The German Statutory Accident Insurance Association

Statutory accident insurance is probably the least known branch of the German social insurance system. However, after health insurance, statutory accident insurance is the second oldest social insurance in Germany.

The Accident Insurance Act of 6 July 1884 was the first of its kind in the world. It resulted in a fundamental change. Until then, compensation for an accident at work or an occupational disease had to be claimed directly against the employer – often a hopeless endeavour, as the employer had to be proven at fault by the employee.

Since then, compensation for an occupational accident or disease can be claimed from the responsible accident insurance institution, which replaces the liability of the individual employers. Among other things, this also serves to safeguard industrial peace.

The primary task of the statutory accident insurance institutions is the prevention of accidents at the workplace (and at school) and prevention of work-related health hazards. However, despite all the successes in occupational safety and health protection, accidents and illnesses do occur.

Should an accident or occupational disease occur despite all efforts in occupational safety and health protection, the principle of the statutory accident insurance institutions is „rehabilitation before pension“!

This means: Optimal medical care for the insured person as well as his or her professional and social reintegration are always at the forefront of all efforts, as successful rehabilitation is the best solution for the insured person. A pension is therefore only paid when all sensible and reasonable rehabilitation options have been exhausted. If insured persons have died as a result of occupational accidents or diseases, the Berufsgenossenschaften pay, among other things, survivors‘ pensions.

In the German social security system, the statutory accident insurance institutions (industrial accident insurance institutions, public sector accident insurance institutions, agricultural accident insurance institutions) are responsible for the consequences of accidents at work, commuting accidents and occupational diseases. Statutory accident insurance is non-contributory for the insured (employees); the costs of statutory accident insurance are borne solely by the employers.

The public sector accident insurance institutions are divided into 34 municipal accident insurance associations and accident insurance funds, which provide statutory insurance for approximately 35 million people. These include about 17 million children in day-care facilities, pupils and students, 4.3 million workers and employees in the public service and domestic helpers.

Furthermore, about 4 million people, such as volunteers in companies and in civil defence, people who provide assistance in the event of accidents or general need, and people who work on a voluntary basis for the federal government, the state or a municipality, outside of an employment relationship, belong to the insured group of people. Domestic carers and other persons are also protected by the statutory accident insurance on welfare state grounds.

The public sector accident insurance provides comprehensive cover for pupils at general education schools and vocational schools and for students. Accident insurance covers all activities within the legal and organisational area of responsibility of the school. This includes participation in lessons, break times, school excursions, trips abroad, school study groups, journeys to and from school etc. In the case of vocational school students, all activities in connection with training in the company are insured with the relevant trade association.

The industrial Berufsgenossenschaften are organised by industry. The advantage of this system is that practical solutions can be implemented in both accident prevention and health protection. There are a total of 26 industrial Berufsgenossenschaften (as of 01.2006).

By law, every employer is a member of the Berufsgenossenschaft responsible for his sector and has a legal duty of care for the safety and health of his employees in the workplace.

Around 42 million employees are insured with the Berufsgenossenschaften. Everyone who is in an employment, training or apprenticeship contract is insured. Insurance coverage is independent of age, gender, marital status, nationality, income or permanent or temporary employment.

The Berufsgenossenschaften are financed exclusively by contributions from member companies. Employees pay nothing. The amount of contributions is determined by the risk of accidents and occupational diseases in a company (hazard class), the total wages and salaries of the employees in the company and the number, severity and cost of accidents and occupational diseases in the company (surcharge or discount).

A fair collection of contributions is achieved through the risk classes. Sectors with a high accident risk have to pay higher contributions. The surcharge and discount procedure based on accidents directly recognises the companies‘ commitment to occupational safety and health protection.

Insofar as the Federal Accident Insurance Fund and the accident insurance institutions in the state and municipal areas are responsible, the costs of accident insurance are essentially covered by the respective regional authorities for their area from tax revenue. The contributions for insured persons in private households are paid by the heads of household.

When an accident has occurred, the statutory accident insurance institutions pay for all benefits necessary for the rehabilitation of the insured. After a serious accident, these include

  • Covering the costs incurred by the treatment of the injuries, e.g. also in special rehabilitation clinics,
  • special support measures to enable the pupil to obtain a graduation certificate,
  • the placement of a rehabilitation counsellor who takes over the negotiations with the Federal Employment Agency, companies, vocational promotion centres and other bodies that are important for school and vocational rehabilitation,
  • the covering of travel expenses necessary for the implementation of treatment or school-occupational rehabilitation,
  • payment of a pension if the insured person is incapacitated for work.

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