Legal Insurance – a Must in Italy

A friend’s recent enquiry to me about his car insurance prompted me to think about my own situation regarding insurance. Actually, insurance run in my family. My father started off as the distinctive ‘man from the Pru’ at a time when premiums would be obtained by actually meeting up with customers at their own home. His beat was Canadian avenue in Catford, London SE. Later on my father became an insurance broker and set up his own business in Islington. It’s still running today: not in Islington anymore but in the wilds of Herefordshire. Its web site is at: http://harveypettitt.uk.com/

It seems that in Italy it’s not enough to have the standard house and vehicle insurances. More and more Italians are taking out what is known as Tutela legale i.e., legal protection insurance. If, by chance, one happens to be caught up in a legal dispute in Italy three important points need to be noted:

1. One cannot represent in person one’s own defence at any court proceedings but must have an avvocato or solicitor to this. The only exception is if one is dealing with a purely civil case where claims do not exceed euros 5000. In that case it’s possible to present oneself to the local Giudice di Pace (but only if the other party in the dispute agrees). The price of doing this is a nominal amount and the judge acts very much as an arbitrator and conciliator. This situation is very useful if one has disputes with smallish builders’ fees and such like.

2. If one is defending oneself against an accuser one cannot normally be awarded costs if the judge finds in one’s favour. Of course, the accuser has to pay not only his avvocato but also court costs and associated expenses. This is in order to prevent accusers from bringing cases to court which are slim on evidence or are purely examples of vexatious litigation. In all cases, even if the accused is found not guilty, (‘assolto’ is the word used by the judge, which reminds me somewhat of absolution from sin by a catholic priest at confessional), the accused still has to pay his/her own avvocato fees.

3. Even if the accused is ‘assolto’ the accuser still has the right to appeal within thirty days of the judge’s decision. If this should happen (and some of Italy’s political figures – no name given – are dab hands at appealing and even counter-appealing) then a new trial will begin in a different court in a different town. This, among normal citizens, however, is a very rare occurrence. The judge’s decision is usually quite final.

This is where Tutela legale comes in. According to my insurance broker this type of insurance is becoming ever more popular in Italy as, because of the continuing economic situation, more and more citizens here are using the law as a foxy way of trying to claim often extortionate sums of money from unfortunate victims as a result of often trivial cases.

The definition of Legal Protection appears in a 1987 EC directive. Today it is regulated by the Italian Private Insurance Code Articles 163 and 164, 173 and 174 under the name of TUTELA LEGALE – LEGAL PROTECTION, and is the contract under which the insurer, on payment of a premium, undertakes to assume responsibility for legal fees or to provide other types of services, required by the insured to defend their interests in court, in any proceedings in or out of court, particularly in order to achieve compensation for damages suffered or to defend themselves against any claim or accusation made against them.

I have been told a story, for example, of a situation where a child riding his bicycle invited his mate to jump on the back of it. Rushing down a steep road the bike crashed and they both fell off. Unfortunately the boy riding on the back was badly injured and had to have a hospital operation on his stomach. It wasn’t enough for the parents of the child whose bike it was, to help the injured child with any hospital medication and visits. The parents of the injured child went further and launched a case for damages against the family of the child whose bike it was for serious injury to their own child, for time lost from work for visiting him in hospital, for time absent in attending school classes, for neglect of duty of care and so forth.

When the case came to court the legal expenses of the accused parents was so high (in excess of euros 200,000 that they were forced to sell their house. Clearly they did not have ‘tutela legale’ insurance to help them cover these costs. I was told of other stories of even greater seriousness. But I’ll refrain from telling them here as they are too ghastly to relate.

Litigation is regrettably endemic in most countries of the world and it is a particular art in Italy. I’m glad I read up about Italian court procedures and even gladder that, as a result, my insurance policy has been extended from home and vehicle to covering any legal expenses I might incur.
This is not to encourage anyone to accuse or indict another of stealing a bit of their land or of not paying them the agreed fee for any job done but I do feel a little more secure now that I hold a tutela legale document in my desk.

Make sure too that your home insurance has a clause covering anyone who is doing work on your house. I’ve heard of scaffolders, grass cutters and other operatives making claims for personal damage. In one case a grass cutter, employed by an ex-pat, working near a car park caught some pebbles with the bush strimmer he was using. These ricocheted against three adjoining cars badly damaging their bodywork and three hefty garage bills were shortly afterwards presented to the grass-cutter’s employer…

If you are in Bagni di Lucca I cannot do better than recommend Giancarlo Gasperoni, the insurance broker on the corner of Villa’s market square and avoid having bad dreams. I’ve been using him and his work-colleague Chiara for years with excellent results.

(See what happened here! https://longoio.wordpress.com/2013/07/19/washing-day-or-night-blues-or-reds/ )

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(Chiara and Giancarlo)