The accident was caused by me waving to the man I hit last week.”
19. “A house hit my car.”
Actually true (as we heard before)
- The bumper – the front of the back or car – the part which might bump against another car when you’re parking (badly)
- The bonnet (USA – the hood) – the part at the front which covers the engine
- The boot (USA – the trunk) the part at the back where you put your luggage
- To drive straight into something – “I drove straight into a bus”
- A lorry = a big truck for transporting goods. “I drove out of my house and crashed into a lorry”
- To have one eye on this and the other eye on that – “I had one eye on the lorry and the other eye on a pedestrian”
- A pedestrian = someone walking on the pavement
- To pull away / pull off = drive away from a stationary position
- To pull over / pull up = stop at the side of the road in a car
- To glance something = 1. look at something quickly “I glanced at my mother in law” 2. hit slightly – “The bullet glanced his helmet and didn’t harm him”
- To head = go in that direction – head for, head to, head off, head over – “I glanced at my mother in law and headed over the embankment”
- To collide with / a collision = crash – “I collided with a stationary lorry.” “There was a huge collision today on the M6 outside Manchester”
- To crash into / a crash = collide – “I crashed into my own house.” “During the escape I collided with a police truck and had to murder them all before escaping on a motorbike while I threw grenades at an army van and stole an ambulance from a crime scene. That’s right, I was playing Grand Theft Auto 5.”
- To drive into something = could mean crash, or could mean enter somewhere in your car. “I drove into the vicarage. I drove into the vicar.”
- To swerve = turn suddenly, maybe to avoid something – “I had to swerve three times to avoid Tom Cruise, until I finally got him.”
- To do it on purpose = to do something intentionally “I hit the pedestrian three times but not on purpose.”
- To do it by accident = do something unintentionally “I drove into the bank, unlocked the safe, took all the money, shot 3 cops and drove off, but I did it by accident.”
- To fall asleep at the wheel = to fall asleep while driving – “Be careful not to fall asleep at the wheel. Take regular breaks. Tiredness kills.”
- To bump into something / someone = to meet someone by chance, to collide with something but in a small way = “I bumped into Tony the other day, he says hello.” “I bumped into a Rover in the car park. The owner was not happy. He had a Rover.”
- Erratic / erratically = moving or behaving in an irregular or unpredictable way
Hotel California Chords