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Obligation is a legal term used to describe behavioral norms that the debtor must observe, but cannot be sued by the creditor .


Obligation is an act that cannot be forced, but is necessary in self-interest to avoid legal disadvantages . On the other hand, a legal obligation can be enforced , which is also enforceable. Obligation is an imperative in your own interest. The non-performance of an obligation is based on the principles of using fault have demanding reducing consequences.

Legal issues

The legal term occurs in civil law , commercial law , maintenance law and especially in insurance law .

General civil law

A challenge must be made immediately in accordance with Section 121 (1) of the German Civil Code ( BGB) , otherwise this right to structure is lost. Since 1953, the majority of people have viewed the challenge as a typical obligation. One of the obligations of a creditor is to assist in the performance of a contract so as not to fall into default of acceptance . The creditor only harms himself if he violates his obligations and atone for it with a loss of rights. A typical case is the obligation from Section 254, Paragraph 2 of the German Civil Code, according to which the injured party must reduce the damage . If he fails to do so and the injuring party can prove this, the injured party loses all or part of his claim for damages . Anyone who suffers damage must keep the damage as low as possible or, if possible, avert it completely ( duty to minimize damage / to avert damage ; Section 254 of the German Civil Code).

The legal consequences of the incumbent incumbent official duties result from Art. 34 GG and § 839 BGB.

Commercial law

Merchants must, as part of the agency to a request of a customer with whom they are already in business relationship , respond immediately available because their silence is considered as § 362 para. 1 HGB as acceptance of the application. A merchant must also be purchased by another businessman merchandise immediately for defects and inspect the defects immediately reprimand ( Mängelrügeobliegenheit the commercial department , § 377 para. 1 HGB).

Insurance law

Obligations are only prerequisites for maintaining the claim from the insurance contract , which the policyholder fulfills in his own interest in order to obtain insurance cover . If the policyholder obligations that may insurer canceling the policy or in the insurance case rely on the power of freedom. Typical duties include the obligation to notify about dangerous circumstances ( Section 19 VVG ), fraudulent deception ( Section 22 VVG), increased risk ( Section 23 (2) VVG, Section 26 (2) VVG, Section 57 (2) VVG) and the legal consequences of the Violation of contractual obligations ( Section 28 Paragraph 2 VVG). If the breach of contractual obligations is then intentional , the insurer is exempt from payment (Section 28 (2) VVG). If the policyholder culpably breaches an obligation to be fulfilled before the occurrence of the insured event with an ongoing insurance policy, the insurer is not obliged to pay for an insured individual risk for which the breached obligation applies ( Section 58 (1) VVG). However, according to the relevant case law of the Federal Court of Justice, the deficiency can be cured under certain conditions .

Employment obligations

There are a variety of employment obligations. In spousal maintenance law , it is incumbent on the divorced spouse who is entitled to maintenance to exercise appropriate gainful employment ( Section 1574 BGB). In maintenance law, employment obligations also affect the person obliged to provide maintenance so that he can fulfill his or her maintenance obligation as well as the person entitled to maintenance in order to avoid his or her own need ( Section 1602 BGB). Parents of underage unmarried children as well as of adult unmarried children up to the age of 21, as long as they live in the household of the parents or one of the parents and are in general school education, have an increased maintenance obligation. According to Section 1603, Paragraph 2 of the German Civil Code (BGB), you must use “all available means ” to support yourself and your children.


The mother is responsible for the display of the pregnancy when the employer ( § 9 para. 1 MuSchG ). In tax law , the taxpayer is also obliged to cooperate . If he violates them, he must bear the associated disadvantages as a disadvantage of evidence.

Legal consequences

In the event of a breach of his obligations, the debtor must bear the disadvantages resulting from this breach. For example, he can lose his own existing rights or not receive rights that he would acquire if he were to fulfill the obligation.


In Austria , the obligation is in accordance with German law. The central regulation in insurance law is § 6 VersVG, according to which the insurer can withdraw from the contract if the policyholder culpably failed to fulfill his obligations to the insurer before the occurrence of the insured event. In the case of burglary insurance, for example, there is an obligation to “lock the insurance premises”. In this regard, the Supreme Court clarified that this obligation also applies to the windows and that it is gross negligence if an easily accessible window suitable for entering the premises is left in the tilted position.

The legal term has the same meaning in Switzerland too . If the buyer does not report defects in the goods in good time, this leads to the loss of the warranty rights under sales law ( Art. 201 OR ). The Swiss Insurance Contract Act (CH-VVG) provides in Art. 29 para. 2 CH-VVG that the insurer cannot invoke his freedom to provide benefits if an obligation is breached, but this breach does not affect the occurrence of the insured event and to the extent of the performance incumbent on the insurer. An appeal to the exemption from performance is also excluded according to Art. 45 para. 1 CH-VVG if the breach of the obligation by the policyholder is not at fault.

In Anglo-Saxon insurance there are obligations before the insurance event ( English conditions precedent to insurers' liability ) and after the insurance event ( English conditions subsequent to the policy ).

Individual evidence

  1. Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden (ed.), Gabler Kompakt-Lexikon Wirtschaft , 2013, p. 322
  2. Gerhard Köbler , Etymological Legal Dictionary , 1995, p. 291
  3. Reimer Schmidt , The Obligations - Studies in the Field of Legal Coercion in Civil Law with Special Consideration of Private Insurance Law , 1953, pp. 130 ff.
  4. Kurt Schellhammer, Family Law According to Claim Bases , 2006, p. 227
  5. BGHZ 91, 243
  6. Peter Koch (ed.), Gabler Versicherungs-Lexikon , 1994, p. 598
  7. Martin Stadler, Die Kfz-Versicherung , 2008, p. 142
  8. BGH, judgment of December 3, 2008, Az .: XII ZR 182/06 = NJW 2009, 1410
  9. Reimer Schmidt, The Obligations - Studies in the Field of Legal Coercion in Civil Law with Special Consideration of Private Insurance Law , 1953, pp. 130 ff.
  10. OGH, decision of November 28, 2012, reference number: 7 Ob 109 / 12y