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Nik Stewert's Guide to Insurance for Freelance Photographers

 

Mention insurance for the freelance photographer, and the first thing that comes to mind is covering your cameras and lenses. Important though that undoubtedly is, you stand to lose a good deal more than the cost of your kit, as Nik Stewert explains

 

• Make sure that the cover you have in force is suitable. If you have bought professional liability from a high street broker, ensure that it will cover you for the work you do. Never accept a broker’s word over the phone – if you haven’t got it in writing - even an email - then you have no proof that you are covered.

• Use a reputable Insurer. If the company you are with does not offer PL or PI, then the chances are it is not designed for the professional market. There are a couple of well known insurance companies that actively advertise photographic insurance but do not offer PI. If you are a wedding photographer, don’t use them – they don’t offer cover that is right for you.

• Support your association. They go to great lengths to find a reputable company for you to use, and if you are unhappy with the service the company offers, you can always complain to the association – it may have more sway on your behalf.

 

Insuring your kit, yourself and your clients is a very important part of being a freelance. Here we talk about three different types of insurance that you should think about taking out before embarking on any paid work.

Public Liability Insurance

Why is public liability (PL) insurance important to the freelance photographer, and how do you tell if you need it? The simple answer to this is, if you accept any money, including expenses, for any work you do, then you should have public liability cover: the only freelance that doesn’t need it is the one that that can afford to lose his home – and I’ve yet to meet him!

PL covers your liability for any damage you may do to another person, or property, accidentally while working. This could be a simple accident, such as someone falling over a tripod or being bumped with a long lens, right through to more serious incidents that could leave people scarred or disabled for life.

Courts take a dim view of some accidents now, and with the growth of the ‘where there’s blame there’s a claim’ culture, it is very important that you arrange suitable cover. There was a case in the UK not so long ago where a freelance was undertaking work for a local authority. As he was photographing the Mayor shaking hands at a civic ceremony, he stepped back and knocked an old lady who was behind him on the pavement. She fell, hitting her head on the corner of a paving stone. The accident left her severely brain damaged and in need of 24 hour care. The freelance was taken to court, and the family won £3.1 million in damages. Luckily, he had £5 million worth of PL cover, and was able to make a successful claim.

While such extreme cases are undoubtedly rare, PL also covers you if you damage someone else’s property while conducting photographic work. You could lean against a wall as you are taking a picture and knock part of it over. The fact that the wall was not secure is no protection in law. After all, the property owner would argue that the wall was fine before you leaned on it, and you would be responsible for the repair. A simple accident like this can cost in the region of £1000. A more common claim would be for something knocked over in a client’s house. Unlike other parts of PL cover, there is traditionally a £250 excess for third party property damage. Packages are available offering £1m, £2m and £5m of cover.

If you are working in hotels, restaurants, for a local authority or in a shopping centre, then the chances are that you won’t be employed unless you can provide evidence that you are covered for £5m. As with anything, the more cover you require the more expensive it becomes, but £2m seems to be a popular starting point, and you can always extend to £5m for short term cover. If you work in airports, in the air, underwater, or by the side of rails or track side at motor events, then you will need the high limit, and expect to pay slightly more, as insurers regard these activities as a greater risk.

While you can buy PL from several high street insurance brokers for £60-100, one common policy doesn’t cover you while you’re in someone’s home, and a number of insurers just don’t understand anything about photography!

The lesson must be, always buy this cover from a reputable specialist photographic insurance company – after all, the only time you’ll find out that you’re not covered properly is when you make a claim. And then it’s too late!If you are earning money from photography, never so much as leave the house or invite a client round without having PL in place. The risks are too great!

Professional Indemnity

 

Professional Indemnity (PI) covers your liability for failing to produce work to a professional standard, providing financial protection for your business by meeting the costs of defending claims made against you, including any 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. It is unlikely however to be needed at events where you would sell photographs afterwards – after all, if you don’t get the shot, you won’t sell any pictures! - or if you are a landscape photographer or deal solely in portraits where, if anything were to happen, you could go back and take the pictures again. If you do something wrong, miss pictures or wipe your hard drive or lose your film, the couple will hold you responsible.

What if you pack all your equipment away, with all the pictures you have taken, and while you are shaking hands with the bride and groom someone steals all the equipment out of your car? While they may be sympathetic on the night, you can be sure that a solicitor’s letter will be on the way to you when the honeymoon’s over! Professional indemnity ensures that you do not have to compensate them yourself – and also helps to protect you against frivolous claims from couples who overspent on their honeymoon and now need to get some money back.

PI would even help you in the event that you were sued unfairly by a client who was merely dissatisfied, but had no valid claim. If you were sued by a bride and groom who felt the wedding pictures you had produced were substandard, or you were unable to produce them as the film had been lost or the data card wiped, this would involve you in substantial legal costs and non-productive time. PI would cover the costs of defending and/or settling the claim.

Wedding Insurance

Talk to wedding photographers, and time and again you’ll hear the same refrain, ‘It’s the bride’s big day’. “I always follow what the bride has requested”, says one canny freelance. “If anyone else wants anything, I tell them to channel it through the bride. As a result, I have never had a claim or complaint.”This way of working might not be the best for you, but having a clear line of communication helps both the couple and you enjoy the day.

It is important when taking pictures at a wedding that you have adequate cover - not just for your equipment, public liability and professional indemnity - but what if something goes wrong on the other side? What if the bride or groom don’t turn up, fall ill or are hospitalised? Did you get your fee paid in full before you set out in the morning? Did you turn down other bookings to do the job? There are practical steps you can take to ensure your day isn’t ruined as well, like making sure the couple have signed a contract with you, and that they are insured – after all if they don’t get married, do you think they will still pay the remainder of your fee? And what about the loss of revenue for pictures you might have sold after the event to friends and family? Insist the couple have wedding insurance. If the couple asks you, ‘Are you insured?’,  then your answer should be, ‘Yes I am. Are you?’. You might consider it not worth taking on a job if the couple doesn’t have wedding insurance. It’s that important. After all, if they are so concerned about you – shouldn’t you be concerned about them? In any event, this will help them if something goes wrong on the day.

Most wedding insurance providers cover the bride and groom for: cancellation, rearrangement, failure of suppliers, wedding rings and cars, personal accident, wedding gifts, and personal liability. Ensure the couple sign a contract with you. This should limit your liability to the fee they have paid. Ensure you have professional indemnity cover. Get your fee paid in full in advance. If something goes wrong, or they are not happy on the day, they could refuse to pay you. Even if they have signed a contract, there will be considerable time and energy wasted trying to secure the money back from them, and it may involve court proceedings. Get your money in full up front, means that you don’t have to worry about this.

Consider legal expenses cover, which is available for under £25 a year, and will cover you up to £100,000 of legal costs. This will help if you have not been paid correctly, or if you need to defend against a claim, or someone uses your work without your permission. The majority of weddings go off without a hitch, but there will always be those where it seems that everything goes wrong, not just for the couple but for the photographer too.

By following these simple steps, it will help protect your business, and let you get on with the important work of taking photographs, secure in the knowledge that, should anything go wrong, there are Insurers and professionals to advise and deal with it on your behalf.

 

 

Nik Stewert has over 10 years experience in the insurance market with over five years specifically for photographers, journalists and video makers. He is the national marketing manager for Aaduki Multimedia Insurance.

 

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