Getting business insurance can be tough for a blogger. Some insurance companies will tell you up front they don’t insure us. Even when they carry exactly the sort of policies you need.
You may also run into a lot of agents who don’t fully understand what you need. I have received quotes that excluded any coverage for “internet publishing”, for example. That’s my entire business.
I can’t stress enough that I am not an insurance expert of any sort, nor am I a lawyer. I’m just a blogger describing my own experience getting business insurance. I’m not advising you and you should not rely on anything I say.
My goal here is to describe the things I learned to ask agents about as I was shopping for insurance policies, in hopes that reading about my experience will save you some time. I also recommend you look for other bloggers sharing their experiences.
The trick to getting the business insurance policies you need is to:
- Do your own research and find out what policies you need
- Read the policy language carefully to make sure it covers what you need
- Find an insurance agent who actually understands what you need
Why You Need Blogger Insurance
I’m very careful to avoid giving anyone a good reason to sue me. But there are people who seem to make their living by pairing up with a lawyer and making groundless or overinflated claims against websites.
No matter how careful you are, you can find yourself being sued. Also, we all make mistakes and none of us knows everything about the law, so it’s possible you will accidentally give someone a good reason to make a claim.
Most of these claims involve:
- Copyrighted images (here’s a good example from The Content Factory)
- Copyrighted text/Plagiarism
- Trademark infringement (don’t use an umbrella in your logo)
- Defamation (even writing a truthful negative review or a Facebook share of a story someone decided was defamatory)
- Accessibility issues (how well does your website and social media presence communicate to people with impaired vision or hearing?)
- Readers claiming your blog harmed them (i.e., they followed your tutorial and hurt themselves or lost money)
Even if a case is groundless – meaning you did nothing wrong and the person is just fishing for a quick settlement – defending yourself costs money. That’s where having the right insurance policies comes in.
Your insurance policy should cover the cost of hiring a lawyer to negotiate a settlement or take a case to court. A lawyer can typically get a much better result than you could on your own, but that expertise comes with a cost.
When you don’t have to worry about paying the lawyer because your insurance company is going to do that, you can just focus on getting the best result for the case. In some cases that will be a quick cheap settlement while in others it might involve going to court.
Companies that don’t cover bloggers
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of what you need in your policy and how to get it, let’s talk about the difficulty of trying to explain what you do to insurance agents.
And the fact that some companies have told me and other bloggers straight up that they do not cover bloggers. I don’t understand this, and neither did the broker agent who called them for me to confirm it when their quote was the only one that came up in his system. But it really is a thing.
So be aware that wherever you are getting quotes, you’re going to want to call or email the underwriting company and ask them if they cover bloggers. Your broker cannot know this, unless s/he contacts them for you. You have to get an answer from an actual human being at the company providing the quote.
I got four quotes and talked to three companies that said they couldn’t or wouldn’t insure me. Two of the quotes came from two of the companies that wouldn’t cover me. Sigh.
One broker told me that when companies say they won’t cover your trade or can’t cover your business, this means they just don’t want our business for some reason. He also later came back telling me his company couldn’t insure me. Fun times.
You’re a what?
Here’s how it goes. If you call an Insurance agent and tell them you’re an architect, they know exactly what coverage you need. Your trade has been around for centuries and they may even know more than you do about insuring what you do.
If you tell them you’re a blogger, however, or an internet content publisher, or an internet marketer, or whatever you call it, they will spend several minutes looking through their computer system to find a category that matches what you do.
They have only the vaguest of ideas what you do.
They will suggest web design. App development. “Website development and/or hosting.” None of these are really a great match for blogging.
I eventually started telling them I am exposed to the same risks as journalists. I write words I believe are accurate, I insert images I believe I have permission to use, I promote it on social media. Eventually they started putting me down as an “online newspaper publisher”, and that seemed to bring up the right types of policies.
What You Need in Your Policy
What we all need in our policies can vary from blogger to blogger. But here are the basics to look out for:
- Coverage for copyright and trademark infringement
- Coverage for defamation, libel and slander
- Coverage for claims by readers that something on your website harmed them in some way. This includes accessibility claims.
- Coverage for damages to your business equipment (computers, cameras, printers, etc.). This may already be covered in your homeowner’s or renters insurance.
- Disability insurance to pay you if you can’t work for a period of time.
- Coverage for cyber attacks/privacy. Whether or not you need this coverage may depend on how much personally identifying data you collect on your readers or customers. Securing your WordPress and taking steps to avoid ransomware on your personal PC can help avoid this kind of incident.
- Coverage for bodily harm if you travel to places for work or have people come to your home or office for work. This covers incidents like someone slipping and falling and getting injured.
Most insurance agencies won’t show you your complete policy language until they generate the policy. So you have to take the agent’s word on a lot of it.
In the case of the insurance company I went with, I was able to buy a month of insurance and get a look at the language. Had the policy not been what I was led to believe by the agent, I could’ve canceled it and gotten money back a prorated amount for whatever days were left in the month I had paid for.
Fortunately the policy was just as the agent had described it.
Which policies do you need?
Every insurance company does things a little bit differently. In my case, I was able to get everything I need in a Professional Liability (also called “errors and omissions”) policy with some extra endorsements.
You may also need a General Liability policy. This is especially true if you have people come to your home or office for business, or if you travel to client’s locations for business. This policy is usually what will also cover your business equipment, if your homeowners or renters policy does not.
The only other kind of insurance policy I was offered was disability. My income is passive because I don’t work for clients. My websites keep generating revenue even while I sleep.
If you do client work, it could make a lot of sense to get a disability policy to cover you if you’re unable to work for a period of time.
There will probably be additional types of policies that some of you need for your specific work. I only researched the coverage I need for what I do.
In addition to whatever coverage you need from the above list, here are some additional things you may want to discuss with your agent:
Coverage for older articles:
The policy must not exclude older articles, because unless you’re brand new, this leaves a lot of your business uncovered. This can be called prior acts coverage and is part of “claims made” policies.
Several insurance companies I talk to assured me no one would offer me this, but the one I found said they consider the date of the “wrongful act” to be when the claim was made (“claims made”), not when an article was published or an image was posted or the incident happened.
Coverage for “Internet Publishing”
A policy that excludes “Internet publishing” won’t do you much good. I ran into a couple of policies that excluded this.
I assume they were designed for more traditional businesses that also have websites. But if your business is your website, coverage for internet publishing is a must.
Some companies that exclude this may be willing to un-exclude it for you. Definitely ask them about it if you get a quote with this language.
I try not to give anyone a reason to sue me, so groundless lawsuits are my main concern. These are the ones absolutely no amount of caution can prevent.
Some policies will specifically mention that they cover your defense in groundless lawsuits as well as lawsuits that have some merit. Most of the ones I looked at, however, did not.
From the research I’ve done, I think most policies cover it whether they say they do or not. But it’s something to bring up with your agent. Groundless lawsuit can cost you tens of thousands of dollars to defend against.
In my case, the policy and proposal both clearly state that they cover groundless lawsuits.
The hammer clause
Most policies contain something called a hammer clause, and every policy I looked at had it. This clause means that if the insurance company negotiated what they considered to be a good settlement for me… well, I don’t have to take it. But if I don’t, I would have to pay for everything in my defense above the cost of that settlement.
I personally didn’t have a problem with this. I understand that sometimes a quick settlement is the easiest way to end a ridiculous lawsuit, no matter how unfair the whole thing feels.
If you want a policy that forces the insurance company to pay for the exact defense you want, you’re going to have to shop around for that. I’m not even sure it exists.
They don’t want to pay for your legal defense if you’re not going to take the advice of the attorney they provided you, and I can’t blame them.
Read the Policy
I’m a big fan of reading the fine print. I don’t do it with every EULAs on every website I sign up for, but I definitely read contracts and insurance policies.
The problem is, insurance language isn’t always very straightforward. Here are a few things to look out for.
Declaration versus endorsements
Most insurance policies come with boilerplate pages. If you’ve made special requests, those pages will be followed by endorsement pages that delete or alter sections of the boiler plate. All these pages together are the “declaration.”
You want to look closely at the exclusions in your declarations, but you also need to look at the exclusions if you made special requests.
For example, my declaration pages have an exclusion that says copyright, trademark and patent infringements are not covered. But the endorsement page deletes that exclusion and replaces it with language stating only that patent infringements are not covered.
It looks like the policy is contradicting itself, but in legal terms the endorsement always beats the declaration.
I’d say it’s good practice to try to avoid giving people a good reason to sue you, but they don’t need a good reason. Anyone can sue anyone else for any reason.
People can sue because they’re upset over nothing, or because they think it’s a way to make a quick buck. The basic things you should do to avoid giving someone grounds to sue you are (and again, I’m not a lawyer, I’m just a blogger researching this problem):
Only use original images you took or paid stock images. And always download the license for the paid stock image so you have it on hand in case the stock image company goes away or you delete your account someday.
Free images from sites like Pixabay are awesome, but it can be hard to be sure where the images came from or whether the licensing agreement is acceptable to the original photographer.
Paid stock photo sites provide clear licensing terms and pay photographers for their work. If you’re accused of stealing a photo and you can point to your paid license, it shows you honestly thought you had the right to use that image.
Read the image licenses carefully. Not all images have the same licenses. Be sure you understand how you can or can’t use an image according to the license.
I know you’d never copy someone else’s work and post it as your own, right? But what about your guest bloggers?
Running articles you didn’t write through Copyscape is a good practice. My insurance policy asked if I had a procedure for avoiding copyright infringement and I said no, but that’s because I write everything myself.
If you don’t, I would not only run guest blogs through Copyscape, but write up a policy for your business that says you always do this before publishing them.
In my opinion, I don’t defame people. But that’s probably how everyone who lost a suit for defamation felt, too.
Businesses that have legal departments can spend a lot of money suing everyone who leaves them a bad review. Or even a less than glowing product review.
Be very careful what you say when you mention people, products, companies or services. Beyond that, all you can do is live in a state with a strong anti-SLAPP law. Even that won’t necessarily prevent a lawsuit.
Over the years, I’ve deleted most of my negative reviews of companies, products and services. This isn’t just to avoid lawsuits. It’s also because as the reviews age, and I’m no longer a customer, I don’t know if the company is still doing the things I complained about.
Maybe they’ve cleaned up their act, but my review is out there making it look like they haven’t. I can actually understand someone seeing that as defamation.
Do you need an LLC or other corporation?
In theory, having a corporation means no one can ever come after your personal assets in a lawsuit. This is one of the main appeals of starting some type of corporation for solopreneurs and small businesses.
But it’s also a state-specific question. Every state’s laws about LLCs can vary a little, and you should talk to an attorney about what is best in your state, in your situation.
Some people talk to CPAs about LLCs, but they only really know about the tax part of it. For the lawsuit part, you need to talk to a lawyer.