There are obvious benefits to Public Liability Insurance. As I have recently said before, the legal duty that we all owe each other, known as public liability, is the duty owed to members of the public. If we fail in this duty and cause another person an injury then, depending upon the circumstances, we might be sued. It is helpful, therefore, to have insurance in place if we are sued.
At the same time, we have to ask ourselves whether this insurance is actually going to stand up. By this I mean that if we are sued and pass papers on to our insurers, are they going to indemnify us; or will they simply say to us that they are happy to take the premiums, but are not happy to pay out?
The difficulty with public liability insurance is that it is not a compulsory insurance. It is therefore different from road traffic insurance where there is an obligation on everyone who drives their car to have a valid policy of insurance.
Increasingly, you will see police vehicles with ANPR on the front of the vehicle, which stands for Automatic Number Plate Recognition. Police vehicles have technology that automatically reads the vehicle index or registration plate in front, and can feed this back to a computer which then tells the officers whether the vehicle is wanted for any particular reason and whether the vehicle is uninsured.
Police powers are such that, if a vehicle is uninsured, they can immediately impound this vehicle and therefore take the vehicle off the road.
We are increasingly finding a result wherein there is less of a requirement to call upon the Motor Insurers’ Bureau under the Uninsured Driver’s Agreement when dealing with road traffic accidents where the third party is uninsured. From the perspective of an accident in public compensation claim, and in compensating the Claimant adequately, this is all very helpful.
There is no obligation to have insurance for public liability. As a result, it is perfectly possible for insurers to try and rescind on their policy if they do not want to pay out.
In a road traffic situation if, for example, we have lied about previous convictions when taking out the policy - or even lied about any health complaints that we have - then the Claimant is in the same position as they would otherwise have been, and they will receive compensation.
There is no such provision for public liability insurance. If we have therefore lied when taking out the policy, it is perfectly possible that we as the person who caused the injury, namely the tortfeasor, will not have the benefit of the insurance that we thought we had, and the Claimant will not have the benefit of bringing a claim secure in the knowledge that they will ultimately receive compensation.
Read here for a previous blog addressing the pitfalls of having public liability insurance.
Tristan Hallam is a Practice Group Leader at Slater and Gordon Lawyers, specialising in Occupiers and Public Liability.
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