When you damage something or someone sues you... (insurance)

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When you damage something or someone sues you... (insurance)

Postby appel42 » Thu May 03, 2012 3:22 pm

Hey,

I was wondering how this works in the UK: say you accidently damage someone's property etc, here is an example:

"Say you are at Ikea and accidently graze the bumper of a car with your troley, making the tiniest scratch barely visible to the naked eye.
It's a pretty sure bet that the lawyers of the cars owner will claim the bumper is totally destroyed and has to be completely replaced at very high costs by a professional garage. Who will quite possibly pass a cut to those involved." (from this thread: http://www.toytowngermany.com/lofi/inde ... 97713.html)

I am from Germany, where we all have a private liability insurance (apparently called third party insurance in the UK) for cases like this, that will (probably) pay. It's deemed the most important insurance in Germany after health insurance (which doesn't really apply to UK due to NHS). Paying for accidental damage can quickly rise up to thousands and thousands of pounds and threaten your financial existence etc. Now I am sort of in the process of relocating to the UK (I'm already living here for 3 years now, but still have insurances and stuff in Germany).

As it stands, no one seems to have something like this insurance in the UK (only for businesses), which completely baffles all German People I talk to about this. Equally, people from the UK are surprised that everyone in Germany has such an insurance (as see here: http://www.toytowngermany.com/lofi/index.php/t97713.htm).

So, how does this work then, if you damage someone elses property or someone takes you to court for this? Who pays this? As of yet, no one from UK that I talked to about this, seems to actually have thought about this. They are just as clueless as I am.

Sure enough, I heard that german people are more likely to insure themselves against damaging someone elses property, while english people insure their own property against damage (content insurance). But still, if someone damages my car or spills wine over my carpet (or other cases) surely they are to blame (even if not deliberate damage) and I would expect them to pay for it rather than making a claim to my insurance to pay for someone elses fault.

What do you say?
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Re: When you damage something or someone sues you... (insura

Postby eponymous85 » Thu May 03, 2012 3:39 pm

"sorry" usually :-P

I had never even heard of private liability insurance before this. I don't know much about the law here but unless it is related to car accidents or professional negligence (eg builders doing sub standard work) I wouldn't even think about involving the courts. Others may disagree but I don't get the feeling legal action is particularly common in such cases.

Having said that, we do have a small claims court for settling matters under a certain amount of money (£5k I believe; can anyone corroborate?) though this is usually used to protect consumers against big businesses.

Would be really interesting to see other replies to this though, you have broadened my cultural awareness today!
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Re: When you damage something or someone sues you... (insura

Postby Borrowed Cone » Thu May 03, 2012 3:40 pm

I know that there is a rising claims-culture here in the UK, but I'm pretty sure most people do not actually go through the bother of claiming for such small incidents (such as being run into by a shopping trolley at low speed) as it is quite a lot of bother with costs involved, and no guarantee of a good outcome. If it is a car-related incident, car insurance will cover it (which is a legal requirement in the UK).

If you are sued in the small claims or civil courts for some incident where you spilled wine over your friend's white carpet, and you are found guilty, you have to pay costs and compensation. You do not have to pay up if something is found to be an accident (i.e. that you were not at fault).

I guess, just don't go around purposely damaging other people's stuff?

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Re: When you damage something or someone sues you... (insura

Postby appel42 » Thu May 03, 2012 3:46 pm

ok, but it is still possibly that someone can sue you or take you to court... even if the chance is small, take the following example (again from the thread linked before):

"The third party liability insurance, however, protects you also if by accident or neglegence you cause injury or even death to a person and obviously this can cost you loads more of money. Just imagine you crossing the sidewalk with your head in the sky (musing again about the bad service attitude of the Germans whenst coming out of a shop, for instance) and you don't see the bicyclist coming at full speed who needs to swerve around you and crashes in the Bentley of some celebrity parked right there... the bicyclist has to stay in hospital for several month and since his one leg remains lame/paralyzed, he looses his ability to perform his job as a bus-driver. Suddenly you face claims from the bentley-owner, the health insurance of the bicylist for the long hospital stay and costly surgeries and of course from the bicyclist for a monthly pension until the end of his live for loss of his ability to work... This is why such an insurance is so important."

if something like this happened, the damage is extensive and the parties involved might be more likely to actually demand that you pay out or sue you for the damage done... the risk might not be high, but the thing is, IF it does happen, e.g. as described above, and you are sued, then you are pretty much bankrupt.?

@ cone: the german insurance does not pay out anyways if you purposely do anything. i.e. you cannot just go and kill someone and expect the insurance to pay that^^. it's only for accidents, but even they can cost you. with the example in this post being more extensive and not just a small thing, maybe it puts things into perspective more.
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Re: When you damage something or someone sues you... (insura

Postby eponymous85 » Thu May 03, 2012 3:55 pm

to take your specific example, free universal healthcare rules out most of the costs invovled there. Other than that, it is up to you to weigh the comparative risk of event occurring, being found at fault and forced to pay, and going bankrupt (tiny) vs the personal cost of insurance (high, I would guess). I don't think anyone can tell you what to do here, it is down to how comfortable you feel with or without insurance. The prevailing cultural attitude in the UK, in my experience, is not to have this kind of insurance on the understanding that the risk is very small (with massive caveats about viewing 'culture' as a whole, of course).
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Re: When you damage something or someone sues you... (insura

Postby Borrowed Cone » Thu May 03, 2012 4:05 pm

You can only be found liable for someone else's costs here in the UK if you are actually at fault. I imagine this also rules out things done "on purpose" e.g. ramming your car purposefully into a cyclist, which would be a crime, and you would probably be convicted and sent to jail, rather than having to pay anything (if you couldn't afford to pay the court costs etc., you're just sent to jail for longer). The criminal justice system here pays compensation to victims of crimes.

In this country, people hold their own insurance for damage to household and portable items through household or contents insurance. So if something of yours gets damaged, you claim the costs back on that, regardless of whoever caused the damage. If you want to then pursue someone through the civil courts for "justice", or if you don't have insurance, that's your call. Accidentally damaging someone else's property is not breaking the law here in the UK, it is a civil matter. Purposely damaging someone's stuff is breaking the law, and no amount of insurance will cover you for that, as you rightly point out.

oh - and on your cyclist example: I'm not sure I follow it exactly but what you describe would not necessarily be your fault, and as epy says healthcare is provided by the state here, and if the cyclist has health insurance they will cover private treatment, which doesn't necessarily mean suing you.
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Re: When you damage something or someone sues you... (insura

Postby appel42 » Thu May 03, 2012 4:11 pm

well, yeah, i do realize there seems to be a cultural difference here in mentality. the cost is not very high, about 45 euros/40 pounds per year apparently. the problem is, i cannot find insurance companies offering it to private people in the UK. might have to go with a European wide offerer from germany maybe.

@ cone: so if i accidently damage someone elses property (like mentioned above) they cannot just demand that I pay for it, if i don't want to? so they are unable to go to the court and say "he damaged my item X and refuses to pay for the damage, so I will take him to court"?

you see, the cultural difference seems to be so strong, i cannot quite get my head around it. and what happens when i visit germany and something happens and i am not insured? :>
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Re: When you damage something or someone sues you... (insura

Postby eponymous85 » Thu May 03, 2012 4:22 pm

they could take you to a small claims court for the money. I think what I am struggling to get my head round is imagining a scenario where a) damage to property occurred b)it was not covered by house contents insurance c) the person responsible refused to pay for said damage and d) it was something of sufficient value to be worth the hassle of legal action
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Re: When you damage something or someone sues you... (insura

Postby Borrowed Cone » Thu May 03, 2012 4:29 pm

appel42 wrote:@ cone: so if i accidently damage someone elses property (like mentioned above) they cannot just demand that I pay for it, if i don't want to? so they are unable to go to the court and say "he damaged my item X and refuses to pay for the damage, so I will take him to court"?


This is not legal or financial advice, but:

If you damage something by accident, and you offer to pay for it, that is one thing. So, let's say you knock someone's wooden gate down whilst reversing. You just pay to replace it. There is no need for insurance. If you accidentally blow up someone's house by reversing into a telegraph pole, which falls down and knocks a carrier pigeon working for terrorists, which drops its explosives on the wrong house... well that isn't your fault really, is it, and so they can claim all they like against you, but their case will most likely be thrown out. They'd be better off with household insurance to just claim back the costs.

If you don't want to pay for it because you believe it was an accident and that you were not at fault, then you don't have to pay, and the burden is on the other person to prove that it was your fault. Usually, these things are settled in what are known as Small Claims Courts here in the UK, which have set costs for having claims reviewed (think less than £100), and you don't have to involve lawyers (a magistrate looks at the case and decides if one party should pay up or not). If you don't agree with their findings, that is where the costs start stacking up, because you have to get lawyers involved and take your case to higher courts, which are more expensive.

you see, the cultural difference seems to be so strong, i cannot quite get my head around it. and what happens when i visit germany and something happens and i am not insured? :>

I must say, I am also struggling to get my head around your experience in Germany too, but I guess it has much to do with the fact that here people usually insure themselves against damage (rather than insure themselves for causing accidental damage).
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Re: When you damage something or someone sues you... (insura

Postby appel42 » Thu May 03, 2012 4:39 pm

well the insurance i speak of here, are not so much to protect your own stuff, but to protect your money etc. it does not have to involve someone taking legal action. it can be covered by the "victim"s content insurance etc, but are there not disadvantages to claiming a payout? wouldn't you rather demand someone else to pay for what was their fault, albeit accidentally. ok, you can just pay for the wooden gate, but you can cause damage much higher than that.

and it does not always have to be against items. as in the examples above, it could be a person, you cause injury or even death by accident. ok, the NHS pays for the treatment, but what if they are unable to work afterwards, who pays their pension etc? this can happen without it being a criminal offence, as in the example, you cross the road without paying attention, something happens, the other person is subsequently injured and cannot return to work, if they don't have an income protection insurance, they only get state pension. is this then just "bad luck" and the victims fault for not getting insured?

I must say, I am also struggling to get my head around your experience in Germany too, but I guess it has much to do with the fact that here people usually insure themselves against damage (rather than insure themselves for causing accidental damage).


i think more and more this is the critical point. it also seems to fit in, as in the UK more people seem to have content insurance, while in Germany, my father said, this is something you wouldn't necessarily get unless you have something of high value. if you go out, someone bumps into you and you drop your mobile phone and laptop and they are broken, in germany the people who caused would have to pay (or in this case the insurance). i guess in the UK, the content insurance of the owner of the items would pay. hm..
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Re: When you damage something or someone sues you... (insura

Postby Borrowed Cone » Thu May 03, 2012 4:45 pm

appel42 wrote:
and it does not always have to be against items. as in the examples above, it could be a person, you cause injury or even death by accident. ok, the NHS pays for the treatment, but what if they are unable to work afterwards, who pays their pension etc? this can happen without it being a criminal offence, as in the example, you cross the road without paying attention, something happens, the other person is subsequently injured and cannot return to work, if they don't have an income protection insurance, they only get state pension. is this then just "bad luck" and the victims fault for not getting insured?


Well, they would get disability benefits, and their pension would be paid by the state, yes. I guess my point is, if injury or death occurs by accident, it is just that: an accident; and if no one can prove you were liable then it is just not your fault and you do not have to pay. Sucks for the cyclist in our story, but maybe they should have been looking where they were going... or paying attention... or whatever. And yes, if it was not your fault, it was either someone else's fault, the victim's fault, or just an accident where no-one was at fault, and it is just bad luck.
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Re: When you damage something or someone sues you... (insura

Postby Claudia » Thu May 03, 2012 7:04 pm

Hello

Firstly, I haven't the time to read previous posts - apolgies for that - will aim to read properly asap :?

But I was just wondering where the legal expenses options offered on car insurance & home insurance (contents & ?buildings) fits in with your situation - could that extra option give appel42 the cover needed to protect them from someone claiming.....???? :?:
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Re: When you damage something or someone sues you... (insura

Postby matt.berlin » Thu May 03, 2012 7:19 pm

Yes, the idea of personal liability insurance (Privathaftpflichtversicherung) isn't one we have so readily in the UK. I think that is a product of how the system works in the UK, as you say it is more likely that you will insure your own property against the risk of damage by others. The exception in the UK is for motor insurance where you have to have third party cover that insures you against damage or injury caused by your own driving. Sometimes personal liability will be covered by your home insurance, but that would vary from policy to policy and won't be something that many British people will think about or even be aware about!

I have never got round to getting Haftpflichtversicherung in Germany, as I have a bit of a British mindset towards it. Personally, I wouldn't worry about getting a policy from Germany that covers you here. The reason you can have such large damages to pay in Germany is partly because there is the societal expectation that you will have the insurance - just as here the expectation is that people will claim off their own insurance.

I'd have a look at this thread on this Germans in London forum which has a good discussion of the topic - interestingly someone there also said that the British response was that you say "sorry" and that's as far as it goes. :D

appel42 wrote:But still, if someone damages my car or spills wine over my carpet (or other cases) surely they are to blame (even if not deliberate damage) and I would expect them to pay for it rather than making a claim to my insurance to pay for someone elses fault.


I think this is partly a cultural thing. Most British people would expect to get their insurance to pay for something like a damaged carpet. The interaction might go something like this.

Wine-spiller: Oh, I am SOOO sorry! Please let me know how much it costs to sort it out and I will pay for it.
Victim: Oh no, don't be silly! You can hardly see the red wine stain / it was needing a bit of extra colour / I'm sure it will come out really easily! I won't hear of it.
Wine-spiller: If you are absolutely certain, it was completely my fault.
Victim: Really, don't worry about it. These things happen. (*at the same time, silently seething about how stupid and clumsy this wine-spiller was and how they should pay more attention next time and resenting the hassle it will cause claiming it on the home insurance* ;))
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Re: When you damage something or someone sues you... (insura

Postby appel42 » Thu May 03, 2012 7:55 pm

yeah, i have read through the entire thread in the germans in london forum before and thats where most of my information comes from (like the mentality thing and the saying "sorry" thing). as you see, this problem only occurs when germans and brits meet that they find out there is a massive difference in mentality, so it is not something thats often discussed on the internet...

thinking about it, actually it's a lot easier in not having to worry about all the insurances all the time (it's the same with health insurance, mandatory in germany, NHS in england)... also if you compare germans and brits generally this difference in what they insure etc and the conversation you pointed out completely fits in with it all.. say traffic rules in germany are a lot stricter and every junction would have specific signs up etc and you would never really let people in if they are waiting on a "give way" junction out of courtesy.. something which happens here all the time.. fits in with all the stereotypes as well, at least some of them are true :)

well, looks like income protection insurance is the only one to sort out then... i'm not complaining :)
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Re: When you damage something or someone sues you... (insura

Postby miriam » Fri May 04, 2012 1:03 am

I think we only attribute blame where there was intent or negligence. So if someone spills wine on a carpet its an accident. If they pour a bottle of wine out all over your carpet during an arguement that would be criminal damage (and you could involve police or sue them). If someone walks out in front of a cyclist then neither will be insured, and both risk accidentally having injury or financial consequences, but the NHS is free, and we don't have an expectation of compensation for accidents.

BTW home contents insurance rarely applies outside the home, and wouldn't cover an item that was dropped. Its mainly a defence against fire, flood or theft. You can get 'accidential damage cover' added to those categories, but its expensive and rarely taken up.

I don't know what the exact situation is for non-Brits in terms of whether you are expected to have insurance to compensate the NHS for treatment, but treatment is only free for people 'ordinarily and lawfully resident in the UK' otherwise you only get A&E and certain other limited essential/urgent treatment.
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