7 things you need to know about public liability insurance


7 things you need to know about public liability insurance   12th September 2019

Accidents happen. Sometimes due to negligence and sometimes due to sheer bad luck.

What if a customer slips and falls at your premise and breaks a bone? Or purchases an electrical device from you which causes a short circuit at their home resulting in a fire? In either of these incidents, as a business owner, you can be liable to compensate for the loss/damage to life, property and the legal fees a third party incurs.

An Example

A famous incident that highlights the need for public liability insurance is the 'hot coffee lawsuit' of 1992. The plaintiff, 79-year-old Ms Liebeck accidentally spilt hot coffee on her lap, (while in her car) purchased from a renowned fast-food retailers outlet. She spent eight days in the hospital because of third-degree burns, had to undergo a skin graft and two years of follow up treatment. Her attorney argued that the coffee served at 82-88 degrees was significantly hotter than what other outlets served (60 degrees) and was a burn hazard even if consumed immediately.

The jury initially awarded Ms Liebeck US$160,000 as compensation and coverage for medical expenses in addition to US$2.7 million in punitive damages. After a prolonged court battle and multiple appeals, the parties settled out-of-court in 1994 for an undisclosed amount, said to be under US$600,000.

Most businesses do not have the time, resources and deep pockets to weather such lawsuits.

Thus, every business needs to protect its interests and that's what a

Public Liability Insurance

can help them do. Here are six things you should know about Public Liability Insurance (PLI) in India:
1) Who needs it

Enterprises that regularly entertain the public such as restaurants, shops, educational institutes, sporting areas, etc. should get public liability insurance. It also applies to businesses that work in public spaces or private homes such as building contractors, electricians, etc.

2) Scope of coverage

The insurance covers the cost of damage/medical treatment and legal fees if any third party sues your business. This includes customers, vendors, and general members of the public excluding your staff (that comes under workers compensation).

3) Domicile of coverage

The coverage is not geographically restricted. It covers incidents at your premises or those at a customer/ clients location.

4) Cost

The cost of your PLI depends on the nature, size and scale of your business. Enterprises that deal with hazardous substances or have multiple outlets/ franchisees, etc. will have to pay more due to greater probability of a mishap.

5) Customizations

You can customize the coverage after assessing your needs. For example, a small café would probably need a considerably lower cover than a 5-star hotel complex. You may also choose add-ons for extra protection. For instance, the act of gods covers situations such as floods, lightning etc. which end up being frequent causes of dispute.

6) Legal Requirement

Even though businesses are not legally bound to opt for a PLI, certain lease agreements or trade associations make it binding on the lessee/partner to obtain the insurance. Many private parties too may not contract services to a business or tradesman without a PLI.

7) Exclusions

Like any other insurance policy, Public Liability Insurance in India is also subject to exclusions. Some common exclusions of insurance providers in India are- disputes related to pollution, slander, fines and penalties. Please refer to your plan's policy wordings for a better understanding of the same.

Many-a-times businesses fail to realize the damage to goodwill due to an incident is greater than the cost of financially alleviating the situation. To know how you can secure your business and do right by all stakeholders, have a look at what Magma HDI has to offer.