German Legal Insurance

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European travel, anyone?

If you're stationed in Germany, one bit of sage advice for the two or three years you are there might be to purchase German legal insurance.

The big, long German word for it is Rechtsschutzversicherung - and the benefits are many.

During my stay in Germany in the early 2000s, I heard of these situations in which legal insurance came in handy:

  • Identity theft. A traveler's passport was photocopied or scanned by someone during an island vacation off the coast of Europe, and after she returned home - months later - she began receiving speeding tickets in the mail for hundreds of Euros. The first was for 380 Euros - at the time equal to about $500 - and it was sent from a police station on an island near where she stayed - but the car and license tag number didn't match the jeep she rented to tour the island. After three or four more tickets in the mail - all with different car models and license tag numbers - she went to the German lawyer provided by her legal insurance, and they arranged for a lawyer from the European country that owned the islands - and wallah! - identity theft gone (it actually took 2 years of court proceedings to win the case), but at least she can visit the island again without being arrested for outstanding speeding tickets.
  • Car accident. A family member was involved in a fender-bender that "totaled" a car. Directly after the incident, it looked as though her car insurance would be stuck paying for the whole mess - which meant there was potential for her monthly insurance payments to skyrocket. However, after her legal insurance company had a had a lawyer examine the situation, it turns out her family member was at fault (responsible) for one third of the poor driving habits - the other driver involved in the accident was two thirds at fault - which was huge relief for her and her monthly insurance payments.
  • Family member goes to court with boss. It's usually not good for career advancement to sue one's boss, but an American lady who worked for a European employer became embroiled in a situation in which the employer was not paying all required entitlements and had previously been warned by a court system. She went to court with her legal insurance and won back pay. She had to look for another job, but still ...

The basic drill for obtaining German legal insurance - Rechtsschutzversicherung - is to first check at your base Law Center to see if they have information on legal insurance available in your area.

They may provide you with a photocopy of a page from a local Yellow Pages paper telephone book, which is fine, because if that's all they give you, or if they have no info available, your next step is to look for an insurance provider that caters to Americans - usually located right outside an entrance to your base. These small insurance businesses will usually have English speakers and may be able to provide you with information on German legal insurance from a local provider.

Otherwise, Google the name of your base and the word "rechtsschutzversicherung" - and call local insurance providers until you find an English speaker (unless, of course, you speak German).

Rechtsschutzversicherung is full legal coverage, but it's not something you can get at the last minute, or after something happens. It may cost a couple of hundred Euros a year, but it's wise to purchase it as soon as you step foot in country - to make sure you have it when you need it.

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Wow, didn't know that!

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