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If your charity comes into contact with the public (including service users and visitors at fundraising events), you need to consider buying public liability insurance.
In fact, it is difficult to think of a charity or organisation that does not need public liability insurance; it will provide cover for injuries suffered by third parties as well as claims made against you for accidental damage caused to someone else's property.
It's easy to think that these incidents rarely happen - but even in a well run charity, there is always a risk that something may have been overlooked or could go wrong. For example, if a fundraising event was being held in your charity's premises with many people present, and someone was to trip due to a loose floorboard, breaking their leg, they could take legal action against your charity to seek damages.
If your organisation is found to have been negligent and a claim is successful, your charity would be liable for paying compensation out of it's own finances - unless, of course, your charity has public liability insurance.
Many charities recognise the risk - according to the Third Sector Charity Insurance Report, 24% of charities consider legal liability to be their biggest area of risk in their organisation. The 'blame and claim' culture combined with tough economic times has seen the number of claims
(genuine and 'speculative') rise at a fast pace and it's vital charities have public liability insurance to protect themselves against allegations of negligence.
It's worth remembering that, in addition to the compensation costs, there are also the legal fees to defend the case if it were to go to court and any expenses you would incur as a result. Again, these would be covered by public liability insurance.
What else does public liability cover?
In addition to slips, trips and falls, public liability insurance also covers your charity if it were to cause damage to third party property. The most common instance is when a rented premises - such as a village hall - has been damaged. Walls and floors in particular can be easily damaged during fundraising events, and without public liability insurance, the cost of putting it right can be significant.
Does public liability insurance cover volunteers?
Generally public liability insurance does not provide compensation for workers or volunteers if they are injured at work; to protect against this, you would need employer's liability (which is a legal requirement). However, insurance policies are different and you should check your policy wording to find out whether they are covered or not. The risks posed by your volunteers can be minimised with effective training and supervision - read our quick guide to training volunteers to find out more.