General Liability Insurance
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General liability insurance

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General liability insurance

General liability insurance covers common business risks like customer injury, customer property damage, and advertising injury. It protects your small business from the high costs of lawsuits and helps you qualify for leases and contracts.

Why is general liability insurance important?

General liability insurance protects against the most common risks of running a business.

This business liability insurance coverage pays for legal costs if a customer trips and suffers an injury at your business, or if you accidentally damage someone's property. This policy also covers personal and advertising injuries, such as libel and copyright infringement.

Small business owners often need general liability insurance to fulfill requirements for a lease, loan, or contract. For example, a landlord might ask to see a certificate of insurance when you sign a commercial lease.

General liability coverage is a crucial component of risk management for small businesses, and it's affordable. The average premium is about $42 per month for Insureon customers.

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General liability coverage is essential if your business:

  • Has a location that is open to the public
  • Works closely with customers or clients
  • Handles client property
  • Rents or owns commercial property

What does general liability insurance cover?

General liability insurance provides coverage for common liability claims from third parties (people outside your business).

This business insurance policy covers legal defense costs if someone sues over a bodily injury, property damage, or advertising injury. Your policy can pay for everything from hiring a lawyer to court-ordered judgments and settlements.

Specifically, your commercial general liability (CGL) policy provides coverage for:

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Third-party bodily injuries

If a customer is hurt in an accident at your business, general liability insurance can help pay for medical expenses. It also covers legal expenses if a customer sues over the injury.

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Third-party property damage

A general liability insurance policy can cover expenses when your business accidentally damages or destroys another person’s property.

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Product liability

Not all property damage or customer injuries happen inside a store. If a business manufactures, distributes, or sells products, it can be sued over the harm its products cause to people or property.

Most commercial general liability (CGL) policies include product liability insurance. This type of coverage helps pay for lawsuits and other financial losses related to defective products, labeling errors that harm customers, and other product risks.

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Personal injuries and advertising injuries

If someone sues a business owner or employee over slander, libel, false arrest, or copyright infringement, general liability insurance can help pay for legal defense costs and any resulting settlement or judgment.

How much does general liability insurance cost?

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General liability insurance premiums are calculated based on a few different factors, including:

  • Amount of coverage
  • Industry and risk factors
  • Location
  • Number of employees

General liability insurance typically costs an average of $42 per month. This is based on the average cost of a general liability insurance policy. And 29% of Insureon’s small business customers pay less than $30 per month for their policies.

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Who needs general liability insurance?

Most companies need this insurance, including limited liability companies (LLCs), especially if you rent or own an office or commercial space. Even if that doesn't apply to you, small businesses that work directly with clients and customers benefit from general liability insurance.

This insurance policy can keep your company financially stable if you’re sued by a customer or competitor. Because general liability insurance provides such important coverage, most small business owners buy the policy right after they start their business.

Is general liability insurance required by law?

Generally not, but states may mandate it for certain industries like construction and cannabis. Depending on your type of business, you may also need coverage to get a professional license in your state.

While commercial general liability (CGL) insurance isn’t typically required by law, it’s still likely required by your landlord, mortgage company, business partners, or clients. For example, Amazon sellers are required to carry coverage when their sales reach a certain threshold.

A landlord or client may ask your business to show an ACORD certificate of insurance as proof of your general liability insurance coverage. This document verifies that your business can handle any personal injury or property damage lawsuits.

Most importantly, the certificate gives your property manager, bank, or customer peace of mind that they won’t be stuck paying the costs of a lawsuit against your company.

Find out more about when general liability insurance is required.

Do independent contractors need general liability insurance?

Like any small business owner, independent contractors can be sued and held liable for customer injuries, customer property damage, or advertising injuries.

While contractors who don’t have a physical location or expensive equipment probably don’t need a business owner’s policy or commercial property insurance, they will still benefit from general liability insurance.

If you don’t want to purchase a commercial general liability (CGL) policy, you can ask your clients to add you to their policies as an additional insured. This will cover you for as long as you work for the client who insures you.

Keep in mind that your clients might pay a higher insurance premium if they add you to their general liability policies, and your coverage will end once the contract expires.

How do I get proof of general liability insurance?

View video transcript.

Small business owners are the heart of every community. They make things work and dream big. We protect those dreams by providing the right policies.

Welcome. A general liability insurance policy is essential if you open your business to the public, handle client property, and rent or own commercial property.

It's your first move. Most small business owners buy a general liability insurance policy right after they start their business.

If this is you, consider getting your policy today. Your location is open to the public, come one, come all. You work closely with customers and clients. Part of your business is handling client property. You rent or own commercial property.

What does a general liability policy do? Well, it can cover your legal costs if someone sues you over an injury, property damage, or advertising injury.

In short, it can be used for hiring a lawyer to court ordered settlements. Yes, let's avoid those.

More than anything, it protects your business and provides peace of mind.

A certificate of insurance may also make life easier when dealing with landlords and banks, they appreciate that you're covered.

Compare quotes and get the right policy for your business at now.

You can usually get proof of insurance online the same day you apply for quotes with Insureon.

Traditional insurance agents can take several weeks to send a certificate of general liability insurance to new customers, which could be an issue for a policyholder who needs immediate proof of insurance to sign a pending contract or lease.

To get coverage quickly, fill out Insureon’s free online application. You’ll need to provide a little basic information about your business, such as:

  • Business name
  • Business operations
  • Number of employees
  • Estimated annual revenue
  • Years of industry experience

Learn more about our general liability insurance application.

What does general liability insurance not cover?

While general liability insurance is crucial for most small businesses, it does not provide all the protection you need. For instance, your policy does not include coverage for:

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Professional errors

Professional liability insurance, also called errors and omissions insurance (E&O), can cover lawsuits over professional mistakes, including undelivered services and missed deadlines. This policy can apply to many professions, including: architects, consultants, interior designers, real estate professionals, tax preparers, and more.

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Employee injuries

Workers' compensation insurance is the policy that covers medical expenses and disability benefits for employees who are injured on the job. It's required in most states for businesses that have employees. In most cases, labor-intensive businesses often purchase this policy, but it can be beneficial to accounting firms, computer repair professionals, house cleaners, photographers, and more.

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Stolen or damaged business property

A business owner's policy (BOP) helps pay for replacement of stolen business property. It also covers business property damaged by a fire or certain weather events. This policy combines general liability insurance with commercial property insurance at a discount. This bundle is ideal for low-risk businesses such as advertising agencies, churches and religious organizations, day spas, insurance agents, and more.

Similar to a BOP, a commercial package policy (CPP) also packages these coverages, but is generally purchased by high risk small and medium-sized businesses. With broad underwriting and customizable limits, a CPP allows business owners to address the specific risks they face with the right amount of coverage.

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Employee discrimination lawsuits

Employment practices liability insurance (EPLI) can cover lawsuit expenses related to employee claims of harassment, discrimination, and wrongful termination. Good candidates for EPLI coverage are retail, food services, manufacturing, and healthcare professions.

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Vehicles used by a business

Personal auto insurance policies almost always exclude business use. Most states require that vehicles owned by a business must be covered by commercial auto insurance. Some professions that should consider commercial auto insurance are: construction and installation, cleaning, and landscaping businesses.

Personal, leased, and rented vehicles used for work purposes can be covered by hired and non-owned auto insurance (HNOA), which you can add to a general liability policy.

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Liquor liability

Liquor liability insurance covers legal fees from incidents involving people who became intoxicated at your business. That could include drunk driving, assault, and vandalism.

This policy is required for businesses that serve alcohol. You can purchase it as a standalone policy or add it to your general liability policy. A few industries in particular that should carry this coverage are restaurants, food trucks, convenience stores, and breweries.

Other important policies for small businesses that purchase general liability insurance

General liability insurance covers common business risks, though it does not protect against all of them. To be fully insured, small business owners should also consider:

Business owner's policy: A BOP bundles general liability coverage and commercial property insurance at a discount. It protects against the most common lawsuits and property damage.

Workers’ compensation insurance: Workers’ comp covers medical costs for work-related injuries and illnesses. Most states require this coverage for businesses with one or more employees.

Professional liability insurance: This policy covers professional mistakes and oversights, such as missing a project deadline. It’s also known as errors & omissions insurance.

Commercial auto insurance: Auto insurance is required in most states for businesses that own vehicles. It covers your legal bills, medical expenses, and property damage if one of your business vehicles is involved in an accident.

Cyber insurance: Also called cyber liability insurance and cybersecurity insurance, this policy protects small businesses from the high costs of a data breach or malicious software attack. It covers expenses such as customer notification, credit monitoring, legal fees, and fines.

Need a policy recommendation? Answer three questions and we can help you find the right coverage for your business.

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FAQs about general liability insurance

Review answers for frequently asked questions about general liability insurance coverage.

How much general liability coverage do I need?

If you are purchasing general liability insurance to fulfill the terms of a contract or lease, you need to make sure that your coverage meets the requested policy limits.

Otherwise, you should aim for an amount of coverage that's both affordable and matches your business needs. Simply put, you want to make sure your policy can pay for a lawsuit if you’re sued. Consider the size of your business, the number of employees, and its business operations to determine your exposures and risk of financial loss.

Most small businesses opt for the standard $1 million per occurrence / $2 million aggregate policy limits. This means the policy will pay up to $1 million to cover a single insurance claim, with a $2 million limit for the lifetime of the policy, typically one year.

If your business has high risks or revenue, you can extend your general liability insurance coverage with commercial umbrella insurance. Umbrella insurance increases your maximum policy limit, meaning your insurance company can cover more expensive lawsuits.

When buying a policy, also make sure the deductible is something you can easily afford. If you can’t pay for it in a crisis, your insurance won’t activate to cover your liability claim.

What is the difference between general liability and professional liability insurance?

General liability covers customer injuries, customer property damage, and advertising injuries. Professional liability insurance covers disputes over the quality of professional services.

Almost all businesses need general liability insurance, but businesses that provide professional services need added protection from mistakes and unhappy clients.

That’s where professional liability coverage comes in. This policy helps professionals like accountants, lawyers, consultants, and insurance agents avoid high costs from lawsuits related to the quality of their work.

For some industries, such as media and advertising professionals, general liability insurance will not cover libel, slander, or other advertising injuries. These businesses instead require media liability insurance, which is a form of professional liability insurance.

Read more about general liability vs. professional liability insurance.

What are general liability insurance exclusions?

General liability insurance has some additional coverage exclusions. For example, it doesn't pay defense costs for intentional copyright infringement or willful negligence – which can be criminal offenses. It also doesn't cover intentional injuries or property damage.

While a general liability policy typically covers damage to someone else’s property, most policies exclude times when you have temporary possession of the items. In insurance terms, this is called care, custody, and control. Small business owners can fill this gap with bailee coverage, which is a type of inland marine insurance that can complement both general liability and commercial property coverage.

Read your policy carefully to see what is and isn't covered. To fill other gaps in coverage, you can also add endorsements to your policy. Check with a licensed insurance agent to make sure your general liability policy includes all the coverage you need.

What is coverage A, B, and C for commercial general liability insurance?

There are three liability categories included in a general liability policy:

Coverage A: Bodily injury and property damage liability

This insures your business against claims that your business cause bodily injury or property damage to other people and property. Examples include:

  • A customer injures themselves after accidentally slipping and falling at your business.
  • An employee accidentally damages a client or customer's property.
  • A customer claims that one of your products caused them a physical injury.

Coverage B: Personal and advertising injury

This includes claims of libel, slander, copyright violations, and invasion of privacy. For example:

  • A rival business or individual accuses you of libel or slander in an advertisement, website, or social media post.
  • Another business sues you for alleged copyright or trademark infringement.
  • A customer accuses your business for violating their privacy by disclosing their personal information without their consent.

Coverage C: Medical payments

Coverage C pays for the medical expenses of non-employees who are injured at your business. It’s known as “no-fault” insurance, because it covers the injured person’s medical bills with no need for determining who was at fault, and without going to court.

The biggest difference between A, B, and C coverages is that A and B include legal expenses. Coverage C does not pay for your legal costs, because it covers claims on a "no-fault" basis.

Where can I learn more about general liability insurance?

If you want to learn more about this policy, you can find additional answers in our frequently asked questions about general liability insurance.

If there are any additional questions you have about coverage or other types of business insurance you may need, you can also contact an Insureon agent.

Obtén más información sobre el seguro de responsabilidad civil general (en español).

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Best general liability insurance for small businesses

When buying commercial general liability insurance, not every provider offers the same coverage and support. Find the best insurance company for your type of business, your budget, and your geographical area.

Updated: January 31, 2024
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