The Business Insurance Bureau

Public Liability

"I left the blow torch on for a moment and took the phone call..."

What is Public Liability Insurance?

Having been in this industry for over 40 years, we understand the risks you face, whether you are a small newsagent or a global manufacturer, the risks are relatively similar from an insurance perspective. 

Public liability insurance is about the people who are not employed by your  business, and covers your legal liability to compensate third parties for personal injury, loss of or damage to property, e.g. a punter slips on the floor of your shop. 

Primarily, the policy covers risks relating to the premises and activities of the business. Unlike Employers Liability, this type of cover is not compulsory but is highly advised and is often a pre-requisite in trading with other organisations.

public liability insurance

What's Covered?

Limit of Indemnity

This is normally expressed as an amount for any one occurrence but unlimited in any one period of insurance. The limit of indemnity would be inclusive of claimant’s The limit of indemnity would be inclusive of claimants costs (incurred with insurers consent) and legal expenses.

Territorial Limits

Great Britain, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man. Non–manual workers are covered for offshore installations in territorial waters around Great Britain and its continental shelf. Cover is also provided for elsewhere in the world for non-manual activities whilst the employee is on a temporary visit or journey.  Insurers may insist upon a UK jurisdiction clause in these circumstances and any action be brought in the UK.

Your Duty

The business description should fully describe all the activities. Any changes in the risk must be notified immediately. Ensure that the limits of indemnity are adequate. Any significant increases in turnover or wage roll must be reported to insurers. Some policies work on a ‘head count’ basis and limit the number of employees/operatives covered. Make sure this is accurate and constantly updated. 

All claims or potential claims must be reported immediately. You should never admit liability or attempt to deal with any third party without your insurers consent.

Frequently Asked Questions

No, but it is strongly advised to have in place. Public Liability insurance isn’t required by law in Great Britain, Northern Ireland the Channel Isles or the Isle of Man – other than in some rare circumstances. When it comes to trade business insurance, the only insurance that is required by law is Employers’ Liability insurance (if you have employees). 

If you run a business where the actions of you, your employees or sub-contractors could cause damage or injury to people or property, then Public Liability insurance should be at the top of your list of priorities to get. 

The precise amount of cover that you should buy will be determined by your specific circumstances, and the insurances needs of businesses vary from one to the next. Let’s take it step by step.

  • Firstly, some contracts require you to have Public Liability insurance, and may stipulate a minimum level. You should check any paperwork before undertaking a contract, to be sure that you have the minimum required.
  • Secondly, certain employers, such as local and central government can have minimum levels of cover that they require of contractors and sub-contractors, so you should check this out.
  • Thirdly, some trade associations and bodies require that their members have public liability, and that this is held to a certain level. If you’re a member of a trade association, you should consider checking to see if any requirements are stipulated.
  • Finally, you need to consider the nature of your business, what it does, where it operates and how many employees and trainees it has. Each of these factors has an impact on how likely it is that things go wrong, and that you could be sued.

Our policy for tradespeople covers a range of business types including Sole Traders, Partnerships, Limited Liability Partnerships and Limited Companies.

Providing an exact definition for a bona sub-contractor is not straightforward, but if you can answer “yes” to most of these questions, the worker is probably a bona fide sub-contractor:

  • Do they agree to do the job for a fixed price, regardless of how long the job may take?
  • Do they supply the materials at their own cost?
  • Do they hold their own public liability insurance?
  • Can they hire someone to do the work, or engage helpers at their own expense?
  • Within an overall deadline, can they decide what work to do, and how and when to do the work?

Looking at the questions above, to some extent, it boils down to the level of decision making and autonomy that the worker has. Bona-fide sub-contractors are generally deemed to be contractors who work without direction from the Insured, hold their own insurance and usually provide their own materials and tools.

If you are able to provide us with all the necessary information and provide payment for your policy you will be instantly covered and full documentation will be dispatched immediately. You will not be covered if you have only obtained a quote from us.

This depends on the type of insurance policy you have. Please read your policy geographical limits or call us to confirm.

We can extend the cover to include cover against Terrorism if required. UK Insurers exclude Terrorism from the policy cover then buy it back from a specialist Terrorism reinsurance market on your behalf only if required. You can check out our terrorism page for more about what’s included. 

Bob the Broker

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Main Conditions

Below are the most common policy conditions you will find on a Public Liability Insurance Policy, which if not paid attention to could result in a disputed or rejected claim. 

Reasonable Precautions

Wordings vary, some require the insured to take reasonable care to prevent accidents and to comply with statutory and local authority requirements. Others require care in the selection of competent employees and remedial and precautionary steps in relation to discovered defects and dangers. 

Non-admission of Liability and Procedure

Failure to comply is a breach of a condition precedent to liability. Your insurers reserve the right to full conduct and control of the claim. You must assist as required.

Claims Notification

Liability policies require that Insurers are notified immediately or as soon as reasonably possible to ensure indemnity is secured. Failure to comply may result in the claim being disputed.

Discharge of Liability

If a claim is likely to exceed the indemnity limit, the insurer may choose to pay the limit and costs incurred and relinquish all further liability.

Trade Specific Conditions

Businesses involved in working at or with height, depth, heat, manual ‘work away’ will have specific restrictive conditions applying to their policies which must be studied, understood and adhered to, otherwise indemnity may not apply.

Main Exclusions

Main Extensions

Below is a list of the common extensions you would find in a public liability policy. Your policy may also contain additional extensions in respect to false arrest, discrimination, accidental obstruction, car parks, cloakrooms, and a limited ‘products’ cover in respect of food or drink served to employees, partners etc. 

Libel and Slander

The insured is indemnified in respect of liability for claims made during the period of insurance due to acts of libel or slander.

Data Protection Act

Provided the insured is registered under the act, liability is extended to include compensation for damages, distress and defence costs in respect of prosecutions under the act.

Financial Loss

This extension, when added, brings financial loss under the policy. Cover is on a claims made basis and within the existing liability limit. This is useful for security companies where negligence can have a wide impact beyond the incident.

Third Party Working Risk

Owners hiring out plant may also need this extension to safeguard themselves against failure of cover on policies effected by the hirer.

Motor Vehicle Contingent Liability

Vehicles not owned or provided by the insured, may be used on the insured’s business. In the event that the primary policy (that of the employee) fails, indemnity is provided to the insured.

*Please note that we cannot insure taxi drivers or third party delivery drivers (e.g. deliveroo or uber eats). This is only covered when you own the business and have delivery drivers that you employ. 

Retrospective Cover

An extension sometimes available where an Insurer may be notified of a claim that predates inception.

Legal Defence Costs

Cover is provided for legal defence costs in relation to criminal proceedings under the Health & Safety at Work Act. Fines, deliberate acts or omissions are not covered. Separately, company directors and officers should consider the purchase of Directors and Officers insurance as individuals as the company policy does not protect them. See our Directors and Officers page for more information. 

Related Covers

Employer's Liability

"It's not about who pays who, it's about who told you to do that..."

Business Interruption

"When the water came up to our knees we realised we might be a problem..."

Product Liability

"Not everyone automatically realises you can't dry your pet in the microwave..."

Let's make it cheaper, by doing it right

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Making the small print...BIG

A Fair Presentation of the Risk
At the heart of insurance contracts is an obvious truth: you have an enormous advantage over the insurer. You know all about your business, its history, processes, people and management, but the insurer knows nothing – other than what you tell them.

Your Duties
You have a statutory duty to make a fair presentation of the risk. You must tell the insurer:
• Every material circumstance which you know or ought to know and/or
• Sufficient information that would cause the insurer to make further enquiries, if neccessary, to review those material circumstances

Your Knowledge
• You are deemed to have the knowledge of the company’s senior management.
• You are deemed to have the knowledge of the person arranging the insurance (who is deemed to be a senior manager under statute).
• Anything that can be discovered by a reasonable search.

A failure to make a fair presentation of the risk gives the insurer various remedies, depending upon the nature of the failure, from avoiding the contract and not paying claims to modifying the basis of settlement. 

Examples of Misrepresentation
It is often easier to demonstrate the consequences of risk presentation failure by example rather than theory. Here are some real life examples of typically forgotten or unrevealed material facts which later caused huge problems and repudiated claims:

Bob the broker







A reprocessing plant did not reveal a series of small fires during their insurance year.

Following repeated false alarms, a retailer didn’t reveal that Police Response had been withdrawn.

A restaurant omitted to reveal repeated minor floods from an upstairs nightclub.

A construction company didn’t reveal potential employee claims recorded in their accident book.

A company failed to reveal written warnings to an employee over repeated dangerous driving.

A company failed to reveal that it had been ‘struck off’ by Companies House and was trading as a new legal entity under a different designation. 

Compiling the Risk Presentation: an ongoing process

The compilation of risk information for presentation to an insurer might be thought to be simply contained in a proposal or risk presentation form, however, such forms are not exhaustive and cannot take account of circumstances which change beyond their
compilation. Moreover, merely referring insurers to your website or dumping data is not making a fair presentation of the risk. ’Fairness’ is a subjective test but it would certainly involve simplicity, clarity and relevant selection.

Ongoing communication is vital, because the duty to disclose material circumstances is ongoing throughout the insurance year and at renewal of the insurances.

It’s important…

It is not possible to overstate the importance of researched, adequate risk presentation – there have been countless legal disputes, repudiated claims, ruined businesses and lives arising from the simple failure to reveal all the facts to an insurer. A failure to present risk adequately is a bigger risk than the risk you present.

It doesn’t matter that the failure is innocent, something overlooked, forgotten or discounted as unimportant – it might be important to the insurer, in which case it must be revealed.

Should there be anything not yet disclosed, or that you are unsure would influence your insurers about this insurance tell your broker/insurer immediately. 

Let's make it cheaper, by doing it right

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Recent feedback on our Extra Mile Claims Service for COVID-19

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Who are The Business Insurance Bureau?​

The Business Insurance Bureau is a niche specialist underwriter and commercial insurance broker, defying conventional categorisation, comprising of a small number of gifted individuals forming a collective intellectual giant.

We have developed our own unique range of quality insurance products, which has given the business a competitive advantage in several areas. Being in control of the entire process, from enquiry to policy issue, has allowed our business to deliver service levels hitherto unimaginable in this sector, or indeed for a business of its physical size.

We insure a spectacularly diverse clientele, similarly exclusive and excellent in their field, who rely on The Business Insurance Bureau to protect their assets, minimise their liabilities and secure their future.