Do I need public liability insurance?

Public liability insurance isn’t usually a legal requirement, but it comes recommended if you own a business or work independently and regularly interact with the public, clients and contractors. 

Accidents happen, so it can help to get one step ahead of them. A legal battle could be financially damaging to your business, especially if you wouldn’t have the means to settle a claim without the right insurance in place. 

Public liability insurance isn’t mandatory in the majority of instances, so you don’t typically need it by law. It can, however, provide key assistance. Since public liability cover won’t protect you retrospectively, it might be a good idea to purchase insurance before you interact with clients or members of the public. 

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What is public liability insurance?

Public liability insurance can cover you if a member of the public, customer or client makes a claim against your business as a result of injury or property damage linked to your business activities. This insurance may help to cover defence costs and compensation if these claims go to court. Learn more about public liability insurance. 

Why you could need public liability insurance

Accidents happen, so it can be good to know you’re covered in the event something goes wrong. Though public liability insurance is not mandated in the UK, you may feel you need this cover to help protect your business from the impact of third-party compensation claims for injury or property damage. Without insurance, you might need to foot the bill yourself. 

Public liability insurance can help protect your business if you: 

  • Visit clients’ properties to carry out work  
  • Have a business that requires customers or clients to visit your premises – for example, a butcher or a pet shop 
  • Work on open sites or at venues, where members of the public could become injured – for example, as an engineer or a sports coach

What does public liability insurance cover?

Here are some examples of scenarios a public liability policy could help with:

An office mishap

When visiting your client for a regular catch-up, your employee leans over to pick up a glass of water and accidentally knocks your client’s tablet off the desk, damaging the screen. 

Alternatively, perhaps a client visits your office premises just after the floors have been mopped, but no sign is in place and they lose their footing and injure their hip. Public liability insurance covers you for scenarios both in your place of work, and at your client’s office. 

A falling sign

A team of your employees attend a big trade show to drum up some exposure for your firm. You decide to send them off with your new marketing stand but, during the show, one of the boards falls and injures a passer-by. 

This unfortunate episode could turn into a costly one if that person decides to sue. Attending or hosting industry or charity events exposes you to these types of risks, which public liability insurance can help to cover you for. 

In your own home

A client could turn up to a meeting at your property and twist their ankle on the uneven step you’ve been meaning to get fixed.

As the driver delivering your marketing flyers drops them off in your hallway, they could trip over the telephone wires and fracture their wrist, leaving them unable to drive or work. Incidents can happen even when you’re a home-based business and public liability cover can help.

Do I need public liability insurance if I work from home?

While it’s not essential or mandated by law, if the nature of your home-based business means you welcome visitors regularly, you might need to consider public liability cover. 

A client could trip on a stray wire in your hallway and break their wrist while visiting your office at home. Another instance public liability insurance may be able to help with is if you accidentally damage your client’s property while they visit your home office. 

In the event a claim is made against your business, public liability insurance may help to protect you by paying out for the associated costs and fees.

No, public liability insurance is not a legal requirement in most cases. However, if you’re a subcontractor, the main contractor may request that you’re covered before you begin any work. You may find that your local authority and trade associations will also ask for proof of public liability insurance before they allow you to register with them.

Is it worth having public liability insurance?

Even if you have years of operating as a business under your belt, mishaps can happen when you least expect them. Public liability insurance helps to cover you for potentially damaging legal claims and can pay compensation on your behalf. With the cover in place, claims are less likely to eat into your business profits.

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Our FAQ pages provide general information and background around the topic covered. FAQ pages are reviewed and monitored periodically by our insurance experts. But the content is not intended to be read as advice and any material is for general information purposes only. If you would like advice for any content, please seek professional assistance.