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Do I need public liability insurance?


Man falling down stairs. Do I need public liability insurance?

Most slips, trips, and falls result in nothing but blushing and stifled giggles. But now and again, someone really hurts themself. And if they say it’s your fault, they could sue you. Then the laughter will stop pretty quickly.

The same goes if you accidentally damage something that’s going to cost money to repair or replace. And it belongs to someone else.

So who needs public liability (PL) insurance? It really depends on one thing.

The clue is in the name. The public. The people. So if you have any kind of interaction with people who don’t actually work for you, you should consider getting public liability cover. That means customers, clients, contractors, or just everyday members of the public.

Here’s why...

What do you need public liability insurance for?

Accidents can happen anywhere. On a busy day, you could easily forget to tidy away the extension lead you left trailing across the floor. Or fail to notice a puddle of spilled water. Next thing you know, a customer’s flat on their back with a broken ankle.

We all have clumsy days too. Say you’re doing some work in a client’s home and you accidentally smash the patio door or knock over the TV. Whoops. That’ll be costly.

Public liability insurance covers you for those slow motion-moments that result in a damage or injury claim. It’ll cover your legal costs and pay out any compensation awarded. 

The size of your business doesn’t really matter. It’s all about what you do day-to-day and the amount of risk there is to the people you come into contact with.

Who needs public liability insurance?

If you own or rent a commercial property that’s open to the public, such as a café, shop or salon, public liability insurance is a must. Imagine someone’s scalded by a hot drink, or something falls on them from a height. That could spell serious trouble.

The same goes if you run an office, even from home, and welcome clients or couriers in regularly. Obviously, the risks aren’t quite as high in this situation, but an awkward fall or trip can happen anywhere.

And wherever you go, you take your liability with you. If you’re out and about visiting clients, you’ll still be accountable for any damage you cause. There are all sorts of mishaps that can happen unexpectedly. And you’d be surprised at how many seemingly small incidents result in a claim.

Tool of the trade

Plumbers, electricians, carpenters, landscapers, cleaners, and the like should always have public liability insurance in their toolkit.

When doing any kind of practical work in someone else’s home or workplace, there’s a whole host of risks that need to be considered. Incidences of accidental injury and damage are commonplace in these kinds of situations. Pretty catastrophic ones too.

In fact, almost every business needs public liability. Think photographers, who rely on trip-hazards like kit bags and tripods. Or hairdressers and beauty therapists who take dyes and chemicals into people's homes. Could be a recipe for disaster.

And don’t think you’re exempt if you run a charity or club. You’ll need public liability too. Most charities and clubs revolve around people, events and activities, so accidents are inevitable. And if someone feels you’re to blame, trust us, they’ll still claim. Even though you’re doing it for the good of others.

Whether you’re holding bake sales or running an exercise class for new mums, make sure you’re helping yourself as well as others.

Why is public liability insurance required?

Here’s the thing. If you don’t have public liability insurance and someone makes a claim, will you be able to cover it? Bear in mind that the cost of a serious injury claim could run into tens if not hundreds of thousands of pounds.

If you’re not covered, you could be waving goodbye to your savings and assets. You could even lose your business altogether. And who wants that? Answer = Nobody. 

Public liability insurance is there to protect you and your business. Although it’s not a legal requirement, for anyone running a public-facing business it should be considered vital.

The only insurance that all businesses are legally obliged to have is employers’ liability, if you employ staff or volunteers.

If you work in a trade, you might need public liability insurance to get hired. Some clients will insist you have it.

Government and regulatory bodies will always require you to have a certain level of cover before entering into a contract with you. As will many other companies and organisations, across both the public and private sectors.

And if you want to become a trade association member, you might have to have a policy in place before they’ll consider you.

Do all businesses need PL?

Essentially, no.

It depends on the nature of your work. If you’re a lone wolf and only contact your clients or customers online, then professional indemnity insurance is probably what you’re after. There are plenty of businesses out there that don’t interact frequently with the public, so for them, public liability won’t be a necessity.  

It might be that you don’t usually do face-to-face meetings or meet customers, but you’re involved with a pop-up event. Or you’re holding a one-off convention or similar. You’ll need public liability insurance to cover you, just for the special occasion.

How do I know if I need it?

Think about the likelihood of an accident while you’re working. How often do you meet with the public? What activities are you carrying out? What’s the worst-case scenario?

If you think there’s a real risk of accidental injury or damage to a member of the public, or their belongings, then you should almost definitely have it.

You can get different levels of cover to reflect the amount of risk you face. The lesser the risk, the lower your premium will be.

Even if you’ve been in business for years and have valuable experience under your belt, an accident can still catch you unawares. Having cover for all eventualities can offer valuable protection when the unexpected becomes reality.

Do you need public liability? If you’re still not sure, you can find out more about public liability insurance here. Or you can call us for friendly advice on 0345 561 0320.

Image used under license from Shutterstock.

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