Public liability insurance is not a legal requirement. But it is essential protection your business should have in place, especially if you are often working in public, at events or at customer homes in case an accident happens. So, what is public liability insurance, and who needs it? This article will dive into the following areas:

  • What is public liability insurance?
  • Who needs public liability insurance?
  • How can I get public liability insurance?

What is public liability insurance?

Public liability insurance is a policy that protects your business against any claims made by a member of the public who was hurt or harmed whilst dealing with your business. For example, this claim could be about an incident that occurred while they were on your premises, at an event with your company or from using products you supplied. 

The policy usually covers injuries caused by slips, falls, or your products, as well as injuries caused by misusing equipment. A public liability policy will also usually cover damage to any property (whether that property is a home or someone’s personal items) caused by your work. The policy will generally cover any legal fees as well as compensation for the person claiming.

Businesses are not legally required to have public liability insurance. However, if your business deals with the public in its everyday activities, it would be wise to invest in a policy. Even small incidents could result in a claim, for example, if a customer tripped over equipment when visiting your place of work. Therefore, it’s important to protect yourself and your business as compensation can be in the tens of thousands for even a minor incident, which could be catastrophic to a new or small business.

Who needs public liability insurance?

If your business activities fit into one of the following categories, then you should consider investing in a robust public liability policy:

  • Customers visit your business premises. This could apply to anyone who manages a store/shop, restaurant, takeaway, or beauty salon.
  • You carry out your business work on client sites. This could include any tradesmen who do their work in customer’s homes, as well as mobile hairdressers. It could also potentially include health-related businesses that travel to homes or mutual locations like gyms, like personal trainers or physiotherapists.
  • You work in a public place. For example, this would apply to builders or contractors who work in public areas such as new build home sites or repair work in public buildings such as shopping centres, where your work could potentially cause injury or damage to a person passing by.

If your business falls into any of these categories and your activities have you dealing with the general public often, it would be wise to research a policy to protect yourself in case of any accidents. 

You might also find that you have to prove that you have a certain level of public liability cover to be able to do some of the following things:

  • Win a work contract with a local government.
  • Work on a public site (such as a shopping centre or hotel).
  • Work on another contractor’s site where you might be dealing with equipment or machinery.
  • Attend an industry event at an external location (so not your business premises).

If the above points apply to your regular business activities, you may need the insurance policy to be able to carry out the work, or you should find an appropriate policy to have in place just in case an accident does happen in any one of these circumstances. 

For example, you could be a local florist who operates from home. Although you do not have a store for customers to visit, you may attend several wedding exhibitions throughout the year, and you may have to have a public liability policy in place before you are allowed to attend. 

The venue will usually ask for proof of the policy before you attend if your equipment or products could potentially cause harm or damage to a member of the public property. For example, you may bring lilies with you to showcase your bouquets at the event, but some of the pollen could stain a passerby’s clothes. In this instance, the policy would cover you as it has damaged a person’s property, but you’d also be covered if any water spillages caused someone to slip, fall, and hurt themselves.

How can I get public liability insurance?

As with personal insurances, it can pay to shop around for business insurance too. Here are some tips to follow when finding and applying for public liability insurance:

  • Using comparison websites can help you get the best prices and compare different policies to get one that best fits your business needs.
  • Use different comparison websites (not just one) as some may have offers or collaborations with certain insurers, and you may find a better deal.
  • Some insurers are not featured on comparison websites. If you do your research to find some reputable insurance companies and can’t find their details on a comparison site, go to them directly for a quote. It won’t cost you anything, and you might see a better policy for your needs.
  • Research specialist insurers. Some insurance firms may specialise in public liability insurance for your industry. They will have detailed knowledge of the risks that your type of business has and will be able to accommodate your business needs in a policy that isn’t generic. 
  • If your business is part of a union or federation, you may also find that you can get discounts with certain insurers through your membership. 

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