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If your business ever deals with the public, there's a chance one of them could sue you - and that's exactly what public liability insurance is there to help with
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Fact checker
Last updated
March 11th, 2024

What is public liability insurance?

Put simply, public liability insurance is there to cover you if a member of the public sues your business.

That could be anything from someone tripping over in your shop, to your business' sign falling down and hitting a passer-by.

Public liability insurance can help cover the legal fees, as well as the cost of any compensation, if anything untoward happens to a third party.

Public liability insurance is only legally mandated for businesses that hire out horses for people to ride.

For everyone else, it's optional - at least up to a point.

You may not need public liability insurance, but plenty of people will want to see proof you have this insurance before doing business with you. If your client requires you to hold public liability insurance, which you pretend to have, you could be dismissed or even sued for breach of contract.

On top of that, it's just really useful for anyone who deals with the public - either on your own premises or on home visits. No one plans to get sued, but if it happens, knowing that you won’t be saddled with a crippling legal bill is a definite plus.

Lots of businesses ask for proof of cover before signing a contract.”

How does public liability insurance work?

With public liability insurance, your insurer steps in when an unfortunate incident occurs. Your claims handler will deal with the various legal and financial woes associated with a case brought by a third party. Not only are they well versed in tackling claims, they also cover the invariably high costs.. 

Without it your business could suffer due to the various forms a claim may take. For example, a case against you could include: 

  • General damages for the pain and suffering endured

  • Loss of earnings if the claimant can’t work as a result of the injury

  • Medical and transport bills

  • Future loss of earnings  

All this can be avoided with the right policy in place, which will be one that has a high enough claims limit to cover any potential legal cases brought against you. 

Also, bear in mind that some potential clients won’t work with companies that don’t have adequate public liability insurance in place. If you’re unsure about what level of cover to select, speak to a broker or your preferred insurer.

Superscript customers with a public liability policy[1]
75%

Who needs public liability insurance?

If you own a business that interacts with customers, clients, contractors and the general public, you should consider taking out public liability insurance. This includes:

  • If you’re visited at your business premises, such as if you run a shop or dental practice

  • If you work at customers’ properties, including window cleaning or plumbing

  • If you work in public areas

It’s also worth having if you organise events or activities, whether they’re at your business premises or elsewhere, attended by members of the public.

Public liability insurance is responsible risk management for any business interacting with the public. Plus, it demonstrates a commitment to accountability and care for customers, clients or contractors.

How to choose the right public liability insurance

Cover levels

Lawsuits can be expensive so make sure your policy has the right covers and high enough limits cover in place. Think about who your customers are and where you work, and take any client requirements into account.

Policy excess

This is how much you'll have to pay out yourself when you claim on your cover. A higher excess might mean a cheaper quote, but would cost you more if someone sues you.

Cost

It's never worth paying more than you need to - so once you're sure you've got the right policy requirements, look for the cheapest quotes.

Learn more about our business insurance partner

Superscript Logo Full 2x

We qualify, quantify and offer insurance using data, analysis and technology, and we serve a wide range of business types — from dog walkers and dieticians, to landlords and locksmiths. Enro Ltd t/a Superscript is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

Why Superscript?

We make it quick and easy to find, buy and manage your business insurance.

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Customisable cover for 1000s of business types
Superscript will help you find the different types of cover that are right for your business.
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Adjust your cover as you grow
Amend your cover with no admin fees, to address your evolving needs as your business grows.
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Simple claims process
Our customer portal allows you to enter the details we need to get your claim processed.

What does public liability insurance cover?

Covered

People visiting your business premises or people you visit in the course of your work
Your customers
Your clients
People watching events you organise
People participating in events you organise

Not covered

Your staff
Your equipment
Any fines or penalties your business receives
Repair or damage costs to products you supply or work done that's faulty
Cleaning up any environmental issues resulting from mistakes by your business

How much does public liability insurance cost?

The exact price of public liability insurance depends on a fair number of factors.

If you need a larger cover limit, you can expect to pay more. Additionally, some businesses are seen as more likely to be sued than others.

Your premium costs are generally based on what your business does, how many staff you have, where you’re based, your turnover and your past claims history.


What your premium costs are generally based on:

  • What your business does 

  • How many staff you have

  • Your turnover

  • Your past claims history

  • Your health and safety record

BusinessMonthly premiums from**Monthly premiums to*
Hairdressers£4.85£10.46
Electricians£5.71£14.76
Photographers and Videographers£4.75£13.40
Builders£10.49£40.35
Beauty Therapists£4.65£8.19
Home Crafts£4.20£11.05

* Superscript -  10% of Superscript customers paid this much, or less, between October and December 2023.

** Superscript - 90% of Superscript customers paid this much between October and December 2023.

These prices should only be used as a guide. When you get a quote, it'll be tailored to your unique circumstances and risk profile – so you may be quoted a price that’s a bit higher or lower.

Price shouldn’t be your only priority. Cheaper insurance could end up costing you more if it doesn’t provide the cover you need. To get the best deal, look for insurers that allow you to tailor your policy to your needs so you're not left over-paying or under-insured.

When public liability insurance could save you

A courier trips over on the way out

A messenger or delivery driver tripping over and hurting themselves after dropping something off or picking something up could sue for personal injury.

A customer visiting you gets hurt

If a customer injures themselves while on your premises they could also sue for personal injury.

A passer by is hit when your sign falls over

If your stall or a sign from your business falls over in the wind, hitting a passer-by or damaging their vehicle - they could sue you.

You or an employee spills paint during a job

If you're working in a customer's home and knock a can of your paint over, public liability insurance could pay for their carpet to be replaced.

A client hurts themselves at one of your events

You've organised a group quad-biking session for a business client, and one of the participants breaks a leg after a collision.

You spill coffee during a meeting

You're at a meeting in a cafe with a potential client and spill coffee over their laptop. Public liability cover could pay to replace it, as well as any lost earnings the client suffers as a result.

When public liability insurance could save you

A courier trips over on the way out

A messenger or delivery driver tripping over and hurting themselves after dropping something off or picking something up could sue for personal injury.

A customer visiting you gets hurt

If a customer injures themselves while on your premises they could also sue for personal injury.

A passer by is hit when your sign falls over

If your stall or a sign from your business falls over in the wind, hitting a passer-by or damaging their vehicle - they could sue you.

You or an employee spills paint during a job

If you're working in a customer's home and knock a can of your paint over, public liability insurance could pay for their carpet to be replaced.

A client hurts themselves at one of your events

You've organised a group quad-biking session for a business client, and one of the participants breaks a leg after a collision.

You spill coffee during a meeting

You're at a meeting in a cafe with a potential client and spill coffee over their laptop. Public liability cover could pay to replace it, as well as any lost earnings the client suffers as a result.

When public liability insurance won't cut it

While you get a lot of protections from public liability insurance - you might well need other cover to make sure your business is fully protected. Here are some of the other key products:

Employer's liability insurance

If you have staff who aren’t immediate family members – even if they’re interns or temps - you must have employers liability insurance. Without it you're not just breaking the law, you also have no protection if something happens to one of them and they sue.

Professional indemnity insurance

Public liability protects against injury or property damage claims. However, professional indemnity insurance covers you for losses or damage as a result of poor services or bad advice to clients.

Goods in transit insurance

If you sell to people, or move things for them, goods in transit insurance protects your business if someone claims against you if goods you supply are damaged, stolen or lost while being transported to them.

FAQs

Can I be sued for accidents that are not my fault?

Anyone can sue you, yet a valid claim should only be upheld if you’re to blame for it. The problem is that the term "blame" can be wider than you might think. That can make it rather complicated. 

If you're not sure about the merit of a claim, it's best to get in touch with your insurers to see what they think.

Do I have to pay to make a public liability insurance claim?

You’ll typically need to pay an excess for successful claims on your public liability policy. The amount can vary depending on factors, including your premiums, the nature of the claim, and your insurer.

Will public liability insurance cover me if I need to visit a client?

Yes, public liability insurance covers you both on site and when you visit other premises in your business capacity.

What limit of cover does my business need?

It depends on the nature of your business and how often you visit clients or have them visit you. You may want to speak to a broker who can advise you on what you need. Some clients will also specify a minimum amount of cover to do business with you.

Does it cost to claim on public liability insurance?

Yes, you will need to pay an excess for any claim made on your public liability policy.

Will public liability insurance cover injuries to employees?

No, you’ll need employers’ liability insurance if you have anyone other than immediate family members working for you. Employees based abroad are also exempt.

Can I get public liability cover if I am self-employed?

Yes, you can get cover if you’re a sole trader or run a small business.

Do I legally need to have public liability insurance?

No, but it provides valuable cover if your business is sued for causing injury, illness or death to a third party, or damage to their property.

Is it cheaper to pay for my public liability insurance policy up front in full?

Insurers have traditionally charged interest on monthly direct debits, making it cheaper to pay for your policy annually. But some insurers offer monthly payment options at no extra cost, giving you more flexibility and choice. It’s best to check the terms and conditions to make sure you’re clear on whether interest is added or not.

How are public liability and professional indemnity different?

Public liability covers physical damage caused by your work, like injuries or property damage. Professional indemnity covers clients' financial losses.

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About the author

Lucinda O'Brien
Lucinda O'Brien has spent the past 10 years writing and editing content for regional and national titles. She applies her industry knowledge to ensure readers can make confident financial decisions.

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References

1. Superscript Public Liability Claim Statistics, between October and December 2023