Compensation claims and self-employment – what are the risks?

Rebecca Priestley

Rebecca Priestley, associate and solicitor at Nottingham’s Nelsons Solicitors, discusses the ins and outs of compensation claims and the risks for self-employed people.

There are many benefits to being self-employed – flexibility, independence – the world is your oyster. The downside is that when there is a problem, the buck stops with you.

Being self-employed comes with several key legal considerations, particularly around accidents in your workplace and who would be held responsible. Have you thought about what would happen if someone had an accident and blamed you? Would your insurance arrangements cover you? That may be a more complex question than you think and it is really important to ensure that you take out public liability cover that works for your particular circumstances.

As a self-employed worker, the last thing you want would be to find yourself facing a claim for compensation personally which could wipe out any savings that you have prudently squirreled away “in case of emergency.”

Insurance is even more important these days since the rules about costs in personal injury claims changed in April 2013 when the Government brought in the concept of One Way Costs Shifting.

Now, if you find yourself facing a claim for compensation, even if you successfully defeat the claim by showing that the accident wasn’t your fault, you will still be obliged to pay your own legal costs unless certain very limited exceptions apply.

Before you apply for insurance, think carefully about every aspect of your job and where you think the risks lie.

Another key question to consider is whether you drive regularly or even only occasionally as part of your job. If so, have you made sure that your car insurance covers business travel? Also, do people come to your home as part of your day-to-day work? Have you checked that your home insurance policy would cover you in the event that the person injured at your home was actually a client and not an every-day visitor?

More key questions could include; do you work alongside anyone? Have you checked if they have adequate public liability insurance cover? Do you know what the situation would be if your workmate had an accident?

You may be surprised to learn that, in some situations, a Court could rule that you were an employer, because, for example, of the way in which you directed your workmate to carry out a job. In this situation, employer’s health and safety duties would apply and any claim would be classed as an employer’s liability claim and would be unlikely to be covered by your public liability insurance.

It is vital to make sure that, as a self-employed worker, you have taken out public liability cover which is appropriate for your business, what you do on a daily basis and who may be visiting your work space. Without it, the door is open to potential compensation claims which could have a significant impact on a small business.