26 October 2021, text: Hansjörg Ryser, photo: Gettyimages
A child playing with a skateboard crashes it into a neighbour's parked car. The cat has scratched the wallpaper in a rental property, or a cyclist accidentally collides with a pedestrian who is a young father. In most of these cases, the injured parties will call the party responsible to account. The financial consequences may vary hugely. The wallpaper is affordable. But if the pedestrian is seriously injured and suffers lasting harm, the financial claims could run into millions. Ultimately, he may have to be compensated for a lifetime of lost earnings.
In such cases, the Personal liability insurance taken out by the party responsible comes into play. It pays damages up to the agreed sum. This usually amounts to five or ten million francs, which is by no means too high, as the example of the pedestrian shows. But this insurance also offers another type of protection of which many people are unaware. It checks whether the claim against the insured person is justified. If it is not, it offers the customer legal protection to contest the unfounded claim. So in the example of the child, for instance, it will check whether they were even able to understand the consequences of their actions. And in the case of the cat, it will assess the extent to which supervision was reasonable.
For liability insurance to come into play when a loss is incurred, an insured event has to have taken place. An event is deemed to be insured if it occurs suddenly and unexpectedly. Pure wear and tear caused by use, for example in a rental property, is not included. Compensation is paid for the current value of an object rather than its replacement value.
With supplementary modules, cover can be extended as required over and above statutory liability protection. For instance, one common type of supplementary insurance is for occasionally driving third-party vehicles. At Helvetia, it is also possible to obtain optional liability cover. Here, liability benefits would be paid out if the skateboarder's parents were not actually liable for the dent in the car, but chose to accept liability in order to remain on good terms with their neighbours.
Incidentally, this insurance covers everyone living in a communal household, as well as ordinary pets such as cats and dogs. Children up to 20 or 25 years of age who are weekly residents in shared accommodation are also covered. However, in this case it often makes sense to take out a separate youth insurance policy that includes premium-free liability insurance cover until their 29th birthday. Alternatively, people living in shared accommodation can also take out joint liability insurance.
Liability insurance is often a prerequisite, particularly for rented accommodation. And these days it's indispensable in many other areas too, such as when children attend day nursery or if you want to hire a removal van. So although it's not mandatory, this type of insurance cover is vital in everyday life.