Want a home insurance policy that covers mishaps?
Accidents happen, and some home insurance policies can cover them.
What is accidental damage?
In home insurance, accidental damage generally refers to those mishaps which might have been caused by a moment of clumsiness, inattention or just bad luck.
With home insurance that covers the building, it might be when you went up into the attic, stepped in the wrong place and accidentally put your foot through the ceiling.
With home insurance contents cover, it might be when you tripped and accidentally pulled down a painting on the way.
Generally, it just means an incident which was not deliberate or planned and caused damage to insured property.
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How does home insurance cover accidental damage?
Australian home and contents insurance policies generally cover accidental damage with two different cover types:
- Accidental damage cover. This is usually not available with basic policies. Instead, it’s typically an optional extra or bundled with comprehensive cover. It’s probably one of the better reasons to consider a comprehensive home insurance policy rather than a basic one.
- Accidental breakage of glass. Widely available in many policies, this is cover specifically for glass and tile surfaces, like shower screens, mirrors and other breakable surfaces around the home.
With comprehensive accidental damage cover, you might be able to claim almost any kind of unintentional and unforeseen damage to insured property, whether it’s a glass of red wine on a white carpet, a cricket ball through the window or something simply going missing without necessarily having been stolen.
Accidental glass breakage is more specialised though.
With comprehensive accidental damage cover, the main obstacles to freely claiming anything are the policy exclusions or other restrictions. These vary between policies, but the following are some of the conditions you’ll likely encounter as you compare home insurance:
- Conditions around specific types of items
- Conditions around the cause and type of damage
- Other obligations under your policy
If you’re looking to make a claim, you might want to just contact your insurer for an answer to your specific situation.
If you’re looking for a home insurance policy that effectively covers accidental damage, the main thing to know is probably that not all policies will include it.
Conditions around specific items
If you’re looking to make a claim for accidental damage, one of the first things to look for might be certain restrictions around the item itself.
Cover for some of the more valuable items, such as the following, will often be restricted:
- Electronics like laptops, iPads or other tablets, smartphones, PDA devices and similar devices
- Valuables like jewellery, watches or artwork
- Collectibles and memorabilia
It’s common for policies to specifically say they won’t cover damage to computer, tablet, television or phone screens, even though the item itself is insured.
Other policies might exclude items entirely. For example, you might encounter a policy that won’t cover wristwatches under any circumstance.
Sometimes the exclusion will only apply in certain situations. For example, a bicycle might not be covered for accidental damage while you’re riding it, but will be covered while in storage. And electronics in particular will frequently not be covered while outside.
Sometimes a policy will cover certain items, but only up to a certain limit. One policy might only pay up to $500 per item per event, while another might only pay up to $500 in total for all electronics.
Sometimes the limits might vary depending on the circumstance, such as whether the item was indoors or outdoors at the time.
Conditions around the cause and type of damage
Once you know that the item itself isn’t ruled out entirely, the next step might be to find out whether the incident itself is covered.
Policies will often exclude some of the more common causes of accidental damage around the home:
- Damage caused by pets. This is a very common exclusion. It’s safe to assume that you won’t be able to claim for your dog disembowelling the couch.
- Deliberate or malicious damage by someone at the address. This might be throwing something at the wall in anger, or a toddler “deliberately” redecorating the walls. Sometimes what seems like an accident is actually deliberate when you think about it.
- Chips, cracks or scratches. Minor breakages will generally be considered everyday wear and tear, which isn’t covered.
- Inherent faults. Inherently shoddy workmanship of items isn’t covered.
- Damage caused by, or to, guests. Policies will often have restrictions around damage caused by guests staying on your property or damage to their items.
Also, some damage might be better covered under other cover types, even if they might qualify as accidental damage.
A good rule of thumb is to consider the actual type of damage that has occurred. Is it just plain old breakage or something fancier like fire or water damage?
If you accidentally knock over a candle, then your accidental damage claim might quickly turn into a fire damage claim.
Depending on the policy, this situation may not be covered. Sometimes you might need to have accidental damage cover in order to be insured for that kind of event, even if you have a policy that covers fire damage.
Water damage is another issue that may be subject to special conditions. Say you get incredibly unlucky, and someone accidentally dropped something sharp and heavy on a waterbed. The waterbed bursts and destroys a nearby laptop.
Here the laptop might be covered by a different cover type, often referred to as “escape of liquid,” while the damage to the waterbed itself might be covered by your accidental damage cover.
And whether the laptop is covered in that situation might depend on whether you have accidental damage cover.
Other conditions might also rule out a claim. The bulk of these might be found under the “general exclusions” or “obligations” section of your policy.
The following restrictions are some of the main ones to be aware of:
- Failure to take reasonable precautions. An insurer will probably deny a claim resulting from juggling chainsaws indoors. But if you were doing it outdoors with appropriate training and precautions, then it might not be denied.
- Resulting from drugs or alcohol. Many (but not all) insurers will deny any claims resulting from the consumption of alcohol. Consider red wine on a white carpet. That won’t necessarily be ruled out, but it might depend on whether inebriation contributed to the spill.
- Preventing subsequent loss or damage. If you just let that red wine fester in the carpet instead of immediately trying to clean it up to prevent further damage, you might only be covered for the initial damage.
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