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Liability Insurance for freelancers/independent contractors

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Steve KownackiLiability Insurance for freelancers/independent contractors
by on Jan 28, 2009 at 3:42:01 pm

Hello fellow bovine.

Here's my most recent conversations with my insurance agent about General Liability Insurance with regards to freelancers / independent contractors and I thought it worthy to share. I'm also thinking about a comment Bob Zelin made a few posts back that most of our time is spent marketing and selling. True. Then comes all this admin stuff. Somehow we fit in the production work. This can abviously get sticky; I've never had the situation arrise at my company. The contractors are our friends but business is business. Shall I preface that I'm not an insurance agent, attorney and am offering no legal advice.

I'm getting concerned again about my freelancers and their liability responsibility to me and my client both in my office and on the jobsite. Here's a thread I started on a video forum (ironically) exactly this time last year . This brings up some interesting points.

My direct questions: If I have a freelance editor come to my office and work on my computer what threat does he pose to me personally, FFP or my client? Second is: what if we are on location somewhere - this has 2 parts: 1) at a client location, like your office, my freelancer knocks over a light and damages your desk. Who pays? I don't want FFP to pay for something my freelancer did. Or am I wrong. And sometimes they may bring their own gear too; not necessarily always using my gear. 2) And then what about on a remote location, like a city street, although part of a client project, we are not on client premises.

So the overall question is: should my freelancers have their own liability coverage and does it matter if they are in my office or on location working for me?

If your freelancers are sub-contractors you should make sure that they have their own liability insurance and provide you with a certificate of insurance showing their coverage. If you hire freelancers and they have no insurance, your policy will respond but then you get into employees and worker’s comp issues. It’s like building a house and sub-contracting the electric &/or roof and the sub-contractor has no insurance…your policy will pay but ERIE sure would like to have someone to go after.

Should your freelancers have their own liability coverage? Yes

Does it matter if they are in your office or on location working for you? No, if they have no insurance your policy will respond since you are the Contractor.

Would what you describe apply to freelance announcers as well? They show up and read a script in the vocal booth, I'm assuming it would.

If they are not your employee and are working for you on a job that you have contracted for the answer would be the same (yes).

A few years ago my camera was damaged at a ski resort when a snowboarder crashed into me; Erie paid, but of course I got zonked with the deductible and a rate increase. Had I gotten the kids name, (agent) said his parent's homeowner's coverage would have paid the claim (around $3000 if I remember). Would any of that come in to play or is it strictly a liability policy each independent contractor would need? On the legal side, should I have any type of agreement stating that they are an independent contractor for purposes of taxes and liability?

(Agent) was correct about the camera, the kid and his parents homeowner’s policy. Always take names….

A sub-contractor should have a liability policy (hence certificate of insurance) to cover anything he is liable for, he should also have a policy to cover his own equipment. If the sub-contractor is using your equipment your policy would cover the equipment.

They are independent contractors if you are sending them a 1099, if you are sending them a W2, they are your employee. As I stated before, if there is a claim with an individual working for you and they have no insurance, your policy will respond and then ERIE will charge you accordingly.

NOTE: I did not get a response on wether I should have an independent contractor form signed. (Thoughts on that?)


So having researched all this, some of my freelancers refuse to feel the need to have their own policy, about $500/year, and have since not been called back. It's been said frequently on this forum - ya gotta pay to play. If you're claiming to be a business, there are expenses to doing so.

Wishing you all a lucrative 2009,


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walter biscardiRe: Liability Insurance for freelancers/independent contractors
by on Jan 28, 2009 at 3:46:15 pm

Interesting stuff. I've always operated under the assumption that the primary production company is responsible for the liability insurance, not the freelancers. That's how it has always worked on any production I've been a part of here in Atlanta.

We carry a $2 million policy to cover anything that might happen during any of our productions. I honestly don't know if any of our freelancers have their own as I've never asked or required it.

But interesting stuff to ponder.

Walter Biscardi, Jr.
Biscardi Creative Media
HD and SD Production for Broadcast and Independent Productions.

Read my Blog!


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Rich RubaschRe: Liability Insurance for freelancers/independent contractors
by on Jan 29, 2009 at 2:26:16 am

Further, if you sign a contract with a client and their contract says you have to be insured for $1 mil and you hire a freelancer who only has $200,000 insurance and that freelancer causes lots of damage your insurance coverage might not kick in, since that freelancer is not on your policy, and his $200,000 won't cover the damages so you could be sunk. Depends on how the clients insurance lawyers go after it. You would have to have added a line in the original contract that you are going to hire a freelancer who only has $200,000 of insurance, or get your insurance company to write their name into your policy (not a good option).

Remember that freelancers are not you employees and insurance companies under your coverage will NOT cover them. Lastly, remember that insurance is for worst case scenarios. It is protection, and you must decide how much risk you will take on a production set or bringing freelancers into your offices.

And get the contracts straight. Be sure that you meet the requirements, and your freelancers do too, to be sure a claim won't trickle down to get you.

Talk to your agent like Steve did.

Rich Rubasch
Tilt Media

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Steve KownackiRe: Liability Insurance for freelancers/independent contractors
by on Jan 30, 2009 at 11:59:45 am

Hey Walter, I've been trying to think of an analogy for the situation, maybe it's something like this. Your insurance would cover anything you or your freelancer might encounter, but if you could prove the freelancer caused the damage, why should you have to pay in the form of rate increases.

I believe this is how it would go: Imagine a 3-vehicle accident where the guy in front of you (the client) stops, you (The contractor/vendor)stop safely, but the guy behind you (the independent contractor/freelancer) hits you and you subsequently hit the guy in front of you. You are responsible for damage to the 1st car because your car hit him. Your rate will go up because you caused the damage. However your insurance company will sue the driver behind you to recover damages - and your deductible and probably without increasing your since blame can be re-directed.


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Jon GordonRe: Liability Insurance for freelancers/independent contractors
by on Apr 2, 2010 at 7:14:40 pm

Hi, thanks for interesting insurance discussion. However, I can't quite figure out the answer to a situation I have and I was wondering if you might know the answer: I rent my camera to a production company, a freelancer hired by that production company breaks my camera during a shoot for one of the production company's clients... who pays (or whose insurance pays)? The renter, the freelancer, the client, or the owner?

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