Compulsory insurance policies for individuals in France are as follows: 1. third-party insurance for car owners; 2. third-party property liability insurance for homeowners and tenants; 3. third-party property liability insurance for schoolchildren; 4. building insurance for mortgage holders; 5. life insurance for mortgage holders.
Optional (but highly recommended) insurance policies include health (see below), comprehensive car and car breakdown, life (unless required as above), travel and household contents.
Even if you and your dependants qualify for state healthcare, you should ensure that you have full health insurance during the interval between leaving your last country of residence and obtaining health insurance (state or private) in France.
If you’re staying for up to a year in France and aren’t covered by a reciprocal health agreement (e.g. within the EU, using a European Health Insurance Card), you can take out a health insurance contract for impatriés temporaires en France, but this may not cover repatriation in the case of serious illness, for example.
All motor vehicles must be insured (third-party minimum) when entering France. If your car is insured in an EU country, it’s automatically covered for third-party liability in France, but if you become resident in France and keep a foreign-registered car, you must import it and take out a new insurance policy with a company registered in France, which may be valid for only a year.
You must not only display a vignette behind the windscreen confirming that you have valid insurance (you will be sent a new one every six months), but must also carry a signed attestation d’assurance when driving.
Insuring your home and its contents is highly advisable and if you buy a property; in fact, if you take out a mortgage, your lender will probably insist that you have at least basic building insurance covering fire damage. Note that building insurance doesn’t cover defects in a building or its design (e.g. an overweight roof that collapses), many policies don’t include flood damage insurance, and the building must be secure against intrusion, e.g. iron bars (grilles) on windows and mortise-locks on external doors.
Contents insurance doesn’t generally include objects in the garden and for high-value objects such as antiques and jewellery a separate policy is usually required. If you wish to insure your contents for more than a certain amount, e.g. €60,000, you may need to install an alarm system.
Nine out of ten homeowners have combined building and contents insurance (assurance multirisques habitation), and most household policies include third-party insurance (responsabilité civile).
All schoolchildren should be insured against damage to school property and injury to themselves or others while at school and while travelling to and from school, although strictly it isn’t obligatory (except for school trips). In any case, most household policies include school insurance, although this is likely to be the bare minimum.
Most companies insist that claims are made by registered letter (lettre recommandée). If a claim is for theft, insurance companies require a copy of the police report (déclaration de vol or plainte), which you must make within 24 hours. If your car is stolen, an insurance company won’t consider your claim until 30 days have elapsed, though you may be loaned a car during this period.
Excerpted from “Culture Wise France” which can be purchased from Survival Books