Negligence is insurance lingo for describing reckless or unreasonable actions that result in damages or losses because of you, someone covered on your policy, or someone else.

What is negligence?

Negligence is the legal way of saying you, anyone covered on your policy, or someone else screwed up.

Specifically in insurance, negligence refers to the failure to act in a way that a reasonable person would when faced with the same situation. And as a result, someone or something was damaged.

This can apply to both you as the policyholder, others covered under your insurance policy (e.g. named insured and additional insured), or a third party.

Depending on how negligent you were and what sort of insurance is involved, you may be partly covered for the consequences of your mistake. But if you did something like leaving your house door wide open and someone walked in and took your TV, your insurance probably wouldn’t cover the full costs of your error.

TL;DR negligence is something that your insurer won’t always cover and will deal with on a case-by-case basis – to prevent this, always ask yourself if you’ve done everything reasonably possible to protect your stuff and those around you.

Gross negligence and your coverage

As we mentioned above, your insurer takes into account how negligent you were when you file a claim. Meaning, levels of negligence will be used to determine your liability (how on the hook you are) in a given incident.

While negligence can mean simply forgetting to lock your bike or forgetting your phone on the train, gross negligence is the most severe type of reckless behavior. It means there was willful or deliberate disregard on your part for your own or someone else’s safety or things (and vice versa).

Example 1:

Say you have a dog with a history of biting (not covered by most insurance companies, btw), and you let her off the leash and she bites your neighbor. That’s most likely be considered gross negligence, and is not covered under the personal liability in your policy.

Example 2:

Let’s imagine you knew there was a gas leak from somewhere in your yard near your neighbor’s place, and it ignites, causing severe damage to their property. In this case, you’d also be on the hook and most likely won’t be covered by your insurance.

Other examples of negligence in insurance

Here are a few not-so-crazy examples of lack of action on your part, which could qualify you for negligence:

  • Not covering up the holes your dog digs in your yard, which caused a visitor to fall in and break his/her leg
  • Failing to shovel snow from your sidewalk and driveway, which caused a neighbor to slip and fall
  • Not calling professionals to take down a rotten tree leaning over your neighbor’s fence, which fell in a windstorm and caused a ton of damage

Check your policy to understand your liability limit, and specifically, how your insurance provider defines negligence.

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