According to estimates by the German Pet Supplies Industry Association, there are between eight and thirteen million cats living in German households. Since cats, in contrast to dogs, are not subject to registration, there are no concrete figures on their number. As the nickname samtpfötchen (velvet paws) already shows, cats are generally gentle animals. But just by their natural behaviour alone they can cause damage, so there are always lawsuits before the courts. Often, these are filed by neighbours or landlords. If it can be proven that your cat has damaged the property or health of others, you have the obligation to pay damages. A private liability insurance policy will help to avoid high financial burdens or even your financial ruin in such cases.
Why am I liable for damage caused by my cat?
According to the legislation in Germany, you as a pet owner are obliged to compensate any injured party for damages caused by your animal. The basis for this is § 833 BGB (German Civil Code), which provides for the liability of pet owners. So, this also concerns you as a holder of one or more cats.
The term pet owner in terms of jurisdiction
Case law has a clear idea of the conditions under which you are considered a pet owner:
- You have the power of control over the animal and bear the risk of its loss.
- You are paying for the upkeep of the animal out of your own interest.
- You claim the benefit and the general value of the animal for yourself.
The amount of compensation you have to pay in the event of damage depends on the damage in question. Basically, a distinction is made between the following types of damage:
Type of damage
Damage to property
Your cat has caused damage to another person's property.
- Your girlfriend is visiting and has left her mobile phone on the table. Your cat knocks over a coffee cup and the coffee falls over the smartphone, which stops working.
- Your cat bit another cat in a fight.
Your cat's behaviour has damaged the body or health of a person or even caused their death.
- Your cat suddenly ran onto the road, and this led to a traffic accident in which the occupants of a vehicle were injured.
- Your cat bit a neighbour in the garden.
This results from damage to property or personal injury, if the damage to the property, body or health of another person leads to further consequences.
- Because your girlfriend's smartphone is defective, she missed an important call so a business transaction was not completed. She lost income as a result.
- One of the occupants of the car was injured so badly in the accident caused by your cat that he is subsequently unable to work and is claiming a life-long pension.
Why is the damage to an animal considered property damage?
Even though many people see their pet as a member of the family and animals are not property according to § 90a BGB, paragraph 1 (German Civil Code), damage to them is treated as property damage and not as personal injury. This is because the legislator has stipulated in § 90a BGB, paragraph 3 that the same regulations apply to them as to objects.
In § 833 BGB, the legislator grants exceptions from the liability of the pet owner, if he keeps the animal for the purpose of gainful employment, profession or maintenance. To a certain extent, it distinguishes between an animal that is kept only as a luxury, so to speak, and a farm animal. For the latter, the liability to pay damages does not apply if you, as the owner of the animal, can prove that you exercised the necessary care in supervising it and the damage was nevertheless caused. However, this only applies to cats if they are economically exploited by their owner, for example, as breeding cats.
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Is my cat included in my private liability insurance?
In a personal liability insurance, not only are you insured, but depending on the tariff, the insurance cover also applies to persons who belong to your household, and within the scope of the strict liability, it also covers smaller pets. This includes cats that you keep in your own interest or look after unpaid. A separate liability insurance for cats is therefore not necessary and does not exist.
What is the strict liability?
The term strict liability describes the fact that an insurance also covers damages that are not directly caused by the policyholder or by his fault. In the case of small animals that are co-insured under the private liability insurance, the reason for the liability of the pet owner is that animals behave unpredictably and can therefore cause damage. In the case of larger animals, such as dogs or horses that are kept privately, the strict liability also applies, but here the private liability insurance does not apply; instead, an animal owner's liability insurance must be taken out.
If you are the owner, tenant or leaseholder of a commercial cat boarding kennel, or if you breed cats to sell them, under certain circumstances, a presumed fault is assumed. Private liability insurance does not apply in this case, but you need business liability insurance.
What is meant by liability for presumed fault?
In the keeping of farm animals, liability for suspected fault on the part of the animal owner or the commercial animal keeper comes into play, because, as already mentioned above, the latter is only liable according to § 833 BGB (German Civil Code) if he has violated his duty of care in the supervision of the animals. As a result of this circumstance, the pet owner may be responsible for any damage caused by his animals, and commercial animal keeper's liability insurance is required to regulate this.
What damage caused by my cat is covered by my liability insurance?
If your cat can be proven to have caused the damage, it will be settled as if you had caused it yourself. The condition is that the damage was caused to a third party, not to yourself or any other insured person. The injured party must also prove that it was really your cat that is responsible for the damage. Otherwise, there is no right to compensation, as courts have ruled several times in the past.
For example, a car owner thought that a certain cat was responsible for damage and scratches on his car and therefore moved to the Aachen District Court in 2006. However, he was unable to provide evidence for his claim. Although the cat was said to have been frequently seen on the bonnets and roofs of parked cars in the past, this was not sufficient evidence for the judge. After all, other animals may have scratched the paint or other circumstances may have been responsible for the scratches on the car. The complaint of the car owner was not successful (Aachen Local Court, judgement of 30.11.2006, file number: 5 C 511/06).
Part of the liability insurance: passive legal protection
However, if your cat was irrefutably at fault, your personal liability insurance would help you to settle property damage, personal injury and consequential damage. It also provides passive legal protection by rejecting unjustified claims and, if necessary, covering all the costs you may incur in a subsequent legal dispute, such as
- for your attorney
- the provision of documents
- the expenses of witnesses
- the expenses for expert witnesses
The settlement of claims through personal liability insurance
In general, private liability insurance covers the settlement of property damage, personal injury and consequential damage.
Type of damage
Damage to property
Assumption of expenses for the procurement of replacement or repair
- Payment for the repair
- Payment of the current value for a similar object
- Assumption of the veterinary costs for another animal, which was bitten by the owner’s cat
Assumption of all expenses necessary for the restoration of the health of the injured party
- Medical and hospital expenses
- Remedies and aids
- Rehabilitation costs
Assumption of all expenses incurred for a damage that is a consequence of the damage to property or personal injury
- Compensation for loss of earnings
- Compensation for pain and suffering for surviving dependants
How is the time value calculated?
Most things lose value during their lifetime. For example, if you sell a computer after four or five years, you will not get anywhere near the amount you paid for it when you bought it. When settling claims, insurers usually only take into account the current value, not the value when new. To determine the current value, a sum of money for age, use and wear and tear is deducted from the replacement value.
Does my liability insurance also cover damages caused by my cat?
A German private liability insurance does not cover damage caused by your cat's behaviour to yourself or your belongings. Even the household insurance usually does not cover such cases. For example, if your cat knocks over your smart TV and it is damaged, you will probably be left with the damage. However, if the fire damages the fixtures of a rented flat, such as the doors, your private liability insurance will pay for the settlement of your landlord's claims for compensation.
Is my cat still covered if damage occurs to my cat?
If your cat is injured, your liability insurance company will not be responsible for settling the claim. However, since a cat is considered property, under certain circumstances, the household insurance will provide coverage. This may be the case, for example, if the cat has been injured in events such as a lightning strike or flood. However, if someone else is responsible for the damage to your pet, they must pay compensation themselves or their personal liability insurance. If your cat needs veterinary treatment due to an injury or accident and you have taken out cat surgery insurance or cat health insurance, the necessary treatment costs can be covered by this insurance. Taking out such an insurance policy can be especially worthwhile for outdoor cats, where the risk of accidents and injuries is particularly high.
Which insurance is responsible if I injure a cat myself?
If you injure a strange animal without intention, this will be classified as property damage, which under certain circumstances will be covered by your car liability insurance. This also applies if you have hit or run over another cat. In this case, however, the owner of the cat is also partly to blame, so in practice, the expenses for settling the claim are usually split 50/50 or 80/20. This means that if the cat has to be treated in the veterinary clinic following the accident, the veterinary costs will be shared between you and the owner.
What should I, as a cat owner, pay attention to when taking out personal liability insurance?
Damage caused by small animals such as hamsters, rabbits and cats are usually covered by most insurers, but there are differences in the amounts covered and the benefits. If you keep wild animals such as snakes, many insurers will not cover you for damage caused by them. This is also the case with Luko.
The amount of the sum insured for damages caused by animals
While some tariffs provide for a maximum cover of five million euros, in others, it is up to 20 million euros. Before taking out a personal liability insurance policy for the cat, you should consider the risk of damage. A house cat will in most cases cause less expensive damage than a free-range cat.
The sum insured for damage to rental property
If you live with your cat in a rented apartment or house, your contract should definitely contain the module "damage to rented property," which covers damage to rented rooms and buildings. For example, if your cat knocks over a chair and damages the expensive parquet floor, you will be liable to pay damages to your landlord. Within the tenant protection, not only the apartment or the building itself is insured, but also all permanently installed objects, such as washbasins, floor coverings, fitted kitchens, radiators and built-in cupboards. The more expensive the furnishings in the rented apartment or house, the higher the insured sum should be for this insurance module.