Public Liability Insurance


Having just started to work freelance in the UK, I have found the need to acquire Public Liability Insurance (for obvious reasons) and have so far found it difficult. Most insurance companies that I have spoken to will either not insure me, or try to place me in an unsuitable category. The only company I have found who seems to specialise in the entertainment industry is FML Insurance (, although they have been far from helpful. Does anyone know of any other (UK) companies who will provide Public Liability Insurance for a Lighting Engineer?

So far I have been given quotes in the range of £400/yr, although have been told I should be able to get it for approx. £100/yr. Does anyone know roughly how much it should cost? (Is £400 reasonable - this wasn’t from a specialist company)

Any advice would be appreciated
I agree with the asking on lighting network and might add stagecraft and the blue room (which is UK based.) Not a huge amount of free-lancer's, much less UK based free-lancers here; much less of those who are both, have such insurance and while hopefully some will chime in, getting a bigger pool of answers on this question from a number of sources would be a better solution.

I know I did not ever get insurance - hard enough to keep bread on the table, much less pay insurance in the early 90's, but towards the end I started considering it but never bought any. My total asscets were not worth much and the money coming in never allowed for it.

Good idea on the personal liability insurance but in some cases - at least for the first few years, it might not be necessary.

While US based, the book "The Business of Theatrical Design" by James L. Moody ASLD, is a good reference you might read in going over or getting ideas about all the business type stuff needed to be free-lance or sub-contractor. ISBN: 1-58115-248-5
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In response to ship's comments, I know that basically if you want to do anything taht means you have teh public there, be it theatre, a ride at a school fete or whatever, you have to have public liability insurance, in most cases, minimum $10 million. We actually had a crisis a couple of years ago, one of teh big insurances companies went bust and left many people without cover and o we saw many events cancelled.

So I think you would be stuck with needing public liability insurance.
Believe me, this is not something I really want to obtain as it is very expensive in relation to how much I will be earn. The UK is very concerned about Health & Safety though, and people will not employ unless I have it! Many companies would probably not survive going to court for damages hence the need for their freelancers to have Liability Insurance.
Thanks for the suggestions of other forums btw...
I have never heard about this before now, is there a us equivalent? Also do only certain people need coverage, like the riggers needing it, but the designer not?
Generally this insurance is only required in places with more formalized rental contracts and stuff. Normally these contracts require that any DJs that come in for the event have to have this kind of insurance. This insurance is to cover the people in attendance should the DJs equipment cause a problem. The need for this insurance mainly came from the night club fires and deaths after people tried to use pyro when they didn't know what they were doing.

If you go to your insurance agent for car, home, life or whatever insurance you currently have, you can get this insurance pretty cheap. I have a friend who's a DJ and he was able to get coverage for a year for $160.
In canada there are no rules for designers as far as i know. But when you rent gear you need to provide a copy of the shows policy witht the name of the rental company on it.

For example im renting a beta cam worth 50 grand i need to provide company X with a certficate saying i have atleast fifty thousand dollars worth of replacement insurance payable to company X also some companys might ask for liabilty insurance but usualy the production covers this

for the beta cam rental and 2 mill liabilty your looking at a rider for lets say a week about $400 CDN but this is only a rider so its more expensive in the long run then a full year.

I don't perfess to be an expert on this but have been in the industry in the US for a few years both as free lance temporary employee and as management level Master Electrician on the corporate lighting company level. Absolute most important, know your crap and if not ask lots. Beyond this, insurance is always a good thing but scaling what's covered verses what you are not really expected to be responsible for is a good thing or important to understand sufficient. Fresh out of college and part of a crew type people don't need insurance in my opinion. At that point you are part of a crew of people working for an employer that supervises your work. The liability is theirs in doing work specified and supervised by who is telling you to show up at what time of day.

On the other hand, once you get into more management level or such as per the designer or person such as ME or master rigger, TD or master carpenter free lance or not, personal liability insurance would probably be a good thing - this especially if free lance. In this case, your expertise and services are hired to manage the project as opposed to just working on it with supervision. On the other hand there is a grey area of your experience and qualification by those hiring you for the job still ensuring that their company practices were followed no matter what level of employee you are which could potentially also cover you. For instance, it probably would not matter what a designer specifies, it’s both the Master Carpenter or Master Electrician, much less Master Rigger and TD over all that are charged with pipe dream realities in safety. That said the designer can still have responsibility.

In the end, if a serious problem and only a free lance worker - not representing a DJ company or having above and beyond that in your name, it's possible you don't need insurance. All that's going to happen in the US as with here is that the lawyers will go after the big money after taking yours or what’s left after lawyer fees. An honest insurance agent or better yet lawyer one should have and consult once in a while about tax issues and other stuff hopefully will say what level realistically you would need and it's not in the millions even for a management role in the production most probably I would expect. Could be very dependant upon one’s country and status but it no doubt would be at no level over what one might hope to afford.

There is probably a difference here in what's a more corporate even DJ insurance as a company and what free lance workers are required to hold or even have to cover the work they do while working as a sub-contractor as it were for another company that does have the insurance and the contract. The UK might be different but I doubt by much in requiring some even high school kid to buy a insurance policy to cover what they will make mistakes on that's more expensive than they will be able to afford.

Overall, it's probably 100% possible that if a free-lance person, when there is a problem, such as the last big night club disaster, you will probably become mentioned personally in the law suit. This no matter if free lance or employee by the way. On the other hand, beyond fees from defending yourself your own liability even if you spend the next couple of years funding will probably be fair in end result insurance or not. You screw up big time and probably should spend some years helping to pay for the mistake perhaps.

Not intendant to be flippid by way of some pyro person said to be out by the exit door smoking and choking with a security guard while watching the wall catching on fire instead of putting it out and other details about the job, but this stage hand - not qualified for doing his job also was not worth much to sue. What are you going to get from the tech person before he realistically was able to file for bankruptcy given the few hundred bucks in his bank account was in doubt?

Not nice, but in a realistic sense, raise your hands here as to who has more than a few hundred or even thousand dollars in their bank account worth winning a law suit over? Than much worldly possessions worth someone going after you directly in the end.

Again I don't live in the UK and were I even in the US free lance in my pay grade, I would have some form of insurance for what I do, but that's at the management level and as employee on productions where by now if free lance I will have also incorporated.

Advice to all in the industry is to have a lawyer you meet with in general to set you up initially getting into the business or on any questions of liability and an accountant that specializes in the industry if free lance. This all for a small fee in addition to meeting with the family insurance agent all at least once initially. See what each says about your status and balance each with your future needs.

Only after each has had a visit should one at least in the US worry about what you as just a tech person and especially one starting out in the industry should plan for and fund.
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In the UK, I think that if you have Equity membership, you get free liability insurance up to 5 Million, and I cant remember how much the membership rates are, but they do also give you other stuff like legal advice and publications and that type of thing.

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