Damage caused by bicycles in private liability insurance

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Unfortunately, the topic of bicycle liability insurance is not quite as simple as motor vehicle liability insurance. First of all, there is an obligation to have liability insurance only for so-called e-bikes, i.e. bicycles that can be ridden without muscle power. These allow a speed of up to 45 kilometres per hour. On the other hand, however, not every bicycle with an auxiliary motor is subject to insurance. This is the case if the motor only assists the bicycle when pedalling and only with a motor can the bicycle go up to six kilometres per hour.

When do I need liability insurance for my bicycle?

Legally speaking, you need liability insurance in Germany for your bicycle if it rides "on its own", i.e. if it has a motor that moves the bicycle without your intervention. A bicycle with a power assistance system, a pedelec, is exempt from the insurance obligation.

If someone else is injured while you are using a pedelec, you will be covered against recourse claims by your Coya liability insurance. However, it’s a different state of affairs if you use a so-called S-pedelec or "e-bike". This can ride up to 45 kilometres per hour and requires an insurance license plate.

The other question is whether you need liability insurance if you ride a bike. Stiftung Warentest, the German consumer watchdog, has included private liability insurance in its policies. Assuming you cause an accident with your uninsured bicycle, you are basically liable for damages. The Civil Code defines liability for damages in section 823 as follows:

"(1) Whoever wilfully or negligently injures the life, body, health, liberty, property or any other right of another unlawfully, is liable to compensate the other for the resulting damage."

What cases does my liability insurance cover?

It is definitely advisable to take out liability insurance if you have a bicycle. Under private liability insurance, riding a bicycle is also insured. 

Suppose you crash into a car with your bicycle. Fortunately, only the bumper needs to be repainted. What many people don’t know is that a garage charges around 3,000 euros to paint a  bumper. Your private liability insurance from Coya would cover this bill.

It becomes more critical, however, if you cause an accident with a bicycle in which a passer-by is injured. He falls, breaks his arm and has to be treated in hospital. In the worst case scenario, your unintended victim is also self-employed. In this case, Coya would cover the cost of medical treatment, hospitalisation, compensation for pain and suffering and possible loss of earnings.

A pedestrian, absorbed in his mobile phone, walks into your bike in the cycle lane and also falls. He claims damages for pain and suffering. You pass the claim on to Coya. Coya checks to see if the claim is justified. The facts show that you are not to blame. In this case, liability insurance acts as passive legal protection insurance to defend against unjustified claims.

Does my liability insurance cover bicycle theft or damage?

The answer here is clearly "no". There are two policies that apply to a bicycle. One is private liability insurance if you harm a third party, and the other is household insurance if your bike is stolen.

In which cases does my household insurance apply?

The insurance cover within household contents insurance is limited to basic insurance for your bicycle.

  • You park your bicycle overnight in a locked bicycle cellar. If it’s stolen from the bicycle cellar during this time, your insurance will cover the loss.
  • However, with pure household insurance, your bicycle is not insured against vandalism or theft.
  • Household insurance will cover the replacement value of the bicycle.
  • Household contents insurance also covers parts that are loosely connected to the bicycle, such as headlights or a baby seat, if they were stolen along with the bicycle.

However, Coya offers you the chance to insure your bicycle in a more secure way. This inclusion is not part of the basic coverage, as not every policyholder needs bicycle insurance. This would unnecessarily increase the premium for everyone. It makes more sense for each individual to choose the exact insurance cover they need.

With the premium "Bicycle Theft" option, you can also extend your insurance cover to theft outside closed rooms. However, your bike must be locked to another object, such as a street sign or fence. 

My bike was damaged in an accident - who pays the costs?

In an accident, there are usually at least two parties involved, the person who caused the damage and the injured party.

A car driver doesn’t see you when turning right and drives into you. Luckily, only the front wheel of your bicycle is bent and you’re unharmed. Since the accident was caused by the driver and you’re not at fault, the driver must compensate you for the damage.

However, it can also happen that you have an accident with your bicycle without a third party being involved.

You’re riding your bicycle on a forest path and ride over an invisible tree root. You fall and the gearshift is damaged. In this case, your insurance will not cover the costs - you have to pay for the repairs yourself.

I caused an accident with a borrowed bike. Am I insured?

You borrow a friend's new bike for a test ride. Enthusiastic about the smoothness of the gearshift, you don’t notice a parked car and crash into it. A dent and scratches on the bodywork  are the result and the bike is badly damaged. Luckily, you purchased the extended coverage for damages relating to borrowed items in your Coya personal liability insurance.

There are two elements to consider in this situation. Regarding the damage to the car, it’s unimportant whether you caused it as a cyclist or as a pedestrian. The car is damaged and you are liable. Your private liability insurance will cover the claim.

The bicycle that does not belong to you was damaged in the impact. This means that you will also have to pay damages to the bicycle owner. Previously, the rule in such cases was that the owner of a loaned item accepts that it will be damaged and therefore has no right to compensation. In the meantime, however, insurers have put this situation into perspective. They also offer their customers cover for damage to borrowed or rented movable property. With the appropriate option in your policy, Coya will compensate your friend for the cost of repairing his bicycle.

If, for example, you rent a bicycle while on holiday, the same clause applies.

You rent a bicycle from a local bicycle shop near the Baltic Sea to spend a week exploring the countryside on the island of Rügen. With a fish sandwich in one hand you wobble while riding, fall, and the front wheel is kaputt. Your private liability insurance also covers this damage by including "damage to movable rented property".

My child causes damage with a bike - who pays?

When it comes to damage caused by children, a very important term applies - "incapacity for tort". In road traffic, children up to the age of ten years old are considered to be incapable of tort. This means that the parents are not liable for any damage caused by their children, as long as the duty of supervision has not been violated.

Your eight-year-old child is riding his bicycle behind the house. In the parking lot, the child comes too close to a car, causing a scratch in the door.

Since you were sitting on a bench in the playground, you cannot be accused of neglecting your duty of supervision. This means that there can be no claim for damages from the neighbour who owns the car. However, the neighbourly relationship is likely to be pretty unpleasant for years to come if he’s left to pay for repairing the car door.

Within the scope of your Coya private liability insurance, you have the option to insure damages caused by persons incapable of tort with the "Top of the Topps" option. Coya covers the expenses for the repair of the door and the good relationship is restored.

Incidentally, not only children qualify as incapable of tort. The term also applies to people who suffer from dementia or Alzheimer's disease, for example, or are under guardianship.

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