In addition to the compulsory health insurance you’ll need when you move to Basel, you’ll need some other kinds of insurance to protect yourself, and your loved ones. In this post, I’ll outline a few of the different types of insurance and provide you with some information so you can begin to make an informed decision. Be sure to do your due diligence, as much of what is discussed below can change depending on the company, and the policy. There are many other types of insurance not discussed here, but I tried to cover the main ones. Please note, I’m not an insurance expert, so please talk to an insurance agent, before buying your insurance!
If your German is not yet up to par, it’s important to find an insurance broker who speaks English well, so they can explain what coverage you have and how to make a claim if you need to. My insurance agent is Georges Kreiss; he’s an insurance broker for a company called Goldblum and Cie. As a broker, he represents multiple insurance companies, so he can tell you who provides the best coverage for your particular insurance needs. He’s always happy to discuss my insurance needs in person or, on the phone or by email. I particularly like Georges, as he’s flexible. He’ll adjust his schedule to suit mine if I have questions and works hard to move things forward quickly. He’ll also proactively drop me a mail or call me occasionally to make sure that I’m happy with my current coverage and to see if I have any other questions or need adjustments to my policies.
Personal liability insurance
Personal liability insurance coverage protects you financially against damage caused by you or a member of your family living in the same dwelling to a third party. For example:
- You’re on holiday, and the pipes in your flat burst; the water damages leaks down to your downstairs neighbors and floods his place, wrecking lots of his stuff
- You’re riding your bicycle and someone jumps directly in your path and you hit them, causing injury (and hospital bills)
- Your children are playing ball an accidentally break someone’s window
Damaging third-party property or injuring another person means you’ll be held responsible to pay compensation to that person. These types of claims can be incredibly expensive, and this type of insurance protects the policy holder against such financial risks.
Personal liability insurance is also really important if you’re trying to rent an apartment. Most landlords/rental companies will refuse to rent to you unless you can provide proof of coverage.
Content insurance covers your household contents against damages caused by fire, water & (usually) theft in your home. This includes furniture and personal items that are stolen or accidentally damaged. If you accidentally break something in the apartment, this can usually be claimed through your household insurance. Stolen bicycles are also covered by this insurance, for the most part. If you have an expensive bike you might need additional protection (a supplement), as the costs are generally only covered up to a specified amount.
Personal liability and content insurance will most often be sold as a package by your insurance company, under the blanket term ‘household insurance’. Buying the two together as a package is often slightly less expensive, than getting each individually.
Be sure that you know exactly what you are being covered for when you buy your insurance. I would very strongly recommend that everyone has a household insurance package or individual content and personal liability insurance at minimum. The costs per year are very reasonable, and if you don’t have it, you’ll kick yourself when something happens.
Insurance supplements are specific, additional insurance modules that provide extra coverage depending on your individual needs. Supplementary modules can be the inclusion of high-cost valuables (jewellery, antiques, etc.), simple theft outside the home or insurance for damage due to unusual forces of nature. Depending on what you own and your lifestyle, so should discuss appropriate supplements with your insurance agent to add to your basic household coverage.
If you are employed by a company, you likely have some level of coverage by the state pension (AHV) and occupational pension (BVG) contributions that you pay each month (look at your pay slip and you’ll see these are deducted from your salary every month. Your employer should be able to provide you with details of the level of coverage and what benefits your dependants would receive upon your death.
If you feel you need additional coverage, you can take out a private life insurance policy. There is too broad a range of life insurance products and packages available, to go into this post. To find out what life insurance best suits your needs, talk to your insurance agent. The number, sex and age of your dependents, your financial status, lifestyle (e.g. smoking) and health status will all be factors in deciding what health insurance you need, and the premiums you’ll pay.
Car and motorcycle insurance
If you own and operate a motor vehicle in Switzerland, you’re going to need insurance for it. Premiums depend a lot on what vehicle you own, as well as your age, experience and driving history. Less expensive vehicles, with less powerful engines will be charged lower premiums than fast, expensive ones. There are also premium saving models that you might be able to take advantage of, if they are compatible with your vehicle and your lifestyle. For example, some insurance policies have reduced premiums for environmentally friendly vehicles, like hybrids. Others, will reduce premiums based on compliance with specific conditions, like exclusive use of a partner garage for regular maintenance and repairs. Talk to your insurance agent to make yourself aware of these money saving options.
Motor vehicle liability insurance
Motor vehicle liability insurance is mandatory if you drive a car or motorcycle (or any other motor vehicle). It protects you, the driver, financially for the damage that you might cause to a third party (the other people involved in the accident such as drivers, cyclists or pedestrians) if you’re involved in a traffic accident. Liability insurance also offers protection against unjustified third-party claims. This insurance covers both personal injury and property damage, but only for third parties.
Voluntary motor vehicle insurance – accident insurance, partial accidental damage coverage, collision insurance
While the mandatory motor vehicle liability insurance that covers damages you cause to others, you can also get other types of insurance that are voluntary: accident insurance, partial accidental damage coverage and collision insurance.
If individuals are injured or killed in a traffic accident, this insurance protects the driver and passengers of the vehicle against any financial consequences, regardless of who was at fault. It may cover additional medical expenses (in a private room if inpatient care is required), daily benefits, and/or a disability or death lump sum.
Partial accidental damage insurance covers a breadth of different factors depending on what policy you choose. Possible coverage includes, some weather damage (like hailstones, flood), colliding with a large animal and theft. Be sure to discuss what protection you need with your agent, to get the ideal policy for you.
Collision insurance provides coverage for damages your own vehicle suffers as a result of a collision, often regardless of whose fault it is. It covers the repair costs, or the replacement of the vehicle should it be totally destroyed in the accident.
You need to consider how old your vehicle is, and whether you feel accidental damage and collision insurance is worth it to you, and if so, to what level you need it. Again, a discussion with your insurance agent is the quickest way to determine what level of motor vehicle insurance you need.
Often partial accidental damage insurance and collision insurance are sold together as a package known as comprehensive insurance.
Motor legal protection can provide support to implement compensation claims against the person responsible for the accident, if you have is subsequent legal difficulty with your insurance company and can help to offset lawyer fees, costs of appraisals or court fees.
This type of insurance can also be useful, if you are involved in criminal proceedings because of a violation of traffic laws. Motor legal coverage can provide legal support when you become involve in legal proceedings with the traffic authorities. Yearly premiums for motor legal insurance are relatively low compared with fees for legal representation.
Motor legal protection insurance might also be worth considering for people who don’t drive. If you’re a pedestrian, struck by a vehicle motor legal protection insurance will support you to make a claim against the person responsible for the accident. Legal disputes often arise concerning the amount of a disability pension or the degree of work incapacitation. Motor legal protection might supplement contributions to the victims, as well as providing legal support.
If it’s possible, choose a motor legal protection insurance that allows you to choose your own lawyer. Lawyers employed by insurance companies might face internal pressure to make decisions that favor the company instead of you. Independent lawyers will not face this pressure concerning trial costs.
If you only use your motor vehicle in the summer months (motorcycles, convertibles, etc.) the license plates can be left at the Strassenverkehrsamt to avoid paying premiums during the months you don’t drive that vehicle. Insurance premiums can be suspended during this period, saving you money. This option makes sense for drivers who only use their vehicle for a few months in the year, as you’ll pay some money for depositing and re-registering the vehicle every year. Some insurers also offer the option to waive suspension. In this case, you pay a relatively low premium for the entire year which takes into account vehicles not used during the winter. With this option, the vehicle does not need to be re-registered every year and you can still use it whenever you want if the weather co-operates.
Making an insurance claim:
You should report a damage case (property damage, an accident, etc.) to your insurance company immediately. Visual account of the damage – especially before and after photos and video – can be very helpful. For example, I take a video of our whole flat once a year (1-2 minutes of footage per room), so that if there is any damage, we have an up-to-date account of our possessions and the state they are recently in that I can share with the insurance company.
Never initiate repairs without reporting the problem and receiving the go ahead from your insurance. Sometimes insurance companies will need to bring in a damage assessment expert to help decide on the best course of action, before deciding on how to proceed with your claim. Sometimes, your coverage will stipulate that only specific, partner companies can take on repairs and you may not be reimbursed for using other providers.
Similarly, don’t start to replace damaged or stolen items until you’ve received the OK of your insurance company and are sure your claim is approved and your compensation has been received.
You should think carefully before making a claim on small costs. Firstly, depending on your level of coverage, you’ll usually have to pay a deductible before your coverage kicks in. Secondly, you might lose discounts and bonuses provided by your company based on a perfect (zero) claims record, which may cost you more in the long run. Finally, your insurance company is not obligated to continue insuring you. If you abuse your insurance by claiming every little thing, your company might decide to terminate your policy. Once this happens, the insurance companies will share the information with other insurance providers, and you’ll have a terrible problem being covered by anyone. This can make your life in Basel (or anywhere) very difficult.
To be covered by your insurance, you have to pay your insurance company, fully and on time. If you don’t pay your premiums on time, you risk reminder fees or termination of your policy.
If you are already insured, unless you officially cancel your policy in writing, the contract is automatically renewed.In most cases, notification must be provided three months in advance. Terminations within a shorter period are sometimes possible such as in case of a premium increase by the company a change of vehicle, etc. Most insurance agents can provide you with a template for the termination letter or you can often find them on the insurance company website.
I hope this post has provided you with a basis to start looking at insurance for your life in Basel. Be sure to do your due diligence and discuss your particular insurance needs with a qualified agent!