Public Liability Insurance for Roofers

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Author: Dan Stout | January 15, 2024

Insurance is like safety gear: You don't need it until you need it, and then it's too late to get more. We love roofing, both as a trade and an industry. But it would be foolhardy to claim that roofing doesn't carry certain risks. Those risks will never be eliminated, but they can be controlled with proper safety precautions and solid liability insurance.

An insurance agent discusses an insurance policy contract with a roofing professional
Learn what type of insurance roofers might need, including public liability insurance.

Chances are you're familiar with general liability insurance. But if you've heard of public liability insurance for roofers, you may be wondering if you need that, too. We've got the rundown on what public liability insurance is and when it's required.

Depending on your state and local regulations, you may be required to carry specific types of insurance. Always check with the appropriate authorities to ensure that you are in compliance.

General vs. Public Liability Insurance

Public liability insurance (PLI) is similar to general liability insurance (GLI), but with a more limited scope. Basically, PLI covers damages and injuries to members of the public who visit your jobsite, warehouse or offices.

GLI offers broader coverage, and most policies either incorporate public liability or are designed to work in conjunction with a standalone PLI policy.

As a side note, if you decide to research PLI through the school of Google, limit your search to the United States. Countries such as the United Kingdom and Australia use the phrase "public liability" to describe what we call "general liability."

Do Roofers Need Public Liability Insurance?

The short answer is yes — but you probably already have coverage.

Why You Need It

Consider a situation where materials that are improperly stacked in a driveway topple over just as a pedestrian passes by. Or think about the damage caused by roofing nails falling on the sidewalk or street. And what about a crew member who manages to back the company truck over someone's mailbox? While a roofing job poses the most risk to the roofers themselves, you'd be amazed at how many potential hazards a construction site can pose to the public.

Even if your local regulations don't require liability coverage, more and more customers are asking for proof of insurance when hiring contractors. After all, if you face a claim but aren't carrying sufficient coverage, then your customer might find themselves in a lawyer's crosshairs.

Why You Probably Already Have It

Many GLI policies include PLI coverage. It's like buying a pancake compressor that includes a nail gun: You don't have to buy a separate nail gun unless you want a specific model.

It's worth noting that public liability insurance for roofers covers a smaller range of occurrences, so it's often less expensive than a GLI policy. If you aren't required to carry GLI, look at getting standalone PLI as a more affordable option.

How Much Coverage Is Enough?

Often, local regulations dictate how much liability insurance you need to carry, tied to the common commercial policy tiers or $1 or $2 million. That's plenty for most small- or medium-sized roofers, but remember that you're almost always better off with too much insurance rather than too little. The cost of coverage will depend on the size of your operations, the type of work and the insurance company. If you don't have a regular insurance agent, call around to get multiple quotes.

Whenever you have a question, bring it to the professional insurance agent who handles your policy. If you don't get an answer, it might be time to find a new agent. It's essential to have an advocate you trust.