Written by Peter Carter

Updated on July 25, 2020

What is public liability insurance?

This type of insurance indemnifies the policyholder against claims made by a person other than an employee, on the policyholder’s premises or in connection with the policyholder’s business which causes Personal injury or Death.

Public liability insurance does not extend to loss or damage to property. Nor does it usually cover injury that results from the goods or services supplied by the business to its customers.

Policy features differ from one insurer to another. However, most providers offer wide-ranging cover according to whatever injury compensation laws apply at the place where the injury occurs.

It is important that your policy provides Australia wide cover for off-site events rather than insurance limited to a particular location or site. Even so, the carrying on of business at new locations (eg the opening of additional premises) creates additional risks for which additional or extended insurance is required.

Public liability insurance – of a different type – is also included in homeowners’ insurance.

Who needs public liability insurance?

Public liability cover is important for all businesses that have customers or suppliers visit. Organizations that offer events or off-site activities which are open to the members of the public should also ensure they have public liability insurance.

Public liability insurance is also essential for all owners of the property, including homes.

Home-based businesses or employees

Technology has made it easier for people to work at home. If you run a business from home you need to obtain this cover as such risk may not be covered under your home insurance which – although it includes public liability – is generally restricted to the public liability of a domestic kind.

For businesses who have employees working from home, it is important that the insurer is notified of the relevant particulars so they can assess any additional risk that results from such an arrangement.


This insurance is not a replacement for Work Cover / Workers Compensation which protects staff or people you have hired on work placements.  If you hold Work Cover, your public liability policy may also respond to protect you for additional common law liability beyond Work Cover expenses claimed by Sub-contractors if this has been declared to the insurer.

Public liability compared to professional indemnity or product liability insurances

These other types of insurance indemnify the business against injury or property losses resulting from the goods or services supplied by the business.

Businesses that sell or manufacture products should obtain products liability insurance. This covers damages to their customers and others due to dangerous or defective products. Not just manufacturers but also restaurants, bars and retailers (with some exceptions), should investigate the need for products liability insurance.

Trades or professional services businesses should obtain professional indemnity insurance to cover claims by their customers.

Professional indemnity insurance is crucial for professionals such as accountants, consultants, marketing companies, real estate agents, digital agencies, architects, business analysts and software developers. Tradesmen – carpenters, electricians and plumbers – should also carry this type of indemnity.

Public Liability policy comparison

Public liability quotes and features differ from one provider to another. When comparing quotes, you need to look at more than just the premium and the deductible. The conditions and extent of cover can vary greatly. A suitable deductible (or “excess”) can often be negotiated in return for lower or higher premiums.

Depending on your occupation or business, certain policies will often have restrictions or requirements for cover – e.g. if you are in earthmoving, it is standard to expect the policy to include a “dial before you dig” type endorsement.

Some policies include very onerous requirements that could make the cover – in practical terms – useless for your particular purposes.

Check carefully to make sure you are protecting your business by getting appropriate cover.