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What is Swiss liability insurance and do you need it?

To have or have not… liability insurance? Is such a case you will be glad you do.
A kicked ball can cause damage to neighbour’s property. That’s when you might be glad you have liability insurance. Photo by Allan Mas from Pexels
There are so many different insurance policies available in Switzerland, some compulsory and others not. While the liability coverage is not obligatory, it is useful.

Newcomers to Switzerland often don’t know what types of insurance coverage are compulsory and which are optional.

Personal liability insurance (Haftpflichtversicherung / responsabilité civile / la responsabilità civile) falls under the latter category. It can be purchased from nearly every insurance carrier in the country.

This policy kicks in when you or anyone living under the same roof who is included in your coverage, causes damage to another person or their possessions.

For instance, you accidentally spill coffee on an expensive rug in someone’s house, causing damage to it which requires either professional cleaning or replacement.

Of if your child kicks a ball into a neighbour’s yard and breaks the gate, that too would be covered by a liability insurance.

In other words, any time you or a member of your household (including your dog) damages or destroys someone’s property, your liability insurance will cover it in most cases (see below).

If you don’t take out this insurance and cause damage to someone’s belongings, you will have to compensate them out of your own pocket. This could cost you a lot of money — much more than the annual premium, which usually doesn’t exceed a couple hundred francs a year.

However, this kind of insurance won’t cover certain losses.

Not included in the coverage, for example, is an injury you sustain at work or in the course of your professional activity. This kind of damage is covered by your employer’s occupational accident insurance.

If you are self-employed, you are required to take out your own policy that would compensate you for loss of income and other expenses. The same applies to people who are not employed, such as housewives, students, and retired people, who should purchase accident policy as part of their basic health insurance.

If you are a tenant, you are also obligated to have this insurance, in case you or a member of your family causes damage to rented property.

However, if you own a house, the liability insurance won’t compensate for any material damage you caused yourself in your own home.  To cover this, you need to take out a household contents insurance, which includes compensation for losses incurred due to water damage, fire or even a break-in.

It also won’t pay for losses related to a contagious disease — if your guest infects you with Covid, you can’t claim this as damage. This exemption also applies to situations that are foreseeable. For instance, if you give a visitor a chair to sit on that you know is broken, and that person falls and damages the chair further, you can’t claim it as a loss.

Aside from personal liability, there are other optional insurance policies in Switzerland:

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