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Home insurance accidental damage explained


Accidents will happen – but what’s covered under accidental damage on your home insurance?

Red wine spilling in carpet 
Most of us take good care of our homes. But as Elvis Costello sang in his classic ode to the importance of home insurance: "accidents will happen".

And what better reason to make sure that you’re adequately covered?

After all, who would want to shell out for a new carpet after knocking over a glass of red wine?

But what exactly constitutes accidental damage in buildings and contents insurance policies? Our basic guide covers the main inclusions and exceptions.

What is accidental damage?

The definition of accidental damage is pretty uniform across home insurance policies: damage that occurs suddenly as a result of an unexpected and non-deliberate external action.

In layman’s terms, that usually means an unintentional one-off incident that harms your property or its contents.

So, general wear and tear or damage that occurs gradually will be excluded. You also won’t be covered for mechanical failure. 

A computer that just gives up the ghost can’t be claimed for, but it would be covered if it smashed after you accidentally dropped it onto the floor.

READ MORE: How much home insurance cover do I need?

Claims caused by children

Young children are the cause of many home insurance claims; and even if you don’t have offspring yourself, a lot of accidental damage is created by visiting kids. 

Incidents involving home entertainment equipment (for example if a toddler manages to topple your TV) are often covered under standard contents insurance policies – though it’s always a good idea to examine the small print of your particular policy to make sure.

Extending the accidental damage cover will protect most other items in your home, so you may be able to claim for fruit juice split over your curtains, or a felt-tip masterpiece drawn on your sofa. 

Common home insurance policy exclusions are portable electrical equipment, and clothing: so keep sticky fingers away from your laptop and favorite designer jeans and, again, check your policy wording.

READ MORE: How to claim on your home insurance policy

Animal-related accidents 

Many home insurance providers will not cover for damage caused by chewing, tearing, scratching or fouling by animals.

This provision is the same pretty much across the board and few contents insurance policies will cover for pets.

Sorry animal lovers: Rover needs to be fully house-trained before he’s allowed near any expensive furniture.

Several home insurance providers will not cover for damage caused by insects, vermin or infestation. 

Squirrels are specifically excluded from the vermin classification of a few home insurance policies; so if your doorframe has been gnawed away, you need to cross your fingers that the culprits have bushy tails.

READ MORE: 9 things to consider when buying your home insurance

DIY damage

Checking your home insurance policy conditions before undertaking any work is always a good idea.

You may need protection under both buildings and contents policies, depending on the particular job.

If you’re unsure of the difference between buildings and contents insurance, take a look at our guides on buildings and contents insurance explained.

Be aware that some plumbing and electrical work will not be covered if it’s completed by an amateur.

As a general rule, if you’re not really sure what you’re doing, it’s best to avoid an accidental damage claim altogether by getting a professional in.

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Claims for common accidents, such as bursting a water pipe with an ill-placed nail will usually be accepted.

Be careful, though, when you’re clearing up the mess that you’ve created; damage caused by cleaning is excluded from several home insurance policies.

As the details of accidental damage cover are not always consistent between home insurance providers, it’s wise to familiarise yourself with the details before committing to a home insurance policy to ensure that you get the cover you need.

READ MORE: What are the different types of home insurance?

At, we’re devoted to finding you the most suitable buildings and contents insurance so that accidents don’t lead to disaster.

First published on the 1st of Dec 2008.


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