What insurance do I need?

A question of insurance…

Insurance, Insurance, Insurance, love it or hate it this is now becoming an absolute requirement for the working photographer. It comes in all different shapes and sizes, from equipment cover right through Public Liability and Professional Indemnity to Legal Expenses and Business Interruption. But how much do you need? What do you need? And where is the best place to get it from?

Darryl Probert explains...

There will be disappointments when you don't get that job you spent so much time on, when a wedding turns out to be a washout and when that new camera you saved for turns out to be not quite as good as you thought. There is one thing that you can do to take your mind off some of these woes though, that is to make sure you are adequately covered in the event of something going wrong for you. Insurance isn't going to be the answer to all of your business problems, but it may just assist you when things go horribly wrong, allowing you to get back on your feet and continuing with the job you love. There are a number of different covers and different insurers on the market so which are right for you?

Firstly, always check with your Professional Body if possible. A good way to look at what you may or may not need is to look at the articles attached on this page .This will outline some of the covers available and you will be able to make an informed decision and decide if you think you need them or not.

Public Liability and Professional Indemnity

DO NOT work without Public Liability (PL). You can never be sure what will happen and although you may feel that you won't cause any accidents, what if it is out of your hands? Someone moves your camera bag and then a member of the public falls over it? In the very worse cases, PL can literally be a lifesaver. I believe there was a case not so long ago that demonstrated this, where a photographer was undertaking work for a Local Authority – luckily he had £5 million PL cover. As he was taking pictures of the mayor shaking hands at a Civic ceremony, he stepped back and knocked an old lady who was behind him on the pavement. She wobbled and fell, hitting her head on the corner of the paving stone separating the pavement and road. The accident left her severely brain damaged and she required constant care 24 hours a day as she was unable to look after herself. The photographer was taken to court and the family won £3.1 million in damages to ensure her care for the remainder of her life. This was a case in the UK !

Courts take a dim view of some accidents now, and with the growth of the "where there is blame there is a claim" culture, it is very important that you arrange suitable cover.

Whilst these things do happen, it should be pointed out that an incident like this is very rare, in reality you have probably better odds winning the lottery but they do happen and therefore it is important that you are covered when your numbers come up...

The other thing PL covers is 3rd party property damage. This would cover you if you damaged someone else's property whilst conducting some photographic work. For example, you could lean against a wall and knock part of it over with your weight as you are taking the picture! The fact that the wall was not "secure" enough is no protection in law. You would be responsible for the repair to it – after all, the property owner would argue that the wall was fine before you leaned on it! A simple accident like this could cost in the region of a £1,000 – something you wouldn't want to have to find as a photographer! Or, a more common claim, would be knocking over something in a client's house whilst you were there on business. Unlike other parts of PL cover, there is traditionally a £250 excess for 3rd party property damage, so it is worth remembering to try and be as careful as you can when your dealing with others!

PL cover is for damage to another person or their property whilst Professional Indemnity or PI as it is known, covers your liability for failing to produce work to a professional standard. Professional Indemnity Insurance provides you with financial protection for your business, the costs of defending claims made against you, including damages that may become payable. Claims can occur where a client or other person suffers financial loss as a result of alleged errors or omissions on your part.

 

PI cover is a MUST for one off events like weddings, where you have been booked to provide photographs, but is unlikely to be needed at events where you would "sell" photographs afterwards to make money – after all, if you don't get the shot that is wanted you won't sell any pictures! You may be sued unfairly by a client who is merely dissatisfied, but has no valid claim. This would involve you in substantial legal costs and non-productive time. From the legal standpoint, the position with regard to the "duty of care" is the same for any professional. If you offer a service in a specific area or set yourself up as a specialist, you owe a "duty of care" to anybody who might reasonably rely upon your service and advice over and above that owed by the ordinary man in the street.

 

A good example of where PI would be useful is if you were to undertake wedding photography and the bride and groom felt the pictures you produced were substandard or you were unable to produce them as the film had been lost or stolen or the data card wiped. They may then choose to issue legal proceedings against you. If this was the case, PI insurance would cover the costs of defending and/or settling the claim.

 

Always look to buy this cover from a reputable Insurance Provider in your specialist market. A number of High Street insurance brokers will charge you £60 - £100 for PL cover but the most common carrier usually won't cover you whilst your in someone's home and a number of the other Insurers just don't understand anything about photography!

 

Equipment Insurance

Some photographers feel that the equipment is their "life blood" and they couldn't do without it so for them then insurance is the most sensible solution. It means they have some "hiring in costs" should the worst happen and they need equipment to continue with work commitments whilst any claim is being considered.

There are important things to think about when covering equipment for example making sure you insure ALL of it. All insurers operate a system called "averaging". This means that if you have a total loss claim and you have not insured all your equipment, then you will only get a proportion of the value back. For example, if you have £10,000 worth of equipment and only insure ½ of it – say £5,000 then under the averaging clause you should not expect to receive more than ½ of your claim back - £2,500. This is something that is not unique in just the photographic market so look out for it. If you have equipment that you don't want to insure as you don't use it and you feel it has no value then try and get rid of it – maybe on ebay. If you are keeping it as a back up then you should be insuring it just in case.

 

Another way to ensure you don't fall foul of the "averaging" clause is to list every item you insure. This means if you have a total loss, then the items on the list will be paid for at the values you have specified. The downside to this is if you have bought a new piece of equipment and not yet notified insurers of it, it will probably not be covered. When you insure your equipment, make sure you list any item over £1,000 with the insurance company. It is wise to let them know the make, model, serial number and replacement cost from the beginning then there should be no quibbling over value. In some cases, if you are going to be abroad for a while, and not be replacing equipment it is probably worth giving them a complete list. That way, if anything happens whilst you're abroad, they have all the details to hand.

All Insurers who provide cover for professional photographers should offer new for old cover. After all, the equipment is important to you and should the worst happen, then you will want replacement equipment. This is no good if you are insured on a 2nd hand basis! Always make sure you insure your equipment to replace, as new, should the worst happen – and make sure the insurers are quoting on a new for old basis – if not, walk away! After all, it is lovely to have a Canon 5D that you paid £500 but it would cost you around triple to replace and Insurers aren't going to hunt around for a 2nd hand one at the value you paid so you could end up losing out!

 

A large number of photographers tend to try and add their equipment onto a household policy. It is really important, that if you do this you realise should you have a claim this will affect your Contents cover renewal and you need to ensure that the Insurer knows exactly what is being covered, values of equipment and the fact you are using it professionally. Don't just take a customer service advisor's "yes" over the phone – if it isn't a specific photographic insurer get it in writing! It is also important to get answers to the right questions – are they covering you in unattended vehicles? What about late into the evening?

 

Employers Liability

Employers Liability insurance (EL) is the most misunderstood cover that is available for the photographer today, so confusing are the rules and regulations that surround it even the Government are not sure! However, don't let that put you off, as the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) would be quick enough to prosecute you if they thought you should have it and you didn't and there was an accident with someone who was assisting you.

If you don't have EL cover and you should have then you could be taken to court and prosecuted - the maximum penalty being 14 years in jail and an unlimited fine although this would usually be as a result of an accident to someone who was assisting you. However, you could face a large fine and be disqualified from running a company just for having incorrect insurance. For that extra premium it really isn't worth it?

Firstly, if you are a husband and wife team, or your sons/daughters assist then you generally do not need EL cover. If you're in doubt, then usually a good way round it is to insure them jointly with you – that way all the cover applies to them as well as you. The exception to this is if you are a Limited Company with 2 or more working directors then you MUST by law have this cover even if you are a husband and wife team under the Employers Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Act 1969. There is an exception to this legal requirement which is a Limited Company with only ONE working person who is a director and owns fifty per cent or more of the issued share capital, i.e. there are no other persons whatsoever doing any work in the company.

 

It is also usual for Employers Liability to be required if you have work experience students or volunteers assisting you even if there is no payment.

Don't be fooled – you may only have a "friend" assist you, who is not getting any payment but if something happens to them, even if they don't try and sue you, the HSE may take up the matter or indeed the Police may decide to prosecute for negligence. Remember, EL is dealt with under criminal law - the same as murder, assault and arson!

The easy way to define the differences between EL and Public Liability (PL) would be to use the example of a wedding. If you gather the bride, groom and all the family together and ask them to step back and one of them falls off a ledge and injures themselves that would be a claim under Public Liability. If the same thing happened with a student that you were training or an assistant the cover would be under EL.

Legal Expenses Cover

If you need to take "action" or defend yourself then you will need to instruct legal counsel and this can be time consuming and costly with the average legal fees from a solicitor now starting at around £100 per hour or more.

Some photographers find it inconceivable that they need this cover but with the price being less than £30 per year for over £100,000 worth of cover offered as a bolt on - is it something that is worth taking the risk on?

What would you do if you found someone was using your images on their web pages and refused to remove them? If you had an unannounced Tax or VAT inspection from Revenue and Customs? You had been prosecuted by the Police and needed to defend yourself against criminal charges? A Health & Safety complaint?

if someone made an official complaint against you and you were summoned to appear before your governing body to explain? This cover would include professional representation to argue your case.

The standard cover of £100,000 provides a cost effective solution to assist with potential legal disputes that affect your business. It helps to avoid the burden of solicitor's costs and gives you 24 hour access to experienced, qualified legal advisors who can give you on the spot advice and assistance. This cover can be added on to an existing policy quite cheaply and with this type of insurance starting at £125.00 plus tax to buy on its own it could be well worth investing in!

There is always an element of legal costs in Professional Indemnity if someone is suing you for the failure to produce work, but there is the on the other hand what if you have to sue someone for failing to produce work or even worse, failing to pay? This legal cover gives you the certainty of professional advice and assistance leaving you the time to get on with running your own business. Time is money, and as a photographer, particularly if you are a "one man band" then you don't want to spend time filling in court papers, answering emails and generally chasing people or trying to defend yourself when you could be out earning income. This cover helps avoid that.

 

The Conclusion

Insurance is in reality, a necessary evil if you are running your own business. For the amateur, it is a way of protecting their no claims discount on their household policy, and for professionals it is a legitimate business expense. The covers outlined above, are just a few of the ones available – you should always check that your needs are being adequately met.