Small Business Liability Insurance

Professionals that operate their own businesses need professional liability insurance in addition to an in-home business or businessowners policy. This protects them against financial losses from lawsuits filed against them by their clients.

Professionals are expected to have extensive technical knowledge or training in their particular area of expertise. They are also expected to perform the services for which they were hired, according to the standards of conduct in their profession. If they fail to use the degree of skill expected of them, they can be held responsible in a court of law for any harm they cause to another person or business. When liability is limited to acts of negligence, professional liability insurance may be called “errors and omissions” liability.

Professional liability insurance is a specialty coverage. Professional liability coverage is not provided under homeowners endorsements, in-home business policies or businessowners policies (BOPs).

WHY DO I NEED LIABILITY INSURANCE?

Good liability risk management can reduce the chances that your business will be sued, but it can never eliminate the risk entirely. You or a member of your organization can make a mistake that injures someone or damages property. Your mistake could harm the reputation or interfere with the privacy of a customer, client, competitor or member of the general public. When such injuries occur, you may be legally liable to pay damages to someone who suffers a loss due to your actions or inaction.

Depending on the degree of harm and the number of people injured and/or value of property damaged, a lawsuit could bankrupt your business. Even if your organization is ultimately cleared of any wrongdoing, a determined plaintiff can keep you tied up in legal proceedings for a long time, entailing significant cost to defend yourself. Liability insurance pays the cost of your defense and protects your assets.

HOW ARE LIABILITY AND DAMAGES DETERMINED?

Everyone in society has a duty to take reasonable care that his or her actions do not injure others. The same rule applies to business entities. Not repairing a pothole in a parking lot, not lighting a dark stairway, failing to train workers how to do their jobs safely and legally or failing to provide directions for the safe use of a product can constitute negligence if a client, customer or member of the general public is injured as a result. The legal meaning of negligence is failure to exercise reasonable care.

If the parties do not agree to settle a liability lawsuit, there may be a trial. Or, the parties may agree to use some alternative means of dispute resolution, such as arbitration, and be bound by the arbitrator’s ruling.

The law of the state where the lawsuit is filed sets the rules for the determination of liability and damages. The amount of damages imposed in any particular case is, of course, in part a function of the economic losses the plaintiff can prove he or she has endured due to the defendant’s negligence. In some states plaintiffs may also be awarded damages.