Spilt coffee, stampeding children and excitable pets are among common reasons for laptops being damaged at home – something that’s been happening more frequently since the start of lockdown last year.

With Brits spending more time indoors and using technology to stay connected, accidental damage claims involving laptops and tablets rose by almost a third (30%) during 2020, according to Ageas’s home insurance claims data. And just as restrictions continued throughout the first half this year, so has the trend for clumsiness in the home, with claims of this type already on track to meet, if not exceed, last year’s numbers.

Spilt drinks were the cause of more than a third of claims (33%). Topping the list of liquid offenders were water (11%), coffee (8%) and tea (5%). More unusual accidents included a glass of red wine dropped on a laptop during a theatre performance live-stream and prosecco spilt over a machine while toasting in the New Year on Zoom. Meanwhile, one customer got into a sticky situation when a strawberry daquiri descended on her device.

The challenges of working with children and pets

They say ‘never work with children or animals’ and it might be true when laptops are involved, with 5% of claims made for damaged devices involving children.

One unlucky grandparent had to make a claim after their grandchild dropped a laptop into their hot tub. Unfortunately, drying it out on a radiator couldn't prevent damage.

Pets caused headaches for some device owners, too. Ageas received regular reports of cats and dogs knocking laptops and tablets off tables and sofas

However, the Ageas data has gone some way to dispel a myth: that Friday 13th is unlucky for some. Analysis shows the insurer has had less accidental damage claims for laptops on Friday 13ths over recent years than it has on average Fridays within the same months.

Robin Challand, Claims Director at Ageas, said:

“We’ve become even more reliant on our laptops during the pandemic but it seems they’re never too far from a potential accident in the home. Whether it’s flying tea, wagging tails or overenthusiastic toddlers, danger lurks in all kinds of places.

“Having contents insurance and selecting accidental damage cover can provide peace of mind that, if the worst happens, you’re able to get back up and running again soon.”

Preventing an accident

You can protect your own laptop from some of the most common damage by following these simple steps.

  • Don’t eat or drink near your laptop – crumbs and liquids can easily get into the machine and cause damage. Remember water vapour can also get into a laptop, so be careful using one in the kitchen, bathroom and outdoors.
  • Put it away when you’re not using it – store your laptop somewhere safe when it’s turned off, preferably in a padded case or laptop sleeve.
  • Keep cords and wires tidy – charging cables, speaker cords and wired mice and keyboards can easily be caught by a passing foot or hand. Keep them tucked away to prevent someone tripping and a laptop flying.
  • Don’t put anything on top of your computer – although it closes flat, it’s not built to be used as a surface. Piling items onto a laptop to keep your desk tidy, or leaning on it to write a note, can easily bend or crack its screen.
  • Don’t let it overheat – laptops generate a lot of heat. The fan will work hard to keep it cool but using your laptop on a carpet or soft furnishing prevents the fan from doing its job properly. Keep it out of direct sunlight too.

Even if you’re careful, accidents can happen. Run regular back-ups of the data on your device and consider taking out accidental damage insurance.  Some home contents insurers allow you to add it to your policy for an additional cost, while others include this as standard in their policies. Check your documents or get in touch with your insurer to see if you’re covered.

Looking after your laptop and keeping it somewhere safe can prevent an expensive accident and keep you connected to your friends, family and coworkers while at home.

To read more about protecting your home and possessions, go to Solved.