What Is Reasonable Care?

Insurance policies cover the consequences of simple carelessness, but a line must be drawn somewhere - which is what we're explaining in this article.

You may have seen it in your insurance policy document, but the term “reasonable care” might not be a familiar concept.

If you’re “actively tempting fate” by doing things like leaving your house unlocked on a regular basis, it’s more likely that any claim resulting will be declined because you didn’t take the reasonable care needed to keep your property and belongings safe.

A recent example of two somewhat similar claims shows this, after one of them was accepted and the other declined.

Both claims were the result of a car being stolen after keys were left inside the vehicle. The first car was stolen from a rural area, after the owner suddenly felt ill and rushed inside to lie down, forgetting about the keys and leaving them in the car. The second car was stolen because the owner consciously left their car on the street with the keys inside.

Even though the first car’s owner contributed to the loss of the car, it was not a case of recklessness and a reasonable person would have done the same in a similar circumstance. However, because the owner of the second car regularly left their keys in their unlocked vehicle – in public - they were not taking active steps to prevent the car getting stolen.

Insurance and Financial Services Ombudsman Karen Stevens seconds this, saying that just because they have insurance, some people think they’re covered for anything – no matter what they do or what happens. “What this means is that people are usually still covered if they have been a bit careless or just a bit negligent, but most insurers won’t cover you if you do something a reasonable person wouldn’t do in the same circumstances,” she says.

Other examples of neglect of reasonable care could be:

  • Leaving things like handbags or equipment visible in a car
  • Regularly leaving your home unlocked while you’re away
  • Damage to your property through lack of maintenance
  • Leaving your bag or purse unattended at a club or restaurant

Stevens sums it up quite nicely by saying “Insurance will cover you for something unexpected, but not for things you should have anticipated.”