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What is public liability insurance?

Public liability insurance can provide protection if you’re taken to court because your business activities cause damage to someone else’s property or result in someone being injured or killed. It can cover your legal costs and any compensation you may have to pay. 

Any business can take out public liability cover, regardless of size or type. This includes those who are self-employed, freelancers and sole traders. 

Some companies and organisations will only award contracts if the business concerned has public liability insurance in place. 

We compare public liability insurance quotes from many well-known suppliers, including:

What does public liability insurance cover?

If anyone visits your premises, public liability insurance should cover you for:   

Compensation claims 

If someone suffers an injury or losses as a result of your work, public liability insurance can cover the cost of legal fees and compensation. 

Damage to visitor property 

If you, or one of your employees, is working at a customer’s premises and damages their property, you may be liable for compensation. Public liability insurance should cover these costs for you. 

Cost of repairs 

If you, or your business, damages someone else’s property or belongings, your insurance may cover any repair costs. This could also include product liability if you, or your business, provides or installs a defective product that causes damage. 

Medical fees 

If someone suffers an injury or illness because of your negligence or malpractice, you could be landed with the cost of medical treatment. Insurance can save you having to find the money for these fees yourself. 

Injury or death 

You might well be held accountable if someone is injured or dies on your business property, or if your work is found to have been the cause. Public liability insurance could cover potentially huge compensation costs.  

Want to know more? Read about:

Do I need public liability insurance?

Public liability insurance isn’t compulsory (except in certain cases, such as if you own a riding stables). If you run a public-facing business, like a restaurant, hairdresser’s, shop or beauty salon, you should definitely consider public liability insurance in case something goes wrong and someone tries to sue you for compensation or damages. 

If it’s possible that someone could make a claim against you as a result of your business activities, public liability insurance can give you peace of mind. While it may not be a legal requirement, many clients or industry regulators will insist you have it in place. Having public liability cover could therefore make it easier for you to get work. 

Local councils will often ask you to provide proof of public liability insurance with a minimum cover level of £5 million before they offer you a contract. Some business trade associations won't let you register with them unless you have a valid liability policy. 

What types of business can public liability insurance cover?

If you work as one of the following, you should consider taking out public liability insurance: 

Builder 

Construction sites are full of potential hazards that can cause injury or property damage

Carpenter/joiner 

Because you’re working with tools and on other people’s property, customers and contractors will expect you to have cover

Electrician

Electrical damage, which can lead to fire damage, can result in expensive claims against you

Plumber

A leak, or poorly fitted pipe, could cause extensive water damage to somebody’s home

Taxi driver

If you have an accident and a passenger is hurt, you’ll probably be liable for compensation. If you work with councils or local authorities, you’ll be expected to have cover

Pub landlord

Insurance can cover you if customers are injured on the premises, or if they fall ill after eating from your menu

Gardener

Working with tools, including power tools, can lead to injuries or damage

Painter/decorator 

Something as simple as spilling paint on a carpet or antique table could lead to costly claims 

Whether you run construction sites or cocktail bars, financial services or food trucks, you can find insurance that’s specially designed for more than 1,000 types of business. We’ve teamed up with Simply Business to offer you tailored quotes from leading business insurance providers.

If you need more advice, call our partner Simply Business on 0333 016 5956**. 

**Lines are operated by our trusted partner, Simply Business. Open Mon-Fri 9am-5.30pm, Sat 9am-2pm. 

How much does public liability insurance cost?

How much you pay for your public liability insurance will depend on a number of factors, such as:

The size of your business

The bigger your company, the more you’re likely to pay.

What type of business you run

Manual labourers generally pay more than desk workers, because there’s a higher risk of damage and injury.

Your claims history

You may have to pay more if you’ve made claims in the past.

What do I need to get a quote and compare?

When you start a public liability quote with us, it’s a good idea to have some basic information about your business to hand. This includes:

  • Your trade or profession
  • Type of business (sole trader/partnership/limited company)
  • How long you’ve been in business
  • Your expected turnover for the year ahead

We’ll ask questions to make sure we have all the information we need to offer you suitable quotes. The quote process will also give you the option to include other types of business insurance, such as cover for your business equipment and premises.

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Why use Compare the Market to compare public liability insurance?

You can find public liability quotes from our specialist providers 

See quotes from a range of specialist providers

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Call our trusted partners at Simply Business for expert help on 0333 016 5956**

**Lines are operated by our trusted partner, Simply Business. Open Mon-Fri 9am-5.30pm, Sat 9am-2pm.

^^It can take less than six minutes to complete a business insurance quote through Compare the Market based on data in November 2020.

What our expert says...

“If someone takes you to court and you don’t have insurance in place, the legal costs and compensation payments can be financially crippling. Public liability insurance gives you valuable peace of mind, whatever kind of business you run.”

- Emily Kindness, Business insurance expert

What other types of insurance might my business need?

Some types of business insurance are a legal requirement, but others are optional and depend on what industry you’re in. Here are some types of business insurance you might need:

Employers’ liability insuranceyou’re legally required to have this, even if you only employ one person.

Business interruption insurance – if your business has to close due to unforeseen circumstances, this can cover lost profits.

Van insurance – if you work in construction, delivery or any other field requiring the use of a van, you’ll need to cover your business vehicle(s).

Commercial property insurance – to protect your business premises.

Business contents insurance – to protect your business equipment.

For more information, check out our guide to the different types of business insurance.

How can I check a public liability policy meets my needs?

When it comes to business insurance there’s a lot to think about, and public liability cover is no different. To help you get the policy that’s right for you, here are some things to consider:

  • Does your work involve dealing with the public? 
  • Do you have a business property the public can access? 
  • Are you covered for your specific business activities? You can get policies tailored to your industry 
  • Do you have the right amount of cover? Some industry regulators, local authorities, and clients require a minimum level 
  • Does your policy have exclusions that affect you? If so, you may need additional or specialist cover 
  • Do you employ people? Public liability insurance won’t cover you if they make a claim, and you’re legally required to take out employers’ liability insurance

Frequently asked questions

What doesn’t public liability insurance cover?

Public liability insurance doesn’t cover you for damages to your own business, nor injuries or death to either you or your employees. This type of insurance is to cover you against claims from other people. For other types of cover, you should look at taking out business insurance.

Remember that policies vary, and always read yours carefully so you know exactly what you’re covered for.

How much public liability cover do I need?

All businesses are different, so how much public liability cover you need will depend on several factors. These include how much contact you have with the public, what kind of clients you work with – for example, local authorities – and the size of your projects.

What else do I need to know about public liability insurance?

Some other things to know about public liability insurance policies: 

  • Keep an eye on your policy excess. An excess means that any claim you make won’t cover the amount you need
  • If your business situation changes (eg your company grows), be sure to update your policy so you get the extra cover you need
  • If you have staff, make sure you also have employers’ liability insurance. Not only is it a legal requirement, but if an employee makes a claim against you, you won’t be covered without it
  • Cover only lasts as long as you pay your premiums 

Is public liability insurance tax deductible?

Public liability insurance is an ‘allowable expense’. That means it’s tax deductible. Other types of business insurance are also tax deductible.

Do small businesses need public liability insurance?

You might think a small business is less likely to encounter compensation claims. But it can happen, and could leave your business financially vulnerable. To avoid this, you should consider protecting yourself with small business public liability insurance.

What is the difference between public liability and employers’ liability insurance?

Public liability insurance covers you if a member of the public suffers injury or property damage resulting from your work. If you employ staff – even if they’re temporary, students or interns – you’ll need employers’ liability insurance to cover you if they make a claim.

Does public liability insurance cover my employees’ actions

What happens if someone makes a claim against you, except it’s not you at fault, but one of your employees? Will you still be covered? The good news is that public liability insurance covers your business, so that will include your employees’ actions, too.

Do I need public liability insurance if I’m self-employed?

Whether you need public liability insurance depends on what type of business you run, rather than how many people work for you. If people visit your premises – say, you run a shop – then yes, it can make sense to cover the potential risks. Not sure if you need it? Talk to an advisor from our trusted partner, Simply Business, on 0333 016 5956**.

**Lines are operated by our trusted partner, Simply Business. Open Mon-Fri 9am-6pm, Sat 9am-2pm.