What is Professional Indemnity Insurance?

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Professional Indemnity Insurance Wiki

Professional indemnity insurance is a form of business liability insurance that protects against claims made by customers who are unhappy with the professional advice or service they received. It provides financial protection by covering the cost of legal defence and also any compensatory damages you're required to pay. Here's what you need to know before you buy a policy.

What is Professional Indemnity Insurance?

Professional liability insurance protects individuals and businesses who sell their expertise. It provides financial protection (in the form of legal defence costs and compensation payments) if any acts, errors or omissions in the advice or service you provide cause an alleged financial loss or damage to a client—and they sue you for it.

Professional liability insurance covers you for legal defence costs and compensatory damages if a client claims you've delivered poor advice or service.

Even if you are extremely diligent and honest, mistakes can happen. And even if you haven't done anything wrong and a claim is not justified, you'll still need to defend any liability claim made by a client or third party. Professional indemnity insurance can cover the costs of a legal defence, which can add to up many thousands of pounds, and compensation if you're found liable.

Professional indemnity insurance (PII) is also called professional liability insurance or errors and omissions insurance (E&O). PII is a good complement to other types of business liability you might need, such as public liability or employers' liability insurance.

Quick takeaway: You're likely to need professional liability insurance if you are paid for your professional advice or services. Professional liability insurance covers the cost of your legal defence and compensatory damages related to advice or services you provided.

Professional Indemnity Examples

Here are some examples of situations when professional indemnity insurance might protect you and your business, depending on the terms of your policy of course:

  • An architect designs a building that has to be halted midway through construction due to an error in the design. At great expense, part of the completed works have to be redone. The architect is sued for the costs.
  • You forward an email to a client that was originally sent to you and contains a virus. The virus corrupts your client's database leading to financial loss and you are sued as a result.
  • A financial advisor gives a client financial advise that leads to a loss. The client sues the advisor for professional negligence.
  • A public relations company contracts a printing company to print posters for a company event. The posters are delivered a week late, and after the date of the event. The PR firm sues the printing company for breach of contract.
  • A management consultant is hired by a food distributor to improve profitability. The food distributor implements the management consultant's plan, but a year later the food distributor's profit margin is significantly lower and they sue the management consultant.
  • A garden designer is hired to plan an elaborate and expensive garden. Within a year of the garden being built, most of the plants are dead. The garden owner alleges the plants were not suitable for the soil and sun aspect.

What Does Professional Liability Insurance Cover?

Professional liability insurance covers you for legal defence costs and compensation awards, in case a client (or possibly another third party) makes a claim for loss or damages due to your negligent advice or services. While the terms can vary from insurer to insurer, professional liability insurance typically protects against lawsuits arising from:

  • Negligence or breach of duty (e.g., giving incorrect advice, making a mistake or failing to deliver what was promised)
  • Intellectual property (e.g., trademark or copyright infringement)
  • Defamation (e.g., libel and slander)
  • Computer Virus
  • Dishonesty of Employees
  • Acts or omissions of service providers (e.g., subcontractors)
  • Loss of documents

Limit of Indemnity

The limit on a professional liability policy can be structured as an 'any one claim' or 'aggregate' basis:

  • Any one claim basis: Each individual claim has its own limit of indemnity. However, in a situation where there are multiple claims with the same cause, they're treated as a single claim.
  • Aggregate basis: The limit of indemnity applies to all claims made against you during the period of cover.

Claims-Made Cover

Professional indemnity insurance is typically sold on a claims-made basis, which means your policy will only cover you for claims made while your insurance policy is still active, not after. This is important because a client might not discover an error you made until years after you worked for them.

You need to be insured both at the time of the alleged incident (when you did the work) and also when your client makes a claim against you.

If you cancel your policy or let it expire, it won't cover you anymore—even if the incident in question occurred while your policy was active. For example, if you had professional indemnity insurance but you let it expire at the end of 2019, then you're not covered for a claim in 2020 related to advice you gave a client in 2019 (even though when you gave the advice your policy was in force.)

Run-off Coverage

Anyone who is changing professions or retiring should consider buying a "run-off" professional liability policy. This protects you against new claims that are made after your professional indemnity insurance expires or has been cancelled. According to information from Lexis Nexis, new professional negligence claims can be made up to six years after the damage, so your run-off policy should cover you for 6 years.

Retroactive Date

Many professional indemnity policies will include a 'retroactive' date. The retroactive date is the date from which you have held uninterrupted professional indemnity insurance cover—even if it part of the time it was with a different insurer.

Since professional indemnity insurance is sold on a 'claims-made' basis and you need cover when the damage occurred and when the claim is made, the 'retroactive date' feature allows you to switch insurers without creating a gap in your cover.

For example, if you are insured by company X from January 2017 until December 2019, at which point you switch to a new insurer Y, then the retroactive date on your new policy with insurer Y is January 2017. In this example you're covered by your insurer Y for any acts that occurred since January 2017, but not before.

If you've had uninterrupted cover then your retroactive date will be earlier than your policy start date.

Who Needs Professional Liability Insurance?

A person or business that provides professional advice, knowledge, skills or services needs professional liability insurance as part of their business insurance package. It will protect against legal defence costs and compensation payments to clients if you're taken to court for making a mistake, giving poor advice, being negligent, etc.

Some professional bodies and regulators legally require members to hold professional indemnity insurance due to the inherent risks of a certain profession. For example:

Professions that probably need professional liability insurance

Examples of additional professions that should consider professional liability insurance

  • Advertising agencies
  • Business analysts
  • Charities and associations
  • Construction managers
  • Construction professionals
  • Consulting engineers
  • Designers
  • Digital agencies
  • Educational establishments
  • Event promoter
  • Freelancers
  • Management consultant
  • Marketing companies
  • Mortgage intermediaries
  • PR agencies and designers
  • Professional consultants
  • Recruitment agents
  • Security consultants (may be required by HSE)
  • Software developers
  • Tradesman
  • Writers for trade journals or magazines

What is Not Covered by Professional Indemnity Insurance?

Professional Indemnity insurance typically does not cover defective workmanship or any defective materials, deliberate acts or omissions, criminal acts, bodily injury (except in the case of medical malpractice), property damage, employment claims or personal and advertising injury.

To cover these risks, you’ll want to complement your Professional Liability Insurance with product liability insurance, public liability insurance or employers' liability, as needed.

Average Cost of Professional liability Insurance

The average cost of public liability insurance for small businesses in the UK is in the range of £45 to £1,400 a year or even more—it depends mostly on your profession.

Professions like architects pay a lot more, because a mistake can have significant financial repercussions. For example, an architect's mistake could mean that a building has to be partially demolished and then rebuilt—at great expense. And if your activities are deemed "riskier" (say you are a management consultant involved in accountancy or tax advice, investments or financial services, M&A, insolvencies, liquidations, receiverships or turnaround management then you'll not only pay a higher premium, but you'll have a harder time finding cover (as in, you may not find providers willing to insure you online, say through a comparison engine).

Here are some sample quotes to show how prices vary across industries. These are sample quotes only; you may need to pay more or less.

Chart showing the cost of professional indemnity insurance in the UK
Sample Professional Indemnity Costs (£2,000,000 of cover)Average Premium
Independent Financial Advisor£47
Software developer£114
Management consultant£174
Commercial Builder£300
Architect£1,374

However, Professional Indemnity insurance is priced based on the specific risks of your business. Your business structure can even make a difference—for example, liability insurance for a limited company can cost more than if you're self employed.

When quoting a Professional Indemnity insurance product, an underwriter will take into account many factors, including:

  • Level of cover
  • Size of your business (in particular, your largest contracts)
  • Line of work
  • Location
  • Business structure (e.g., sole trader, partnership or limited liability company)
  • Number of directors or partners
  • Claims history

Businesses that face higher risks will pay higher premiums than businesses viewed as lower risk, all else equal. Insurance underwriters perform their own internal risk calculations and so you may receive very different quotes from different insurance companies, even if the cover is equivalent between companies.

In fact, quotes could have more to do with an insurer's internal risk management than with your business specifically. For example, if an insurer decides they have written too many Professional Indemnity insurance policies for contractors lately, their risk appetite for writing new contractor liability policies may be quite low. As a result that company's quotes for new contractor liability policies could be much higher than the rest of the market.

Regardless of the reason, different insurance providers can quote VERY different prices for a similar cover. For example, when we priced cover for a software developer and management consultant we found that quotes from Hiscox (a higher-end brand) were 4X to 5X more than the cheapest plans in the market.

Considering all of this, it is always worth comparing how different insurers will price Professional Indemnity cover for your business—whether you are renewing or buying your first policy for a new small business.

Where can I get Professional Indemnity insurance quotes?

Compare Professional Indemnity insurance quotes here—after filling out a short form you'll receive quotes from up to five insurance providers. You'll have the chance to talk on the phone if you have questions that you want to discuss. Then choose the cover that offers the best price and features for your needs.

FAQs

Professional liability, professional indemnity and errors & omissions insurance all refer to the same type of professional advice and services cover. The term "errors & omissions" is more common in the US, while "professional indemnity" is more common in the UK.

No, public liability insurance covers covers claims from third parties due to accidents (e.g., if a customer slips and falls in your business premises), while professional indemnity covers claims for errors or negligence in the advice or service you provide.

Professional indemnity is required by regulatory or some professional bodies for certain professions (e.g., healthcare, accountants, architects, engineers, surveyors, solicitors, financial advisors, insurance brokers) and is recommended for professions where you are paid for your professional advice or services (e.g., designers, construction, advertising, freelance, PR, etc.).

You need professional indemnity insurance to pay for legal defence costs and possible compensation payments if a client sues you for providing negligent advice or services (e.g., making a mistake).

No, employers' liability insurance protects you against claims made by employees who've been accidentally injured or fall ill due to their work for you, while professional indemnity insurance covers you against claims made by clients alleging you've provided negligent advice or services.

The cost of professional indemnity insurance starts from around £80 a year in the UK, but can easily cost 10X as much or more for a small business depending on your profession and the amount of cover you need, as well as the size of your contracts. You may get a discount if you're a member of a professional association. It can be one of the more expensive business liability insurance coverages.

No, product liability insurance protects you against claims made by customers who've been injured by a product you sold them, while professional indemnity insurance covers you against claims made by clients alleging you've provided negligent advice or services.

The amount of professional indemnity insurance you needs is dependent on four primary factors: your profession, the size of your projects, minimum limits required by any governing body you belong to and the amount of PI insurance expected by your clients. Keep in mind that there is no limit on compensation claims in the UK, so a serious case cost thousands or even millions of pounds. Consider how much of a financial impact a mistake or oversight on your part could have on your clients—that, plus legal fees, is essentially what you need cover for.

Erin Yurday

Erin Yurday is the CEO, Co-founder and Editor of NimbleFins. Prior to NimbleFins, she worked as an investment professional and as the finance expert in Stanford University's Graduate School of Business case writing team. Read more on LinkedIn.

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