What is Haftpflichtversicherung, and what does it cover?

An introduction to the most important type of insurance in Germany, the private liability insurance

If you cause an accident in Germany, you can be sued by the victim. If the victim wins, you will have to pay reparations1. A lawsuit like that can easily ruin you.

Liability insurance (Haftpflichtversicherung) protects you from such damage claims. If you cause an accident, your insurance company will pay the legal fees and the reparations.

Personal liability insurance

Personal liability insurance (Privathaftpflichtversicherung) protects you from most claims against you1:

  • Damage to the apartment you live in (doors, floors and walls, but not your own things)
    For example, if your washing machine breaks, floods your apartment and destroys the wooden floor, the insurance company will pay the repairs.
  • Damage to other people's property
    If you accidentally send someone a virus that breaks their computer, they can sue you for damages. The insurance company will pay the legal fees and the reparations.
  • 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, they will sometimes need to replace the locks for the entire building1. This can get really expensive. This is why some rent contracts require liability insurance that covers lost keys.
  • Damage or injury caused by your pets
    Liability insurance that covers your pets usually costs a little more.

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 or your electronics, you need a household insurance (Hausratversicherung)1.
  • 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.
  • 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 protection insurance (Rechtsschutzversicherung) can be useful.
  • Piracy and copyright infringement
    If you get in trouble for illegally downloading movies, your liability insurance will not cover you1.

Private liability insurance is really important, so most Germans have it. It's normally really cheap. For example, AXA charges less than 2€ per month.

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 company's insurance1.

Some professions are required to have liability insurance1:

  • Freelance doctors and veterinarians
  • Architects
  • Civil engineers
  • Lawyers
  • Tax advisors, tax agents, tax consultancy services1

Liability insurance for drivers

When you drive a vehicle, you are covered by your car's insurance (Kfz-Haftpflichtversicherung). All cars in Germany need to be insured, so you are covered. Rental vehicles contracts usually include liability insurance.

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