You could argue that you never needed private liability insurance in your native country so why pay for this insurance in Germany? Well, for one thing, it’s extremely common here. According to the German Insurance Association (Die Deutschen Versicherer – GDV), 85% of Germans had private liability insurance coverage in 2014.
Let’s say you accidentally spill red wine on your friend’s new carpet. In your home country, you’d probably just apologise or offer to clean it up. Or ever so subtly move a plant pot over it and run. This, however, is a German friend and you will be expected to offer to cover the cost of cleaning or replacing the wine-stained carpet. Yep, German friends are great fun. Even more fun is that if you have private liability insurance, you can easily make a claim to cover this cost. Woop! On the other hand, if you just stand there crying over spilled wine (a tragedy in itself) and don’t take any action, you could end up in the even more tragic situation of losing a friend because, in their mind, you could simply have offered to make a liability claim. Friendship in Germany is a minefield, clearly.
The lesson here is that if you cause any accidental damage, no matter how minor, you could be liable for covering the cost of repair or replacement. Private liability insurance not only covers these minor accidental damages, but also significant financial reparations. Which brings us to reason #2.
Let’s say you’re newly arrived in Germany and are merrily cycling to your first day of work. You’re still in that heady, honeymoon period so you don’t notice that a sweet old German granny has just zimmer-framed herself into your path. Even though German grannies are typically made of stern stuff, she takes a tumble, damages her hip and needs to spend a few days in hospital. Ach du Scheisse - a very useful German expression.
If you had taken out private liability insurance, your provider could cover the hefty costs of Oma’s treatment and hospital stay. But if you DO NOT have private liability insurance, then you’ll end up footing the bill from the old lady’s health insurance provider. This could easily run into several thousand euros. While liability insurance can’t do much for your conscience, it can protect you from an unimaginable financial crisis. (Wine can help with the conscience.)
Let’s stick with the above hypothetical scenario where you accidentally hit Oma with your bike. Poor Oma. If you have private liability insurance, you don't need to break a sweat. Just contact your insurance company and report what happened. If you prefer to let Oma handle this, then she can also get in touch with your insurance company - you just need to tell her which company you’re insured with. Done. Once granny is fit again, her health insurance provider will send the final bill to your insurer and you’re free to cycle off into the sunset.
Just when you thought private liability insurance couldn’t get any better, wait for it, it does! (Yes, in Germany, it’s completely acceptable, if not expected, to get excited about things like insurance.) Let’s modify the above example. In this version, you don’t actually hit Oma, but she claims that you did anyway. To top it off, she sues you for causing her physical injury - the old witch. If this happens, your liability insurance can step in and cover the litigation costs as well. I don’t know about you, but as an expat, I would breathe easy knowing that my legal costs in a situation like this are covered. Dealing with legal proceedings in a foreign country is distressing enough - why add legal fees to your woes? Plus, by now, you’ve probably got her address, so you can head on over there and teach her - and her zimmer frame - a lesson about Omas who cry wolf. How do you like them apples, Oma?? Just kidding...
Language is one of the biggest challenges for many foreigners when it comes to understanding complex contracts and finer terminologies related to insurance in Germany. It’s normal for traditional insurance companies to offer services in German only. Germany hasn’t quite moved into this century yet in this respect. Nowadays, a number of start-ups provide customer care and consultations in English for expats who don’t possess native-level German skills. This is not just the case with insurance services, but also taxes, banking and other crucial sectors for expats living in Germany. So, if your German skills are a bit “I understand only train station”, you can confidently reach out to these insurance providers and get everything cleared up.
Living in a foreign country is an adventure, but it can come with side effects. Stress, loneliness, homesickness, culture shock, lack of decent bacon.... You don’t want to add accidental damages and financial crisis to the list. Expats in Germany have to adapt to a completely new life. They are vulnerable to unintentional mistakes in the early days, which is why it’s even more important to take out private liability insurance. It costs less than €100 a year and covers millions in claims. As mentioned earlier, nearly every German citizen has private liability insurance. The system acknowledges that humans - even Germans - are prone to accidents, and at the same time ensures that no one suffers the nasty consequences of such accidents.
This basically sums up why in Germany liability insurance is a must-have. Life in a new country comes with several unknown and unpredictable risks - and nothing helps manage risks better than private liability insurance.
Disclaimer: No German grannies were hurt in the writing of this article.
If you are ready for a very boring article that explains you the 10 things to keep in mind when buying private liability then click here.
BONUS: You can also find Private Liability Insurance in English
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