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Builders' public liability insurance

Builders' insurance

Work in the construction industry? Find out everything you need to know about public liability insurance and other business insurance for builders.

What is public liability insurance for builders?

Construction is a hazardous industry, and you’ll want to protect yourself and the public if something goes wrong. If someone makes a claim against you, public liability insurance offers you protection, that could cover your legal costs and any compensation you might need to pay.   
Public liability insurance isn’t a legal requirement for businesses in the UK. But if you don't have it and someone makes a claim against you, the impact on you and your business could be hugely damaging.  

Accidents can happen, even if you have strict health and safety procedures in place. And public liability insurance can help protect your business from more than just financial costs – it can be vital when for getting securing new contracts.

  • Public liability insurance can be an essential requirement for potential customers – some won’t consider using you for building work without it. Local authorities usually ask for a minimum cover level of £5 million before you can tender for work.
  • Subcontractors without public liability insurance could lose out on valuable contracts from contractors who consider it an essential requirement and won't work with you unless you have it.

What will public liability insurance cover?

If you’re responsible for causing personal injury to clients or members of the public, or for damaging their property, public liability insurance could cover any resulting legal costs, medical expenses or compensation, as well as the cost of any repairs.

As a builder, you’ll often be working in close proximity with the public, on public and private property, so it’s not just you and your employees who are at risk if accidents happen.

Here are just a few examples of when public liability insurance could be invaluable:

  • the scaffolding you’re working on falls down and injures a passerby, and they decide to claim compensation
  • you’re demolishing a wall and some of the brickwork falls onto and crushes a nearby parked car
  • your work weakens the structure of a building and, as a result, a ceiling or wall collapses inflicting injury.

What will builders’ public liability insurance not cover?

This type of cover is specifically for damage or injury to the public or to their property, so you can’t claim for any accidents or injuries that you or your employees suffer. And if you do have employees, remember that it’s a legal requirement to have employers’ liability insurance - the fines can be extremely high if you don’t.  
Similarly, builders’ public liability insurance won’t cover you for any damage to your own property or business premises, or to your own tools and equipment – you’ll need extra cover for that.  
Public liability insurance cover can vary, so you should always check the policy terms carefully to see what you’re covered for and what’s excluded.   

What other types of business insurance might I need?

Employers’ liability insurance
You’re legally required to have this insurance even if you employ just one person. 
Business interruption insurance
To help compensate you for loss of profits if your business is unable to operate for an unexpected reason. 
Business life insurance 
Insurance designed to help your business carry on if something happens to you or the key people in your business. 
Personal accident cover 
Pays out a lump sum if an accident at work means you or an employee are permanently unable to work. 
Professional indemnity insurance 
Covers you for claims resulting from negligence.  
Van insurance
Your van is an essential tool of your trade – van insurance can help protect it.  
Commercial property insurance 
Protect your business premises. 
Business contents insurance 
Protect your business equipment. 
Tools and equipment 
Covers the tools and equipment you need to do your job from theft, loss or damage. 
Legal expenses cover 
To help you pay legal costs for employment and property disputes,  or tax investigations, for example. 
Product liability insurance 
Covers you if a product you supply or manufacture causes injury or damage to property. 
Home office insurance 
The insurance you need when you run your business from your home. 

Frequently asked questions

When might someone make a claim against me?

There are lots of situations when builders might find themselves facing a claim. For example: 

  • If a member of the public is injured or even killed as a result of your work. This could happen if equipment is left on a path and someone trips over it.  
  • If your work damages someone else’s property. You might put a ladder through someone’s window or scratch and dent their car. 

How much cover should I get?

That’s up to you and depends on the size of your business. A small to medium-sized business might get cover from between £1 million and £10 million. The higher your cover, the higher your premium will be, but it’s generally better to have too much cover than not enough.

What if I’m self-employed?

If you're registered as a sole trader, you'll need to get your own public liability insurance.

Ideally, you should also consider taking out additional insurance to protect your income or business if something happens to you. You might want to consider:

Do builders need employers’ liability cover?

If you employ anyone, other than yourself and family members, then it’s a legal requirement to have employers’ liability cover. This could cover you for compensation claims if your employee suffers an injury or illness as a result of working for you.

Many construction site workers are killed or suffer ill health as a result of their work, according to the Health and Safety Executive – so this type of cover makes sense. With 30 fatal injuries to workers and 69,000 non-fatal injuries to workers a year, protecting the financial future of your business is vital.

And once your policy is in place, be sure to check the latest health and safety requirements to ensure both you and your employees remain safe, as well as ensuring your insurance remains valid.

How can I protect my equipment?

Even the smallest construction company will own a huge array of tools and equipment, which will be expensive to replace if they’re stolen or damaged. The right tool and equipment insurance will protect you should that happen.  

If you transport your tools in your van, you’ll also want to make sure they’re covered by your commercial van insurance.

What if I’m working on a big job? Do I need extra insurance?

If you’re working on a large refurbishment, you might want to consider contract works insurance. It's designed to cover work in progress on a building site. This could protect you if you need to restart the job due to theft, fire, flooding, a storm or malicious damage. For example, if you had part-built a wall and a storm blew it over, contract works insurance could cover the cost of redoing the work, the cost of materials, labour and tools to put back the situation to how it was before the incident happened.

However, it won't cover damage to any existing structures on the site. So, for example, if you’re building a new extension and there's a flood, it could cover the extension you’re building but any damage to the main house should be covered by the homeowner’s buildings insurance.

How can I compare builders’ insurance quotes?

At Compare the Market, you can save time and money by comparing and buying the right cover for you and your business. And it's easy to do. Simply answer a few questions about your business and we'll pull together some quotes.

How much does builders’ public liability insurance cost?

The premiums you pay for public liability insurance depend on the level of cover you need, and whether you need any extra cover. Policies will have a cap on the maximum amount they’ll pay out for a claim – called an indemnity limit. Typically, the higher the limit, the higher the premiums you’ll pay.  
You could save on your premiums by opting to pay a higher excess, but that will mean you’ll need to pay more towards a claim, so make sure you can afford to do that.  
Remember that it’s not necessarily the cheapest policy that’s best – you want to find the right level of cover for your business.  

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What do I need to get a quote?

To start comparing builders’ public liability insurance you’ll need to give us the following information: 

  • Your company name and address 
  • Details of your industry 
  • Whether you’re a limited company, a partnership or a sole trader 
  • Information about your employees and any contractors you use 
  • The annual turnover of your company 
  • The level of cover you need and any additional cover you’d like to include 

We’ll also need a few personal details from you, unless you’ve compared with us before, in which case we’ll fill those in for you.  

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Why use Compare the Market?

We compare prices from 14 business insurance provider products**

93.3% of our users would recommend us to friends or family*** 

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**For the period 1st June 2020 to 31st August 2020, 10,731 people responded to the recommend question. 10,011 responded with a score of 6 or above, therefore 93.3% are likely to recommend.

***Correct as of September 2020.

****On average it can take less than 7 minutes to complete an SME quote through Compare the Market based on data in September 2020.

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Emily Kindness

Business insurance expert

What our expert says 

“If you accidentally injure a member of the public when you’re working, or damage their property, you could end up with a huge claim for compensation and legal fees. Public liability insurance can give you the peace of mind that an accident needn’t put you out of business.”

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