The Office of Special Claims by Lyn McConchie

The Office of Special Claims
Lyn McConchie

     “Ms Appleton, I think this application may have something wrong with it.”       
     Susan sighed. Really, the quality of staff these days. Three months in the Accident and Special Claims office, and they thought they knew it all. The special claims  section; reimbursing those unable to obtain court judgment for accidental injuries, had been running for many years. Since 1999 in fact. But the whole idea still bothered many of the Government staff that were seconded there. She brushed aside the length of tinsel coming loose from above her desk.”What’s wrong with the application?” Her voice was patient.
     “It’s the file on applicant 69/2011-580304. I mean, look at this claim letter. It can’t be right. I think someone’s trying to be funny.”
     Susan reached for the memstick, slotting it into place and scanning swiftly through it as the details appeared on screen. She noted that all forms from the Sj35 to the M39 had been correctly filled in and supporting documents existed for them all. “My dear Gerald, there’s nothing at all wrong with this.” The disk popped out of the slot and was handed back. She stood to tie back that wretched tinsel before resuming her perusal of a vague and almost certainly untruthful letter from another client – currently recovering from his claimed injuries on the Australian Gold Coast and expecting the Department to pick up his bill.
     “But Ms Appleton,” it was Gerald Worple again, “Please. Just look at what this client is claiming.”
     Heavens, the boy was a nuisance. How was she to get any work done if she must nursemaid him all day every day. “Exactly what is the problem you see?”
     Gerald gaped at her. What was the problem? “Um – the claimant – um…” he spluttered to a halt while Susan regarded him impatiently. Once it was clear he was unable to continue she decided to help him out in the interests of saving her time.
     “Mister Worple, the Special Claims Division is here to help all of our clients. Now! What exactly do you see as the trouble?”
     Gerald swallowed hard, forcing his voice not to squeak in disbelief. “Ms Appleton, he wants lump sum reimbursement for accident damage, also pain, suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life, under section 79A and 79B of the 1999 Act.”
     “A standard claim, so – “
     “It’s what he’s claiming. 79A is reimbursement for a cape destroyed, an antique cane, and very expensive sheepskin-lined real-leather gloves.”
     Susan shrugged. “If he’s submitted the damaged clothing and accessories for value estimation and the estimators agree, then he’s entitled to reimbursement. What else?”
     “Under section 79B he’s claiming an additional lump sum. He says that ever since the accident he’s been incapable of transformations, at least not without great pain and difficulty. He says he’s been traumatized and that his family and social life have suffered greatly in consequence.”
     “Transformations?”
     “Yes, into a bat!”
     “Unusual.” Susan leaned over to look at his screen, before nodding approval. “I see the client has a signed form from the Special Claims Psychiatric section stating that trauma has definitely occurred as a result of the accident and that it is affecting him as he attests.”
     “But a bat… I mean, isn’t that… vampires?”
     Susan drew herself upright in her seat, staring severely at her junior. “What of it? I do hope you aren’t indicating some form of prejudice, Mister Worple. We don’t allow that sort of thing in my Department. All clients are equal here regardless of race, gender, age, or – er – transformation.”
     “No, Ms Appleton. I just wondered… is he a citizen?”
     Susan scrolled the file up quickly. “Yes, indeed. His parents were migrants but he himself was born here, and they are naturalized anyhow. All forms are correct and supported by legal documentation.”
     “I still think it’s a bit, well, peculiar.”
     “We are here to serve the Public.” Susan breathed in slowly. “Applicant 69/2011-580304 is a citizen and, as such, is entitled to our full departmental assistance. Pass this file for payment, and forget it. You are here to work, not to indulge in vulgar speculation on the private lives of our clients.”
     “Yes, Ms Appleton.

###

Two weeks later a joyful applicant opened an official envelope and beamed as two cheques fell out. Word spread rapidly in a sub-stratum of citizens not hitherto prone to applying to the Government for anything, not even under sub-section two – Special Claims.

###

“Ms Appleton, I’ve got a rather odd claim here. I think you’d better double-check it before I pass it for payment,” Gerald mumbled, waving a signed and attested claim from a Veterinary Surgeon.
     “What happened to him?”
     “He says he caught mange from a patient.”
     Susan blinked as she brushed aside lumps of fake snow – really, it was such a nuisance all this celebration. “People don’t catch mange.”
     “No,” Gerald sighed, “But a werewolf can, if he’s a Vet.”
     He found himself temporarily ignored. Ms Appleton had returned to her screen and was now peering transfixed at a different, and very large, file. It contained a class-action on behalf of applicants 04/201197349 – all forty-seven of them. They were demanding wages while they were unable to work, plus lump-sum compensation under section 79, and psychiatric counseling to deal with the trauma of insecticide-spray-damaged wings.
     They had also enclosed form 59/634/RTP notifying Special Claims that this application was backed by a filed complaint to the Police claiming injuries incurred when an illegal action had taken place against the complainants. It would appear that the Special Claims section now had fairies at the bottom of its garden, or – to be more correct – that some unsuspecting orchard had originally had them and hadn’t checked before spraying their fruit.
     Susan groaned as one of the paper chains detached itself and landed silently on her shoulders. If it wasn’t Christmas, it was claimants. Whatever would arrive next? She was promptly answered by a shriek from the receptionist in the outer office.
A misty form marched angrily through the wall and glared at her. “I was exorcised. Is this where I claim?”
     Gerald rose hastily to the occasion, escorting the furious specter to a seat. In this Politically Correct Department, a client was always heard. Even a ghost had rights – so long as it was a citizen. Nor was there any doubt about this one. If Dick Sedden – once Prime Minister of New Zealand – didn’t have rights here, Gerald didn’t know who would. He reached for his keyboard, a set of forms, and started to work.

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