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Public Liability Insurance in Australia

No matter what industry you work in, getting public liability insurance should be at the top of your checklist.

What you need to know

  • Public liability insurance protects you and your business from serious financial repercussions.
  • Whether you are in the construction business or run a small motel, the risk of injuring someone or damaging their property should not be ignored.
  • Public liability insurance can cover compensation costs, legal fees, medical costs and more.

Compare business liability insurance

Name Product Personal injury Public liability Legal costs Levels of cover
QBE Business Liability
$5 million
$10 million
$20 million
Elders Business Liability
$20 million
Hollard Commercial Insurance Public and Products Liability Cover
Hollard Commercial Insurance Public and Products Liability Cover
Not stated
RelyOn Public Liability Insurance
RelyOn Public Liability Insurance
$5 Million
$10 Million
$20 Million

What is public liability insurance?

Public liability insurance is a type of cover that protects you if your business becomes legally liable if someone is injured or their property is damaged.

It refers to damages from the physical surroundings and physical property rather than damages from services you provide. For example, it will cover you if someone slips and falls on your property, but not if you splash bleach into their eye while dyeing their hair.

What costs are covered?

  • If approved, your public liability claim will cover what you owe the person suing you, plus your legal fees.

What does public liability insurance cover?

Public liability insurance will generally cover you for the following:

  • Legal liability. Public liability insurance provides cover when a court finds that you are legally responsible to pay damages and additional costs for: damage to someone else's property, personal injury to someone else, and advertising liability
    • Legal costs. If a legal liability claim is made against you, your public liability policy will cover the costs incurred in your legal defence.
    • Differing levels of cover. Many insurers will offer you a choice of the maximum level of cover, for example $5 million, $10 million or $20 million.
    • Property in your care.You may be able to take out additional cover for damage to property in your care, custody or control. Covered items include personal belongings, temporarily occupied or leased premises and vehicles in a car park.
    • Cover for other people. Public liability will not only include you but any director, business partner, executive officer, shareholder or employee.
  • Cover for other activities. Many policies will allow you to extend cover beyond your normal business activities to include the provision of sports and child care facilities, first aid and ambulance services, and the provision of food and beverages to employees and visitors.
  • Products liability. Some policies will also include products liability cover for injury or damage caused by your products.
  • Damage to goods in possession or legal control. Provides cover for physical damage to goods that are not owned by the insured but are in their possession or legal control.
  • First aid expenses. Provides cover for expenses incurred by the insured for first aid given to other parties at the time of an injury.

Note: Professional indemnity insurance is offered by insurers in conjunction with public liability insurance.

Who needs public liability insurance?

After workers compensation, public liability insurance is one of the foundational forms of cover that very few occupations can afford to go without. It's not mandatory in most cases, but lawsuits of this sort can affect almost any type of business and leave you owing large sums of money.

Almost all businesses would benefit from public liability cover. Regardless of business size, public liability insurance is suitable if the business has a physical premise or operates in public (such as a mobile business). Here are some obvious examples:

  • Retail. Grocery stores, book shops and department stores have physical locations with lots of foot traffic, increasing the chances of someone getting injured.
  • Health and beauty. Gyms, physical therapy centres and hair salons also bring the public into their premises. Even solo professionals may need public liability if they carry equipment that could damage or injure a member of the public.
  • Hospitality. Restaurants, bars, clubs and cafes bring in lots of people while also creating a fast-paced environment where injuries are more likely.
  • The trades. Any business or independent contractor operating on a work site would benefit from public liability insurance, and in some cases are required by law or by contract to have it.
  • Entertainment.. e.g. dancers, performers, event organisers, etc.
  • Real estate. e.g. Landlords, strata management etc.

It's important to remember that public liability will protect business in these industries if they cause injuries or damage that are not related to the professional service provided.

How do I compare public liability insurance policies?

There's a lot more to business insurance than just public liability. You can speak to a broker or get quotes from different insurers to find what cover you need, at a price that makes sense for you.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself as you mull your options:

Does the insurer offer other products you need for your business? There are dozens of cover types a business might need beyond just public liability, and those business are better off going with someone who offers the whole package. It's more efficient, you might receive a discount and you can be comfortable knowing you're with an insurer who has a holistic view of your business risks.

What will your out-of-pocket costs be? Whenever your claim is approved, you'll almost always have to pay a small portion of the payout yourself and the insurer will cover the rest up to the insured amount. This is your excess. All else being equal, the policy with the higher excess will be the worse deal.

What will your payout be? If you need to make a claim, your insurer will have a limit on what they will pay out. The higher the benefit limit, the better for you. So make sure you take this into consideration when comparing policies

What's included? Not every policy will cover every instance of liability. For example, one policy may only cover you if the damage occurred on your property. Others will extend this to include damage you cause elsewhere, such as on house calls. Don't buy a cheaper policy over a more expensive one until you are sure it includes the cover you need.

Is anything excluded? Every policy has a list of reasons they won't pay your claim. For example, most won't pay for damage related to asbestos, and most won't pay your claim if you've done something illegal that caused the damage or injury. When comparing policies, make sure you can live with your chosen policy's exclusions.

How much does public liability insurance cost?

The average small business owner can expect to pay about $80.75 per month in public liability insurance. But you can expect costs to go up to over $600 if your business is considered high-risk. Finder took a look at two industries - food and construction - with a different number of employees to get a gauge on how much it costs to get cover. Here were the results:

Estimated Annual revenue$200,000$400,000$500,000$1,000,000
Insurer 1$60.61$64.56$346.09$670.79
Insurer 2$60.87$69.19n/an/a
Insurer 3$144.41$230.79n/an/a
Average cost (per month)$88.63$121.51$346.09$670.79

Quotes were taken from BizCover's Insurance engine in March 2018. All policies have an excess of $500.

What affects the cost of public liability insurance?

Here's what an insurer will generally take into consideration when coming up with your premium:

  • What your business does. Some businesses simply attract more risk than others. For example, the risk of injury or damage on a construction site will be higher than that of a retail store. Insurers will analyse what you do, compare this to past claims in that industry and factor this into your premium.
  • How big your business is. The larger the business, the higher the risk of injury or damage. For example, a sole trader (which makes up some 1.3 million businesses in Australia) or a company with just one employee could expect to keep its costs to a minimum, well below $100 per month. But when a small business enters the "10 to 19" employees category, the cost of the monthly premiums could skyrocket to an average of over $1,5001.
  • Your business location. You can expect a higher premium if your business is in a high-risk location, such as an airport, construction site, railway station or mine site.
  • The structure of your policy. You can affect the price of your policy by choosing a higher or lower excess or higher or lower benefit limits.

What's not covered by a public liability insurance policy?

There are two very important features that public liability insurance does not cover you for. These are:

  • Negligence in your service. This is covered by professional indemnity insurance (e.g. cover if you incorrectly install a kitchen sink)
  • Injuries to your employees. This is covered by workers compensation (e.g cover for injuries, illnesses in the workplace)

General exclusions

Every policy also has a list of general exclusions. These may differs between insurers, but your claim will typically not be paid if:

  • It relates to asbestos
  • It relates to your responsibility to injured workers (workers compensation)
  • It relates to punitive damages
  • It's caused by the operation, possession or use of an aircraft or watercraft
  • It arises due to defective work done or undertaken by you
  • It relates to products liability
  • It's for damage to property you own or that is in your care, except for vehicles and business premises
  • It arises due to the use of a vehicle
  • It relates to the cost of recalling, withdrawing, replacing, repairing, or refunding products
  • It's for certain types of advertising liability, for example a mistake in the advertised price of a product or service
  • It's for any liability or obligation that you assume under contract or agreement
  • It's caused by a deliberate act or omission by you or any employee
  • It's caused by electromagnetic fields or electromagnetic interference
  • It results from your Internet operations
  • It's for damage to computer data or programs caused by the use of any computer hardware of software
  • It's caused by a claim of defamation brought against you
  • It arises from the communication, display, distribution or publication of electronic data
  • It arises from the total or partial destruction, erasure or corruption of electronic data
  • It's caused by any breach of professional duty by you
  • It results from an act of war or terrorism

To find out exactly what is not covered, read the general exclusions of the product disclosure statement (PDS).

Talk to a broker about public liability insurance

Frequently asked questions

Written by

Gary Ross Hunter

Gary Ross Hunter is an editor at Finder, specialising in insurance. He’s been writing about life, travel, home, car, pet and health insurance for over 6 years and regularly appears as an insurance expert in publications including The Sydney Morning Herald, The Guardian and Gary holds a Kaplan Tier 2 General Advice General Insurance certification which meets the requirements of ASIC Regulatory Guide 146 (RG146). See full profile

More guides on Finder

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    If you run a cleaning business or if you run cleaning services as a sole trader then you'll need the right business insurance. Find out more.

  • Event Insurance

    Does your business run events? Public liability insurance is an important step for both one-day and regular events.

  • Market Stall Insurance

    In order to find the right level of public liability cover assess the risks your business faces to determine just how much cover you need. Compare the benefits, limits and exclusions of a number of policies, while it’s also a good idea to obtain multiple quotes from competing insurers.

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18 Responses

    Default Gravatar
    SandraFebruary 8, 2018

    I have a group meeting once a month in local church hall and are required to have public liability by the Diocese……can you help?

      Default Gravatar
      AshMarch 1, 2018

      Hi Sandra,

      Thank you for reaching out to us.

      Public liability insurance will give assurance to the Church that the costs of any property damage if that has occurred through the negligence of the third party using the premises, will be covered. To get a sample quotation for the Public liability insurance, please submit your details via the form on the public liability insurance page, a business insurance broker will be in touch to discuss the different options available and provide you with a quote. This service is provided free of charge and there is absolutely no obligation to sign up for a policy.

      Please ensure that you read through the relevant Product Disclosure Statements/Terms and Conditions before you sign up for a policy.

      I hope this helps.

      Please do not hesitate to reach out to us again if you have additional questions.


    Default Gravatar
    MollyJuly 12, 2017

    Hi, I have a dilemma and cannot find a satisfying solution to. I work as an Educator in my own home.
    I am registered with the gov’t and come under the Family day care Scheme. This is my 9th year and my only working hours are from 7am -9am ( 2 HOURS ONLY ) ( Mon – Fri ) aka known as before school care. No one is interested in pro -rata. They insist I pay the same as other educators who do 10 hours a day. I make a measly $15.000 per year ( Hardly rolling in it ) Is there another option for me. Can you help please?
    Thank you & kind regards

      Default Gravatar
      JonathanJuly 16, 2017

      Hello Molly,

      Thank you for the comment. :)

      We understand that paying the same premiums with full-time counterparts can be challenging. :(

      We suggest that you consult your concern with your local insurance commission to determine if it’s required to have cover in your employment conditions and what options you have under your present circumstances.

      In case you’ll be allowed to take your own cover, you may send your details to a broker so that they can give you personalized services on getting the right quote.

      Hope this helps.


    Default Gravatar
    TracyMay 4, 2017

    hi, my name is Tracy and I am after public liability insurance for my wedding styling, hiring service company.

    Could you please provide me with some quotes??


      ZubairMay 5, 2017Finder

      Hi Tracy,

      Thank you for your inquiry.

      You have contacted, a comparison and information service and not actually an insurer.

      You can receive a quote for public liability insurance by entering your details into the enquiry form on the top of this page. Once you have done so an adviser will be in touch to discuss your policy options. This service is provided free of charge and there is absolutely no obligation to sign up for a policy.


    Default Gravatar
    HarjeetMarch 1, 2017

    I’m looking public liability insurance for my taxi

      ZubairMarch 2, 2017Finder

      Hi Harjeet,

      Thank you for your question. is a comparison and information service and not actually an insurer. To get a quote for public liability insurance for your taxi, it would be best to reach out to an advisor through the inquiry form who will take all your circumstances into account and offer you a range of insurance options through insurers in our panel.


    Default Gravatar
    BillJuly 17, 2016

    How much would it cost for Public Liability cover for the amount of 5 million

      RichardJuly 19, 2016Finder

      Hi Bill,

      Thanks for your question.

      To speak with an advisor about getting a quote, please complete the quote form above and a broker will be in touch with your personalised quote.

      All the best,

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