First legal protection in France - Development of legal protection in Europe

From an historic point of view legal protection insurance, founded in 1917 in Le Mans, is rather a young line of business. In the aftermath of a series of severe accidents during the world-famous 24-hour car races injured spectators had great difficulties in substantiating their claims on the organisers and/or their insurers. This resulted in the first draft of a legal protection insurance based on the principle of an "assurance against insurance" (contre-assurance).

The initial idea of legal protection can be traced back as far as to the Middle Ages and was manifested by the compurgation of Old Germanic guild unions. At the time of the foundation of guild unions in medieval times there was no welfare state, no legal social security in cases of need and no standards to protect the members of a craft or trade. They had to take the law in their own hands and formed associations for mutual aid and the promotion of common interests to protect their members.

At the beginning of the 19th century France saw a wave of formation of so-called "contre-assurances" (counter-assurance). In this connection associations were founded that conducted legal proceedings – against the payment of a premium – or shared the expenses when cases were lost. According to a ruling of the Supreme Court of Justice from the year 1824 this service was, however, not based on contracts of insurance but mere business agreements.

The original birth of today’s legal protection insurance can be dated back to the year 1917. Again it was the French legal protection pioneers who established a mutual insurance company in Le Mans on the initiative of the director of the Automobile Club de l’Ouest. La Défense Automobile et Sportive (DAS) provided services and coverage of expenses for legal prosecution to car drivers and athletes.

DAS became an instant success – the first of its kind in Europe. The idea of an insurance for legal proceedings resulting from road accidents took off and progressed as fast as the motorisation.

Time progressed and legal protection assurance companies were founded in various countries of Europe. They all dealt with legal protection in the vast field of increasing motorisation. Over time additional fields of law were opened up by legal protection assurers to be developed into today’s broad-based legal protection system in the private, business and transportation sectors.

Assurers specialising in legal protection are the innovative drivers behind the development of legal protection. It is the objective of this group of insurance companies to provide legal protection to consumers, to meet their requirements and to guarantee unrestricted and the best possible settlement of claims. However, legal protection insurance companies are not just paymasters in case of claims; as service providers they support their clients with legal advice. They back up their clients by word and deed, taking their side. In particular those insurance companies that specialise in this one field of legal protection, and are not jeopardized by conflict of interests, are in a position to offer their unrestricted, full service insurance package to their clients. They are the right choice in today’s European competition. 

Legal protection pioneers until the middle of the 20th century

1897 Foundation of Le Sou Medical in Paris (F) – a mutual benefit association as a forerunner of legal protection insurance companies – with the objective of defending physicians and surgeons, sued for professional malpractice.

1917 Foundation of La Défense Automobile et Sportive (DAS) in Le Mans (F). 

1922 Foundation of La Défense Civile in Le Havre (F), following the example of DAS. At the end of the nineties the company merged into Juridica (today Axa Group).

1924 Foundation of ABA-AG in Milan (I), offering policies for legal services to car drivers. Taken over in 1994 by the composite insurance company SARA.

1926 Foundation of CAP legal insurance company and DAS in Geneva (CH); the latter being independent of DAS France (today D.A.S. Munich Group).

1927 Foundation of DAS in Brussels (B) (today D.A.S. Munich Group)

1928 Foundation of Deutsche Automobil Schutz in Berlin (D) due to the initiative of DAS Switzerland; the headquarters moved to Munich at the end of WW II. 

1932 Foundation of a limited liability company in Barcelona (E) on the initiative of CAP Switzerland, which was formed into an insurance company in 1934, named CAP Internacional (today ARAG Spain). Foundation of UCA in Turin turned into an insurance company in 1935. 

1933 Foundation of Protekta in Bern (CH).

1935 Foundation of Les Assures Reunis in Brussels (B). Foundation of ARAG in Düsseldorf (D).

1937 Foundation of Societé Française de Recours (SFR) in Paris (F), providing direct services and cost coverage to their clients by way of a reinsurance company.

1938 Foundation of SCHUTZ in Zurich (CH), which was taken over by ARAG in the sixties. In the nineties ARAG merged with WINTERTHUR RECHTSSCHUTZ.

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