Are you liable?

Could you be sued? It’s a scary prospect – and while we’re not as bad as in the US yet, the country is getting more litigious.

People do look to see if they can sue and parasitic claims management companies are advertising and texting and calling up to see if you have had an accident to try to push you into making a claim (and slicing off a piece for themselves). So you need to make sure you are covered.

PL and PI

In general there are two main kinds of insurance you might need – public liability and professional indemnity. Public liability is straightforward - it is included in most home policies. A professional business package will include public liability for you while you are out working. You will need to make sure any other arrangements you have includes this cover too.

Public liability insurance will pay out if you injure someone while working.  So if you are taking a photo in the street and tumble off your ladder into someone or you drop a juggling ball and someone trips on it, they have the right to sue you for their injuries and possible loss of earnings.

Public liability insurance covers you both for the court costs in defending such actions if they are wrong and the cost of any damages awarded if they were justified.

You don’t have to be doing something out of the ordinary to face a possible public liability claim. If you knock into someone while wearing your business suit between meetings or accidently poke someone in the eye putting up your umbrella in a rain shower, you could be sued. Make sure you have public liability cover.

Professional risks

Professional indemnity covers damage you might cause to clients through your work being inaccurate or not up to standard. Traditionally this was just for the likes of architects, solicitors and accountants – high fee-charging professions, but these days many companies expect all sorts of media and entertainment professional to have PI insurance.

If you do training and teach someone the wrong method to do something, that can lead to a claim. PI policies are now available for a whole gamut of new “professions”, such as landscape gardeners, so many of use need cover. A specialist broker is your best bet or check if there is a scheme running for people in your line of business, perhaps through your union.

Libel and slander

You might also need to consider libel insurance. This would cover court costs and damages if you were sued for libel over something you had published or broadcast. Britain is the libel capital of the world and the advent of no-win, no-fee lawyers prepared to take libel cases for free means many more low-value cases (still close to £100,000 settlements) are happening.

Libel insurance can be expensive – the insurers will want to know what you do, for whom you write or produce films, audio or broadcasts and lots more detail besides. Again either use a specialist broker or check if your union has a scheme lined up already – the NUJ has one for its members.

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