Protect your business against costly legal claims from third parties for injury and property damage with public liability insurance
Public liability insurance offers financial protection for you and your business if you are found legally responsible for personal injury to a third party or damage to their property. This can ensure you are covered for any costly legal fees as well as your obligation to cover damages or injuries that you have caused. A public liability insurance policy can extend to provide cover for other members of your business including staff, employees, directors and other partners carrying out activities for the business.
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What's in this guide?
This guide will explore the ins and outs of public liability insurance, looking specifically at what is and isn't covered and how it is different to other forms of cover.
How does public liability work?
Do you need cover?
What is and isn't covered by public liability insurance ?
While cover between companies may vary, policies will generally include cover for:
- 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
- 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.
- Choose your level 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.
- Loss of goods in possession or legal control: Provides cover for loss of, loss of use of goods that are not owned by the insured but are in their possession and legal control, as though it were Damage to the Property
- 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.
Although the list of general exclusions on a public liability insurance policy differs between insurers, 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 is 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 is for damage to property you own or that is in your care, except for certain items such as vehicles and business premises
- It arises due to the use of a vehicle
- It relates to the cost of recalling, withdrawing, replacing or repairing products, or making a refund on the price paid for products
- It is for certain types of advertising liability, for example a mistake in the advertised price of a product or service
- It is for any liability or obligation that you assume under contract or agreement
- It is caused by a deliberate act or omission by you or any employee
- It results due to electromagnetic fields or electromagnetic interference
- It results from your internet operations
- It is for damage to computer data or programs caused by the use of any computer hardware of software
- It is 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 is caused by any breach of professional duty by you
- It results due to an act of war or terrorism
How is public liability different to product liability insurance?
Product liability is generally available as additional cover option to public liability and provides cover for claims arising from injury or damage caused by the use of a product provided by your business.
How is a product defined?
A product is a tangible good that was either sold, supplied, maintained or modified by your business. Claims can be made if the product has a safety defect and it's safety is different to what the community generally expect the product to do.
How is public liability insurance different to professional indemnity insurance?
|Professional Indemnity Insurance||Public Liability Insurance|
Public liability insurance in action
John is the proud owner of a garden supplies store and nursery in Sydney’s northwest. One Saturday morning during the store’s busiest trading hour of the week, a customer slipped on wet floor in the store, fracturing his collarbone and dislocating his shoulder.
The injured customer, who works as a self-employed tradesman, was unable to return to work for three months and launched legal action against John’s Garden Supplies, claiming damages of $50,000.
Luckily, John has public liability insurance cover in place to cover the $5,000 needed for his legal defence costs. The claim is eventually settled out of court for a total of $35,000, all of which is covered by John’s public liability insurance provider.
|Scenario||Public liability||Professional indemnity||Product liability|
|Customer slips in the store.||Covered||Not covered||Not covered|
|John offers landscaping services, but his employee gives incorrect advice which results in a customer damaging their home.||Not covered||Covered||Not covered|
|Customer buys a product from John's store and is injured because there are poor instructions.||Not covered||Not covered||Covered (for the manufacturer of the item).|
Can I combine these under one policy?
Professional indemnity insurance covers the professional and his or her actions but does not provide cover for an accident that may take place on the professional’s premises when a customer is present. The professional will have to purchase public liability insurance cover as part of his or her full insurance package.
Public liability insurance has the benefit of covering a business for all possible claims that may occur due to injury or damage to a third party’s property on the business’s premises. It is a crucial consideration to those businesses that involve direct contact with members of the public whether it is through the provision of a service or the selling of a tangible product. Supermarkets, manicurists, tattooists, doctors and dentists are just a few businesses that invite the public onto their property as the main part of their business operations.
Legal costs when fighting a case are often covered by public liability insurance too as negligence has to be proven beyond doubt before a compensation claim is awarded so often the business requires a defence lawyer to ensure that the business gets a fair hearing.
When deciding if your business could cope without public liability insurance, there are some key questions to ask when considering the immediate and consequential losses that may occur as a result.
- In the event of a claim, would I be able to cover the legal expenses that may be occurred? Court and lawyer fees can add up extremely quickly.
- How might your business suffer if you were forced to take time out of work frequently to attend court hearings? Would you be required to hire alternate staff to step in for you while you were absent?
- In the event that you were found liable for damages, would you be able to rely on capital that your business had saved to cover losses?
- In the event that you were required to close your business temporarily, would you be able to handle potential losses sustained from clients taking their business elsewhere?
- Could you afford to loose staff if you were no longer able to cover their wages?
As a general rule, public liability insurance is not compulsory for businesses in Australia. However, certain types of businesses have their own unique requirements when it comes to public liability cover. In many Australian states, trades that operate under a license issued by the state government, for example electricians and plumbers, have mandatory public liability insurance requirements that must be met. Other businesses may also need to consider public liability requirements imposed by industry bodies.
In addition, a business’ landlord may require them to have a certain level of public liability insurance cover in place in order to be allowed to operate their business out of certain premises. On a similar note, if you’re a tradie employed as a subcontractor, you may need insurance cover in order to access certain work sites. However, such requirements are usually contained in individual contracts rather than being required under a particular law.
Public liability insurance will only cover the insured parties that have been listed in the policy. This is usually defined as:
- The business that has been nominated for the work
- The company directors of the business
- The business employees
- Partners of the business
- Contract workers will generally be required to take out their own form of protection in order to be eligible to work on the building site.
Regardless of business size, public liability insurance is suitable if the business has a physical premise. Small businesses that fall into this category include:
- Clothing shops
- Retail shops
- A gym
Comparing and selecting cover
How much does public liability insurance cost?
As with most insurance packages, how much public liability insurance will cost will depend on any potential risks associated with outsiders who use the premises. The cost of cover can range from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars per year depending on the nature of the business.
Factors considered by insurers when determining public liability insurance premiums:
- Nature of the business provided: This will involve looking at the type of activities the business undertakes. An insurer will review past claims data and go to great lengths researching different occupations and business types. For example, the risk of liability arising for personal injury or property damage may be higher on a construction site than in a retail store. Nature of the business provided will have the largest impact on the cost of the public liability insurance.
- Size of the business: A larger business with more employees is likely to face an increased number of risks to smaller businesses. Insurers will consider the annual turnover of the business and average number of staff.
- Location of business activities: Businesses that regularly carry out business in environments that have an increased likelihood of a claim arising can expect to pay higher for cover. Such high-risk environments may include airports, construction sites, railway stations and mine sites.
Is Public Liability Insurance Tax Deductible?
One important consideration when choosing the right business insurance policy is whether or not your premiums will be tax deductible. As a general rule, you can claim your business insurance premiums as a tax deduction if they are directly related to your ability to earn an assessable income.
With this in mind, public liability insurance premiums are 100 per cent tax deductible. If you purchased your policy direct from an insurer, the insurer will provide you with a tax invoice each year that you can keep for your records. This invoice will come via your insurance broker if you purchased through a broker.
What should I look for when comparing public liability insurance policies?
It is important to ensure that the insurance product is not simply cheap but good value for money. Not all insurance providers calculate their products in the same way so it’s crucial to find one that exactly fits the business’s needs. Using a broker often means that it is quicker to get quotes from different insurance providers.
Each insurer will have a maximum amount of cover that they will pay for claims made against the insured. This can vary depending on the type of liability that the claim is being made for.
Excess to be paid by the policy owner for claims can vary greatly between insurers. It is essential the policyholder is fully aware of what they may pay in the event of a claim.
Level of Cover
Obviously the level of cover provided through the built-in and additional options is a major factor for policyholders to consider when comparing different policies. It is also worth considering how the addition of optional benefits will impact the cost of the cover.
Each policy will have its own set of exclusions for when a claim will not be paid. These can vary widely between providers so it is critical that anyone taking out cover take the time to review these exclusions.
Similarly to exclusions, each policy will have its own set of conditions around things such as:
- Benefit payments
- Policy adjustment
- Policy cancellation
- Claims conditions
- Cross liability
Can I get public liability for a market store?Back to top
Some final questions you might have
What level of public liability coverage should I buy?
The indemnity limit has to be chosen on the level of risk your business is taking every day. For some industries, there are minimum levels, normally around $5,000,000.
Is public liability insurance mandatory?
It depends on the state. You should check with your state insurance commission whether your business should have mandatory public liability insurance. However, employers’ liability insurance is required by many states.
Does it cover staff and employees?
Yes, but in most cases subcontractors are not covered.
Does it cover tradesmen?
Yes, as it is one of the biggest segments of the market.
Can it be paid monthly?
Yes, you can pay it in monthly instalments.
Does Public Liability Insurance cover defective work?
Yes. Defective or faulty work can be covered, however only certain costs are eligible for cover. Generally the damages and injury incurred from the faulty work will be covered but there is no cover for the additional costs incurred for rectifying the defective work.
What is Broadform Public Liability Insurance?
Broadform Public Liability Insurance is the term given to policies that provide cover for both Public Liability and Product Liability. Not all policies will automatically cover both product and public liability so it is crucial to check the policy terms when signing up for cover.
How much cover can you take out?
Generally, when you decide to buy public liability insurance, you decide the amount to insure, the so-called limit of indemnity, depending on the possible damage you could cause. This limit is usually set over $500,000 or $1,000,000.
Public liability insurance coverage depends on the damage request of a third party. If the court or the judge states that you are accountable for financial compensation, this policy can cover all the claims up to the limit of indemnity.
Does Public Liability Insurance cover accidental damage?
Yes. Public Liability Insurance will generally provide cover for accidental damage to property that is owned or controlled by a third party.
Can I get Public Liability Insurance for a one off event?
Yes. There are a number of specialist insurers that offer Public Liability Insurance for one off events. Most larger insurance brands will not provide cover for single days/events but can extend cover to include additional cover that may be required for these events.
Should I work with a broker to apply for cover?
Finding the right policy to give adequate public liability cover for your business is no easy task. Failure to determine an appropriate level of cover can have devastating impacts on a business. This leads many businesses to enlist the services of a broker to help them find an appropriate cover option. Generally, a broker will:
- Provide risk management advice based on the nature of the insured’s business by conducting an analysis of a business’s risks and suggest ways that these risk factors can be minimised
- Provide a quote for the business and offer recommendations on available insurance products
- Help the business determine an adequate level of cover based on the risk of liability they face through the provision of their services
- Provide advice on the different product features and exclusions that the insured should be aware of
- Once an insurance package has been selected, the insurance broker can finalise and provide the paperwork for the insurance product
- If at any time a claim is made against the business this will be followed up by the insurance broker from the commencement of the claim to its closing stage
Can contact workers take out Public Liability cover?
When you’re a contract worker, public liability insurance offers many potential benefits. As a contractor, you run your own business and can be held legally responsible for your own actions, so you need to have an adequate level of financial protection in place if any claims are brought against you. Similarly, if you’re a subcontractor, you probably won’t be covered by the main contractor’s insurance policy, so public liability cover is an important consideration.
Without public liability insurance in place, the financial consequences of a claim made against you could be disastrous. The good news is that it’s quite easy for contract workers to take out cover. Shop around for an insurer that allows you to tailor a policy to suit the specific cover needs of your business, and take advantage of the financial protection and peace of mind that this type of cover offers.