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What insurers mean when their policy refers to 'reasonable care'

What insurers mean when their policy refers to 'reasonable care'

By John Grant

Nearly every insurance policy has a clause that reads something like this one, from an AA Insurance Contents policy;

We do not cover:

... property which you have not kept in good order or for which you have not taken reasonable precautions to safeguard from loss or damage

The word 'reasonable' is open to interpretation and can mean many things to many people. 'Reasonable' is defined in the dictionary as "showing reason or sound judgment" and it puts a requirement on you to take steps to safeguard your property.

But it does not allow an insurance company to avoid paying claims when you have been negligent. After all, insurance is specifically designed for accident losses, and that infers accidents can happen even to people taking reasonable care.

Here are examples of what could constitute a breach of 'reasonable care' ...

1. leaving your keys in an unattended car
2. your house left unlocked with no one home
3. expensive property left on display in a parked and unattended vehicle

Doing any of these things exposes your insurer to an unreasonable risk of loss. 

But it does not mean that claims for events like an accident in your car while using a telephone while driving invalidates your cover - this should not constitute a lack of reasonable care.

While you are no longer legally able to use a telephone while driving, it should be argued that it is not a breach of reasonable care if you do. It is similar to failing to give way, causing an accident. You may well be negligent in causing the accident but you have not breached the conditions of 'reasonable care'. Otherwise why would you have insurance?

The challenge that conditions such as these have in an insurance policy is the interpretation that can be given to the words by staff reviewing your claim.

If you feel the insurer has been unreasonable in the interpretation of the policy then follow their dispute procedure and have it reviewed by someone more senior.

In general, if you follow normal prudent steps of safeguarding insured property then you should not have problems with the 'reasonable care' clause . If someone tries to avoid paying your claim based on this provision, make sure you get the circumstances fully reviewed.


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