If you cause an accident in Germany, you can be sued by the victim. If the victim wins, you will have to pay reparations.1 This could easily ruin you.
Liability insurance (Haftpflichtversicherung) protects you from such damage claims. If you cause an accident, your insurance company covers the legal fees and the reparations.
What does liability insurance cover?
Private liability insurance
Personal liability insurance (Privathaftpflichtversicherung) protects you from most claims against you:2
- Damage you cause to the apartment you rent (doors, floors and walls, but not your own things)
For example, if your washing machine breaks, floods the apartment you rent, and destroys the wooden floor, the insurance company will pay the repairs.
- Damage you cause to other people’s property
If you accidentally send someone a virus that breaks their computer, or scratch someone’s car with your bicycle,3 they can sue you for damages. The insurance company will pay the legal fees and the reparations.
- Damage caused by your spouse and children
Liability insurance covers your family too, except your children under 7 years old.4 Your children over 6 years old are covered until they finish their studies.5
- Injuries caused to other people
If you accidentally trip someone and they break their leg, they can sue you for damages. The insurance company will pay the legal fees and the reparations.
Some insurance policies will cover these accidents:
- Lost keys
If you lose your apartment keys, the landlord might need to replace the locks for the entire building.6 This can get really expensive. You should get insurance that covers this. Some leases require liability insurance that covers lost keys, but that’s not legal.32
- Damage to things you rent or borrow (geliehene Sachen)
For example, you break the couch in your furnished apartment,7 you damage a hotel room while you are on vacation,8 or you borrow a neighbour’s drill and you break it.9
- Damage while helping a friend (Gefälligkeitsschäden)
If you help your friend to move, and you break their furniture, liability insurance will not pay for it.10 Some new liability insurance policies cover this.11
- Other people’s insurances not paying you (Forderungsausfall)
If someone else hurts you, and they cannot pay the damages, your liability insurance will pay you.
Most insurance policies do not cover these accidents:
- Damage to your own things
The things you have in your apartment are not covered by the liability insurance. If you want to insure your furniture, your electronics or your bicycle, you need a household insurance (Hausratversicherung).12 Liability insurance covers damage to a rented apartment, but not to an apartment that you own. It still covers damage to your neighbours’ apartments.
- Damage caused by your business activities
If you are a freelancer or a business owner, you will need professional liability insurance (Betriebshaftpflichtversicherung) to cover your business activities.
- Damage caused by children under 7 years old
Your young children are not covered by most liability insurances.4 You must pay more for this. Your children over 6 years old are covered by your liability insurance until they finish their studies.5
- Damage or injuries caused by your pets
This is covered by a separate dog liability insurance (Hundehaftpflichtversicherung). It’s required for all dog owners in Berlin, Brandenburg, Hamburg, Lower Saxony and Thuringia.
- Car accidents
If you drive a car, damage to other people and their cars is covered by your car insurance, not by your personal liability insurance.
- Legal disputes
If you want to sue someone, your liability insurance won’t protect you. Legal insurance (Rechtsschutzversicherung) can be useful.
- Piracy and copyright infringement
If you get in trouble for illegally downloading movies, your liability insurance will not cover you.13
- Locking yourself out
If you lock yourself out of your apartment, and you call a locksmith to open the door, your liability insurance will not pay for it.31 Household insurance (Hausratversicherung) sometimes covers locksmiths. Muffin sells household insurance that covers locksmiths, and they speak English.
Do I really need it?
Yes. Liability insurance is not mandatory, but it’s a really good idea.3 There is no limit on damage claims. You can be sued for millions of euros.14 A tiny mistake can bankrupt you, and a cheap insurance can prevent this.15
How much does it cost?
It usually costs less than 5€ per month, or around 60€ per year. You can pay less if you get multiple insurances from the same company.
Use Tarifcheck to compare liability insurance prices.
How to pick liability insurance
Don’t just pick the cheapest insurance, and don’t trust sponsored posts from random websites. You might regret it when you need to use your insurance. Instead, do your own research.
- Use Tarifcheck to compare prices
Tarifcheck only shows you the prices. It does not help you pick a good liability insurance.
- Use Test.de’s liability insurance checker
This tool checks if your liability insurance covers the important things.
- Check your insurance company on Trustpilot
See if people have problems getting paid by the insurance company.
- Read your insurance policy
All EU insurance policies come with an Insurance Product Information Document (IPID).17 This one-page summary tells you what your liability insurance covers. Then you should read your entire contract. It takes less than an hour, and it’s really worth it. If you don’t speak German, Feather and GetSafe have their contracts in English.
The minimum coverage you need
Your liability insurance must cover you well. This is the minimum it should cover:
- Minimum insured sum
These are the minimum sums a good liability insurance should cover.
- Worldwide coverage
It should cover you anywhere in the world, not just in Germany.20
- Coverage for rented things (geliehene Sachen)
If you rent a furnished apartment, it should cover rented things. This covers you if you break the furniture.
I recommend liability insurance that covers lost keys. Replacing a lost key can be very expensive. The landlord could make you pay to replace all the locks in the building. Most liability insurances cover this.
If you often rent vehicles, you can pay around 1€/month more to cover rented vehicles. This covers the car rental company’s deductible if you damage the car.
How to pay less
Don’t get the cheapest insurance. Pick good coverage with a good insurance company. There are other ways to pay less.
- Yearly payments are cheaper than monthly payments21
- Combine liability and household insurance to get a lower price.22
- Choose a higher deductible (Selbstbeteiligung). If your deductible is higher, your insurance is cheaper. The price difference is small, so it’s better to pay more, and have a small deductible.23
- Declare it on your tax return. Liability insurance payments are tax-deductible.24
If you don’t speak German, pick an English-speaking insurer. Feather and GetSafe sell liability insurance, and they speak English. Muffin sells liability insurance from multiple companies, and they speak English.
You can also talk to an English-speaking insurance broker. They will help you pick the best liability insurance. Choose an independent insurance broker. They will recommend products from different insurers. For liability insurance, it’s less important.
My personal choice
I have liability insurance with Feather, but I have not used it yet. I chose them for a few reasons:
- Their liability insurance meets all the requirements above.
- They speak English. Even their insurance contract is in English. I like the convenience.
- They helped me get private health insurance before. I trust their services.
- I know their founder since many years, and meet him regularly. I trust him.
- They are a German company, based in Berlin.
Other types of liability insurance
Professional liability insurance
Professional liability insurance (Betriebs- and Berufshaftpflichtversicherung) protects freelancers, tradesmen and businesses against liability claims. Your insurance will protect you from liability claims related to your job.
If you are an employee, you do not need professional liability insurance. You are already covered by your employer’s insurance.25
Some professions are required to have liability insurance:26
- Freelance doctors and veterinarians
- Civil engineers
- Tax advisors, tax agents, tax consultancy services27
Dog liability insurance
Dog liability insurance (Hundehaftpflichtversicherung) is required in Berlin, Brandenburg, Hamburg, Lower Saxony and Thuringia. This insurance pays for the damages caused by your dog. It’s sometimes called pet liability insurance (Tierhaftpflichtversicherung) or pet owner liability insurance (Tierhalterhaftpflichtversicherung).
Hundehaftpflichtversicherung costs around 5€ per month. Use Tarifcheck to compare prices. If you don’t speak German, Feather and GetSafe sell dog liability insurance, and they speak English. Their insurance covers dangerous breeds.
Liability insurance for drivers
When you drive a vehicle, you are covered by your car’s insurance (Kfz-Haftpflichtversicherung). All cars in Germany must be insured. When you rent a car, liability insurance is included in the price.
Legal insurance (Rechtsschutzversicherung) gives you free access to a lawyer. If you have a problem with your landlord, your employer, the tax office or anyone else, you can call a lawyer. You can ask them questions, they can write letters for you, and they can go to court with you. Legal insurance will pay for it.
There is private legal insurance (for you), and professional legal insurance (for your business). Private legal insurance costs 16€ to 24€ per month.28 Professional legal insurance is more expensive. The price depends on what type of business you run.
Is liability insurance mandatory?
No. You are not required to have liability insurance, but it’s a really good idea to have it. Most Germans have it.
- If you have a dog in Berlin, Brandenburg, Hamburg, Lower Saxony or Thuringia, you must have dog liability insurance.
- If you have a car or a motorcycle, then you must have vehicle insurance. It includes liability insurance for when you are driving.
- In some professions, you must have professional liability insurance.