France has one of the largest markets for insurance in the world.
Insurance is a legal requirement for vehicle owners, homes (rented or owned), for civil liability and for children of school age.
Car insurance is a legal requirement in France, as it is in Britain. Not having car insurance is an offence punishable by six months in prison.
If you are a permanent resident in France you are bound by French law. To comply fully with French law you must register and insure your vehicles within the French system within 3 months of arriving, which means changing your UK plate to a French plate.
A UK registered car MUST be insured with a UK insurance company. Making a SORN declaration and driving in France is illegal. If your car has UK registration plates, it must comply with UK law, ie. Be taxed and tested in the UK.
A French registered car MUST be insured by a French insurance company and complies with French law. No tax and tested once every 2 years (for cars).
If you are French resident, you are allowed to drive on French roads for up to 3 months with UK plates, whilst you start the registration process.
Cars in both countries (as of July 2011) must be insured for collision liability, even if they are not in use.
Your insurer will also issue you with an internationally standard form to fill in the event of an accident. I can provide you with an English version. It provides space to fill out insurance details, a written and graphic description of the accident and it must be completed and signed by both you and the other party involved. It is a carbon copy sheet, and both parties send their copy back to their respective insurer to establish responsibility. Do not add anything to the form after completing and signing it with the other party as the two insurers may compare their copies in establishing who was at fault.
On buying your insurance you will be issued with a green card. The detachable square card must be displayed at all times on your windscreen in the holder provided. This must be kept updated. You should also keep the rest of the green slip as this will have any emergency numbers to call should you break down.
All home insurance policies in France are comprehensive and they will cover both damage to your home and contents. Natural catastrophes are also automatically covered.
In case of fire, some house insurance policies demand that your chimney is swept on an annual basis. Homeowners face the risk of being uninsured following a chimney fire, if they can’t prove that chimneys are swept annually. To avoid being uninsured, it is essential to check if your French insurer has this clause in your policy. If so, its important to get a valid “certificat de ramonage” from your chimney sweep, as it is likely that the terms of your policy will require it to be produced following a fire.
Your civil liability which is generally included in your home insurance policy will cover you, if, for example, your apartment's bathtub leaks into the ceiling of the flat downstairs or a tile falls off of your roof onto someone's head.
When purchasing your home insurance, you will be asked the number of rooms and square meterage. You will not be asked to value the building since this is dealt with by a national building index.
Make sure that you ask for adequate contents cover. It's not worth underestimating to save on the monthly premiums, should you ever have cause to claim. Fire alarms are not required either by French law or most insurers, however, certain protections may be required such as the presence and use of an alarm (depending upon the value of your contents) and the closing of shutters at night or during long absences.
French schools require that your child has school insurance, as parents are directly responsible for the actions of their children up to 18 years of age, this covers you in the event that your child causes accidental damage or injury.
It is also required for any school sports activity, trips.
Luckily this insurance normally only costs between 12€ and 15€.
Is generally part of your house insurance and will cover accidents or injury to third parties who may be in your property, or damage to neighbouring property, accidentally caused by you (or member of your family) because of your negligence.
An example of where you could be asked for your Résponsabilité Civile is if you should break something in a shop.
You will be asked for a copy of your RC at school/crèche.
One of the requirements for residency in France, whether you are working here or not, is that you are covered by health insurance.
If you are employed by a French company or self-employed, you pay into the state health system. This will cover up to 70% of your health costs. For the remainder most people take out a top-up insurance, commonly called a Mutuelle.
If you are not employed and are not entitled to a European pension, you will have to take out private health insurance that covers you from the first euro of your healthcare expenses.
If you are employed by a UK company you have to apply for an S1 to cover your health costs in the same way as a French citizen, ie. Up to 70% of costs. A top up insurance will be required for the rest.
If you are of retirement age, you will be eligible for an S1 from the UK which will cover up to 70% of costs. A top up insurance will be required for the rest.
Top-up health insurance/mutuelles are very complicated. As with most insurances, you get what you pay for. The more you pay each month, the more you will be refunded should the need arise. The government are increasing taxes on Mutuelles so the cost is slowly rising year on year.
How health insurance works
Your health costs are covered by the French government under the guise of the Assurance Maladie sometimes known as ‘Sécurité Sociale, the Sécu / Caisse Primaire d’Assurance Maladie or CPAM.
The Assurance Maladie has a fixed scale for refunding medical acts and medicines, with a maximum limit of 70%. With your Carte Vitale you will be refunded in accordance with this scale.
A doctors appointment costs 23€ and is refunded at 70%.
You will receive 16.10€ from the Assurance Maladie, leaving you to pay the extra 6.10€.
A mutuelle, which refunded up to 100%, would pay this difference.
30% off 23€ is not a lot, however, 30% of a few 1000€ for an accident on the mountain, can add up to a substantial sum. 30% would be the minimum you would pay and your final bill could run into 1000€'s, even though you have a Carte Vitale. This is where the mutuelle comes in.
The mutuelle reimburses the remaining 30% and pays some or all the costs for items that are not covered by the state, such as contact lenses, glasses, routine health checks such as smear tests and dental check ups or visits to specialists such as psychologists and dermatologists.
You may also find that certain acts/medicines are only available at a higher rate than that of the Assurance Maladie, for example: a general consulation with the doctor costs 23€, however some doctors charge more dependent on their speciality.
The wider the cover you want, the more you will usually have to pay.
One point to note is that each company can have a range of plans and it can be hard to choose which is best for you. One area of difference is usually eye care, including getting eye tests and glasses, which is very expensive in France without a mutuelle. If you are planning regular trips back to the UK, it may be worth simply having your eyes tested in the UK and saving the cost of the superior mutuelle plan.
Winter sports insurance
For those of you wanting to spend a winter in the Alps or Pyrénées, winter sports insurance is a MUST.
For those of you already affiliated to the French health system, a further insurance is required for help getting off the mountain. The costs of being helicoptered off the mountain and taken to hospital are not covered by the French health service. Without additional insurance you will be given a bill.
For those of you here for the winter season and not affiliated to the French health system you should ensure that you arrive with an EHIC. The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) allows you to get state-provided healthcare (not private) in all European Economic Area (EEA) countries and Switzerland in the same way as a resident of the country you're visiting. In France, up to 70% paid for by the state.
Note that the EHIC is NOT an alternative to travel insurance. It will not cover any private medical healthcare or costs such as mountain rescue in ski resorts, being flown back to the UK, or lost or stolen property. Therefore, it is important to have both an EHIC and a valid private travel insurance policy. Some insurers now insist you hold an EHIC and many will waive the excess if you have one.
You may not be able to use the card in some parts of the EEA as state-provided healthcare may not be available.
Some European health systems expect you to pay your bill when you are treated and then claim a refund using your EHIC.
The Carré Neige is short-term insurance, for amateurs, available at certain resorts. It is sold at lift pass offices and can be bought when buying the lift pass. It is valid as long as the pass is valid for all snow sports in France and neighbouring Switzerland.
The Carré Neige provides insurance and assistance: search and rescue, first transport, medical expenses and repatriation (as well as bad weather insurance for the cost of unusable ski passes). If hospitalised, you will be required to have your EHIC/private travel insurance.
Carte Neige covers you for transport off the mountain, either on or off piste. If you show your card to the pisteurs they will take the policy number and their costs will be met by the insurance – you have no further involvement, HOWEVER, it is made to work in association with the French health system. That is, once you arrive at the hospital it ceases to work. If you are on holiday, here for a season and not affiliated to the French health system or have your EHIC you will be liable for all charges from this point.
Other insurance policies
Your insurance agent will be able to provide you with a winter sports insurance which covers practically the same as the Carte Neige/Carré Neige. The policies vary in price so it's worth shopping around, but don't forget that they are all made to work in conjunction with the French health system/private insurance.
When buying your winter sports policy, whether in the UK or France, check the small print. Some policies, especially those bought in the UK do not cover for off-piste. Off-piste could be classed as 2m from the piste!
For a really comprehensive cover (up to the point of hospitalisation/medical intervention) I recommend the Club Alpin Français (CAF). They offer a very comprehensive mountain sports cover which covers off piste (for ski tourers), ice climbing, snow kite, slack line, climbing, snow shoeing ... A medical certificate is required for those wishing to take out insurance for the first time.
For those taking out insurance with the CAF you benefit from many different offers: 50% discount in mountain huts managed by the CAF and access to many different courses run all year round by highly qualified guides.
Cancelling insurance is not as easy as in the UK. French insurance is automatically renewed if not cancelled.
A simple phone call cancelling your policy is not enough. You must send a letter by registered post, in accordance with the notice period given in your contract. This is generally at least 2 or 3 months prior to the renewal date. If you fail to do this you will be obliged to pay for another year's insurance.
If you miss this time period, you have one last chance to cancel your policy. Approximately 15 days before your policy is due to expire you will receive a letter stating the rates and terms and conditions for the following year. You have 20 days from the posting date in which to cancel the policy. If you change provider, they will generally do this for you.
Unless the letter is received by registered post, they will not cancel your policy. On arriving here 10 years ago and not knowing any better, I called a company to ask how to cancel my policy. They did not mention that the letter had to be sent registered post. A few days later I got a call stating that they had received my letter but it wasn't registered so they couldn't act on it... I missed my deadline to cancel and had to wait another year before canceling. A lesson learnt!!
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Communiquer 74: Sarah Barnes Tel: 00 33 (0)22.214.171.124.95 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Disclaimer: The information contained in this website should be regarded as a guideline only. I try and update the information as often as possible but it is possible that certain information has been missed. I would love to be the font of all knowledge but unfortunately I am not! All situations are different and the information contained here may not be applicable to all cases. Please get in touch if you would like me to check any information in relation to your personal situation. My role is to be your voice, to ask the questions you would like asking and those that I know you should be asking. During the course of my work I have gained knowledge of lots of different aspects of French administration and can generally advise you on what is important and what isn't. Dealing with the French system on a daily basis means that I can help you do things far faster and can assist you through the minefield.
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