1

I am a French national living in the UK. My experience is that in France, something called "civil responsibility insurance" (assurance responsabilite civile) is not only commonplace but mandatory to go to school, uni, get a job, etc.

I have been renting for years and according to my research, only the landlord has to have an insurance. The occupier may also insure their belongings but that's optional.

So what happens if, say, a candle falls over and I burn my flat? What if a flower pot falls from my windowsill and accidentally kills someone? What if my trolley bumps into an old lady at the supermarket and I break her hip? What if I walk on my friend's glasses and break them?

For all this, the civil liability insurance would come into play in France. I have been googling to find something similar for the UK but mostly what I find is about businesses or professionals insuring themselves, not individual.

  • Does it exist for individual? If yes, is it mandatory?
  • What will happen in the examples above if I don't such insurance?
  • As it seems not to be commonplace, I am wondering... Is it for some reason not useful in the UK?
3

The correct term for this insurance is personal liability insurance - it is neither compulsory nor common in common law jurisdictions. However, some aspects of it may be bundled with other insurances like homeowners, landlords and contents insurance.

Liability for damage in common law flows either from a breach of contract or a tort. Of course, if you intentionally cause harm you have crossed the line from civil liability to criminality and no insurance will indemnify you.

For your specific examples:

[I]f, say, a candle falls over and I burn my flat?

If your lease prohibited you from having open flames then this would be a clear breach of contract and you would have to pay for the damage to the flat (and your own property, of course).

If your lease was silent on this, then you would be liable if you were negligent and each party would bear their own losses if you weren't (i.e. it was a pure "accident").

What if a flower pot falls from my windowsill and accidentally kills someone?

The passerby has no action under contract as they don't have one.

They can sue you, or the landlord, or the body corporate (or all three) for negligence - the landlord's and/or body corporate's insurance would respond and if it included a waiver of subrogation (most do), the insurer could not sue any of the other parties for their losses.

What if my trolley bumps into an old lady at the supermarket and I break her hip? What if I walk on my friend's glasses and break them?

You have no contract with either of these people so they cannot sue you under one.

If they can prove negligence then you have to pay for the damage. If it is, instead a pure "accident" then they bear the cost. However, for the old lady, she is way more likely to sue the supermarket as they will have insurance.

It is not as useful in the UK as it is in France due to the need for the plaintiff to prove a breach of contract or negligence. In the UK, you are not responsible for accidents you cause - only accidents you cause negligently.

  • It is not compulsory, but it actually is common although it is packaged differently. A renter's insurance policy or homeowner's insurance policy will generally include personal liability insurance. The common business equivalent is comprehensive general liability insurance (aka a CGL policy). – ohwilleke Nov 13 '17 at 4:10

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.