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Public Liability Insurance

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Why have public liability insurance?

Pretty much essential to small businesses and freelancers who work with members of the public, public liability insurance is becoming increasingly popular on British shores.  And rapidly too, as America’s ‘culture of liability’ swiftly becomes the norm. Some would say it’s already here.

Public liability insurance is essential because it means that if a person (other than an employee) injures themselves on your premises/because of your business or if their property is damaged as a result of your company practices, then these individuals could claim damages against you. Not only do these kinds of damages often lead to tens of thousands of pounds in compensation, but there are also legal fees to contend with, as well as the cost of a repair and/or medical expenses. As a result, it’s not unusual for a small business, without public liability insurance, to end up having to close down and the owner becomes bankrupt. Having the insurance is financial protection against this very scenario occurring.

The type of injury or damage public liability insurance covers could be something as simple as an individual tripping over a loose tile on the flooring and breaking a leg, to something more complicated such as an expensive dress being ruined because there was a mechanical problem with the steamer in your dry-cleaning business.

Which cover is best for you?

So nervous are larger companies about this growing liability culture in Britain that many refuse to work with freelancers or small companies who don’t have a minimum amount of public liability cover. This is despite the fact that public liability insurance is not a legal requirement in the UK – yet! Certainly, most government and other public sector companies will not work with a company or individual unless there is such insurance in place.

The reason a third-party injury or damage is so high is because claimants can also pursue a company for an individual for loss of earnings and even future loss of earnings (in addition to the repairs etc). You may also have to pay for their legal costs.

Cafes, shops, restaurants, offices are the type of locations which people typically claim from. But home businesses can be liable too. Occupations where third parties can easily be injured or their property damaged include a builder, plumbers, cleaners, window cleaners, caterers and electricians – to name but a few.

How to find the right public liability insurance cover?

Always compare online public liability insurance policies – and, tempting though it may be, don’t necessarily go for the least expensive policy. The important point is to ensure that the policy covers you for absolutely everything you need e.g. if you have a catering business and do pop-up displays at festivals etc then ensure you are covered for operating via outside events.

Money saving tips for securing public liability insurance

  • Consider doubling up public liability and employer’s liability insurance. It’s cheaper than buying both separately
  • If all your staff are properly trained and qualified for their job then companies will take this into account when it comes to working out your insurance premium
  • A business which ensures its premises, tools and vehicles are all properly maintained and inspected can similarly expect a lower insurance quote
  • Paying a higher excess will result in a smaller annual insurance cost or monthly payments
  • Public liability and employers liability insurance will be cheaper if you’ve never made a claim before then your insurance will be less expensive than someone who has
  • Expect cheaper public liability insurance if you have a good health and safety record
  • If you don’t have a lot of contact with the public then your insurance should be cheaper than a business which is constantly exposed e.g. a cafe or newsagents.

Public liability insurance FAQs

Q - What does public liability cover payout for?

A - The cover will pay out for injuries or damage caused to an individual because of your business. You may have to pay compensation as well as legal fees, repairs and even court costs. It will cover against all of these. It’s not just for incidents that occur on your premises either – damage etc at off-site events can be insured against too.

Q - What if I injure myself at my business. Can I claim for that too?

A - No, you would have to get personal injury cover for this.

Q - How much public liability cover is necessary?

A - Obviously this will depend on the level of perceived risk but £2 million wouldn’t be unreasonable. In fact, it’s usually the minimum level for businesses that involve regular public interaction.

Q - How much can I expect to have to pay for public liability insurance?

A - There is no standard sum. It depends on the type of business you operate, how many employees you have and how extensive you need the coverage to be. Businesses perceived as ‘riskier’ will always have to pay more.

Q - I work from home, do I still need public liability insurance?

A - If clients visit you in your own home for a business lunch or meeting then yes, you’ll still need it. They can be injured by fallen masonry a steaming kettle etc...

Q - What is the difference between "general" liability and "public" liability?

A - There is no difference, except General liability, is the name given to this cover in the US. Here in the UK, we swop ‘general’ for ‘public.’

Q - What other business insurance should I take out?

A - It depends which sector your business is in. If you’re a solicitor or an accountant e.g. a professional who gives ‘advice’ then it’s a good idea to take out professional indemnity insurance. At the same time, if your company has employees (whether full time, on contract or volunteering) then, by law, you are required to have Employers’ liability insurance.

Q - Why is it important to have public liability insurance?

A - It’s financial protection which allows you to continue running your business. But more than that, it’s peace of mind – knowing that you’re covered if the unexpected and unfortunate happens. You should certainly be able to sleep easier at night.