Reasonable-Expectation Doctrine Law and Legal Definition

Reasonable expectation doctrine is a principle applied in insurance law which states whenever there is an ambiguity in an insurance-policy, it is resolved in favor of the insured's reasonable expectations. Usually an ambiguity arises when there are plausible, competing interpretations of a policy term. Ambiguity is an essential prerequisite to application of the reasonable expectations doctrine.

The doctrine applies only when a term in a policy is ambiguous, and an insured may not use it to obtain coverage when the plain language of exclusion clearly places an injury beyond the policy's scope. The reasonable expectations doctrine is not a rule granting substantive rights to an insured when there is no doubt as to the meaning of policy language. [Devcon Int'l Corp. v. Reliance Ins. Co., 2010 U.S. App. LEXIS 11619 (3d Cir. V.I. June 8, 2010)]