Insurance: What Coverage You Need

March 7, 2017

By David Walker

Illustration by Sharon Ber

Accident or injury on the job to you or someone you might hire can do more than ruin a shoot. It could bankrupt you. Fortunately, photographers can insure themselves against accidents, injuries, theft and others types of loss. We asked Karen Stetz, who brokers insurance for APA members, what coverage she recommends for photographers. (Advice from other brokers may vary; ask your trade association about the insurance packages they offer.)

PDN: What kinds of insurance should photographers have to protect themselves and their businesses?
Karen Stetz: I usually recommend the Business Owners’ Package policy that includes the following:

$2 million to $4 million limit—General Liability coverage that protects them throughout the U.S., Puerto Rico and Canada. Many building landlords, golf courses and even some churches require photographers to carry adequate limits of general liability insurance. Imagine someone tripping over one of your loose electrical cords, or colliding with one of your light stands. Medical expenses for any bodily injury resulting from accidents caused by you (or anyone working under your direction) are your legal responsibility. General liability insurance protects you against those claims, and also pays to replace property that you or someone under your direction might damage, whether the property belongs to a client, a location landlord or other member of the general public.

$1 million limit—Hired/non-owned Auto Coverage. If your business is incorporated and you use your own automobile, you have employees who use their vehicles on your behalf or you frequently rent automobiles, this coverage is vitally important. Your employee’s routine drive to the photo lab or the bank could have serious financial repercussions for you and your business if your employee causes an accident. Hired/Non-owned Automobile Liability is an easy addition to your policy, and with a standard limit of $1,000,000, it will go far in protecting you against accident victims seeking “deeper pockets.” This coverage is in addition to general liability coverage.

$75,000 limit—Hired Auto Physical Damage (optional). This provides coverage for physical damage to a hired or rented vehicle used for job related purposes.

$500,000 to $1 million limit— Errors & Omissions Liability (optional). Errors & Omissions Insurance, also called Professional Liability Insurance, is becoming more and more necessary for photographers to have. It insures the photographer in the event he or she commits an “error” or an “omission” while either out on a shoot or in the studio. Making a mistake with scheduling, losing or damaging memory cards after completing a job or even taking “compromising” photographs pose a real danger to your pocketbook, let alone your reputation.

Errors & Omissions coverage will pay to completely re-stage an event, complete with tuxedos and fresh flowers, if necessary. The coverage will protect you in court, but it does not require legal action before you are insured. The aim of this coverage is to preserve your reputation and salvage the relationship you have with your client, not just to pay damages when a court rules against you.

$1,000 limit—Business Personal Property. This protects you against physical loss or damage to your business property and equipment, including furniture, fixtures, office furnishings, wardrobe, props, sets, and portfolios. You can increase this limit.

$50,000 Computer coverage for damage or loss to computers on or off premises (worldwide).

Equipment Coverage for the replacement cost (today’s value) for your scheduled equipment and rented equipment (i.e., cameras, lenses and other photographic equipment listed in the policy), with a $250 per-claim deductible. This coverage applies to theft and mysterious disappearance, as well as to fire, vandalism, and accidental breakage.

Photographers can also buy an equipment-only insurance policy. This covers only owned/rented equipment (worldwide) with a $1000 deductible that applies to theft and mysterious disappearance, and a $500 deductible applies to fire, vandalism, and accidental breakage.

This policy does need to be paid upfront in full. You can insure a maximum of two laptops with a maximum value of $2500 each. No other coverage is included in the policy. The premium varies depending on the value of the equipment covered. APA members get a [reduced] rate. We also offer short-term equipment coverage for a maximum of 7 days.

Finally, there’s Workers’ Compensation, which is required in New York and California if you have employees or hire freelancers or subcontractors. But Workers’ Compensation insurance is important to have wherever you are located. The reason is because if anyone working under your supervision or discretion gets injured on the job, you are liable for their medical expenses for the duration of the claim/injury. Workers’ Compensation coverage will provide benefits—including medical expenses, healthcare costs, disability income benefits and death benefits—regardless of who is at fault. (Please note: Most personal health/medical insurance policies do not cover work-related injuries.)

The premium for Workers’ Compensation insurance varies on the basis of your estimated annual payroll, and whether or not you (as the policy holder) want to be covered by the insurance.

Learn more about Workers’ Compensation insurance in an extended article here. 

PDN: Are there any limits to the general liability coverage that photographers should know about?
KS: The general liability coverage applies in the U.S., Puerto Rico and Canada. Most times you can endorse the policy to add international coverage on the liability, but an additional premium does apply and it varies.

The general liability policy does not cover injury to the policyholder, or to his or her employees, sub contractors, or freelancers he or she has hired. A Workers’ Comp policy would be needed for this coverage.

PDN: What should photographers expect to pay for various kinds of insurance?
KS: The minimum premium for the Business Owners’ Policy package is $500/year. The premium varies, depending on the value of equipment you want to insure, and what optional coverage(s) you select. This is an annual policy. We do not write short-term coverage.

PDN: Do photographers have a lot of insurance providers to choose from?
KS: We mainly write with three companies that have specialized coverage for photographers, including worldwide replacement cost on equipment.

PDN: How complicated is the process of insuring yourself as a photographer?
KS: It’s a simple, easy process. We have an application online. After it is completed, it will go directly into my in-box, then I will work on a proposal and email to the prospect. If they decide to purchase, all I need is a signature and down payment. Most often I write coverage the same day.

For information on disability insurance, see “How to Pay the Bills If You’re too Sick or Injured to Work

Related Articles:

What If You Break a $300,000 Figurine While on Assignment?

Oh Sh*t! Photographers Recount Their Worst Gear Mishaps