Insurance law: Fax cannot replace statutory written form*.

*by Johannes Fiala, lawyer (Munich), MBA Financial Services (Univ.Wales), MM (Univ.), certified financial and investment advisor (A.F.A.), banker (
The claim: A policyholder had been a proud yacht owner until a loss occurred: a fire had damaged the vessel.
The refusal of the benefit: The insurer later informed the policyholder that it was refusing to pay the benefit under the insurance contract. The insurer sent this message to the policyholder by fax. In it the policyholder was also informed ? is that what the law requires ? that the claim must be brought before a court within six months.
The statutory written form: There is occasionally a written form requirement in the law. This can be found, for example, in the German Civil Code, but also in § 12 VVG. In particular, an insurer’s refusal to indemnify must be in writing. The written form also includes that the corresponding declaration is signed, § 126 BGB. It can be read in all current commentaries for decades (!) that the legal written form cannot be deviated from: It uses thus absolutely nothing, if instead of a letter an email or a fax is sent.
The ruling: In its ruling of 14 March 2006 (Ref.: VI ZR 335/04), the Federal Court of Justice (BGH) came to the conclusion that the policyholder had filed an action in due time: Only the written/letter rejection of the benefit, which was submitted much later by the insurer, had extended the time limit for filing an action pursuant to § 12 (1). 3 VVG is set in motion.
This is in itself a matter of course, because the law student usually learns the meaning and content of the ?written form? in the first semester. Do such processes then belong to the business policy or was it an unfortunate mistake at the insurer?

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Dr. Johannes Fiala Dr. Johannes Fiala

Dr. Johannes Fiala has been working for more than 25 years as a lawyer and attorney with his own law firm in Munich. He is intensively involved in real estate, financial law, tax and insurance law. The numerous stages of his professional career enable him to provide his clients with comprehensive advice and to act as a lawyer in the event of disputes.
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