When is liability insurance needed?

Learn how general liability insurance can provide financial help for many common business risks.

Meg Furey-Marquess
By Meg Furey-Marquess
Published Jan 11, 2023
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General liability insurance may be required by clients, landlords and regulatory agencies before they issue a professional license.

Jump ahead to learn:

What is liability insurance?

Liability insurance can protect you and your business if you are found liable for causing an injury to someone other than an employee or damaging their property.

General liability insurance is often the first business insurance policy small businesses purchase due to its broad coverage.

Is general liability insurance required by law?

Many small business owners ask, “Is general liability insurance required by law?” In general, the answer is no, but you may need to have general liability insurance to:

Sign a contract with a client or partner

Many companies and individuals will only work with businesses that are properly insured.

Get licensed or certified

Depending on your industry, proof of insurance may be required when applying for professional licenses or certifications.

Sign a lease

Property managers regularly require businesses to purchase liability insurance before they lease a commercial space, especially if they plan to be open to the public. Learn more.

Get liability insurance in 10 minutes with NEXT.

How can liability insurance help protect small businesses?

General liability insurance is often required for doing business because it can cover a wide range of potential incidents. Depending on your coverage limits and exclusions, your liability insurance policy could help pay for:

Slip-and-fall injuries

Someone (not an employee) trips at your business, breaks their leg and files a lawsuit. This is often referred to as “bodily injury.”

Property damage

You or an employee accidentally damage a client’s property.

Legal fees & defense costs

You need an attorney to defend your business in a lawsuit after a claim.

Medical payments

Someone (excluding employees) gets injured and asks you to pay for medical expenses.

Reputational harm

An employee bad-mouths a client online and the client sues you.

Advertising injury

You’re sued for improper image use in your advertising.

In all of these examples, general liability insurance can help cover the costs you might have to pay out of pocket. So while not often required by law, it’s easy to see why it may be required by those with whom you do business.

Expanded coverage

If you need to expand your general liability coverage, doing so is easy by adding a rider.

With NEXT, some businesses can add additional coverage to their general liability policy, and any business can add an additional insured.

Liquor liability

If your business serves alcohol, it’s important to know that general liability doesn’t usually provide coverage for accidents that involve alcohol. Liquor liability insurance can provide financial help if you serve a customer alcohol, and someone claims it’s your fault for an injury or property damage.

Product liability

If you make, distribute or sell anything that ends up causing harm to a customer, you might be held responsible. With NEXT, product liability coverage is included in coverage for retail businesses.

Additional insured

Clients or landlords may not only require you to have liability insurance before they sign a contract with you, they may also ask you to add themself as an additional insured on your policy.

By adding them to your policy as an additional insured, should an accident occur, your insurance can not only cover you and your actions, but them as well.

What isn’t covered by liability insurance?

Liability insurance covers many common accidents, but it isn’t designed to defend against everything. Many business owners consider other types of coverage for protection from other risks:


Should one of your employees get injured or ill while on the job, your liability insurance won’t help cover the costs because they aren’t “someone else.” To protect your staff and your business should something happen, workers’ compensation insurance can help cover medical bills and even lost wages.

Professional mistakes

Accidents are one thing, but if you make a professional mistake that costs a client money, they could sue for damages. Professional liability insurance (also known as errors and omissions insurance) can help cover business mistakes, accusations of negligence, and even missed deadlines.

Your property

Liability insurance can help pay for harm caused to others, but not to you. Commercial property insurance protects your building, goods, gear, inventory, and can even cover lost income if your business needs to close.

How NEXT can help keep your business covered

NEXT is 100% committed to helping small businesses. That’s why we make customizing your insurance easy with 24/7 DIY access.

You can start a quote, customize your options and access your certificate of insurance online in about 10 minutes.

Manage and update your policies when the time is right for you, not just during business hours.

Start your instant quote today.

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Meg Furey-Marquess
About the author

Meg Furey-Marquess is an experienced writer from Austin, Texas. With a special interest in both small business and personal finance, she believes that big ideas often start small. With a knack for narrative and a relentlessly curious nature, her goal is to amplify the “little guys.”

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