Is Third Party Liability Insurance the Same as Public Liability?

When researching insurance options to protect your business or personal assets, you may come across terms like “third party liability” and “public liability” coverage. This raises the question – are these the same type of insurance or are there key differences?

Understanding what each covers and when they overlap or diverge is important in assembling a comprehensive insurance portfolio. This article provides an in-depth look at third party versus public liability insurance to clarify how they compare.

Defining Third Party Liability Insurance

Third party liability insurance provides protection against claims made by other parties for damages that the policyholder causes.

Some key attributes:

  • Covers bodily injury and property damage to third parties
  • Other parties can include individuals, businesses, or organizations
  • Common examples are auto and homeowners insurance
  • Required by law for auto insurance in most states

Liability policies pay for third party losses up to a defined limit, including legal expenses. The policyholder is responsible for additional amounts beyond limits.

What is Public Liability Insurance?

Public liability insurance covers claims arising from injury, illness, or property damage that occur to members of the general public.

Key features:

  • Protects business facilities, inventory, events, etc. open to public access
  • Covers visitors, customers, vendors, etc. hurt on premises
  • Helps pay medical bills, lost wages, and other costs from public injuries
  • Required for many public-facing businesses

It provides protection when a business is liable for injuries or damage to public citizens in the course of operations.

Key Similarities Between the Two Policy Types

There are some important overlaps between third party liability and public liability insurance:

  • Both cover third party bodily injury and property damage claims
  • Help pay for expenses like medical treatment, lost income, repairs, etc.
  • Provide legal/court cost assistance
  • Support liability defense against claims
  • Available for both individuals and businesses

At their foundation, both offer protection when the policyholder causes harm to outsiders.

Notable Differences Between the Two

While they share similarities, there are also some key differences between the two policy types:

  • Third party – Broader coverage for various scenarios like auto accidents or incidents away from home

  • Public – Specific to injuries on business property open to the public

  • Third party – Required for auto insurance in most states

  • Public – Mandated for public-facing businesses in many jurisdictions

  • Third party – Claims can occur anywhere

  • Public – Claims occur on policyholder’s premises

  • Third party – Includes some non-public incidents

  • Public – Only covers public access incidents

So third party has wider potential applications, while public liability is focused on the policyholder’s property and patrons.

Common Third Party Liability Policy Examples

Some of the most common third party liability policies individuals and businesses obtain are:

  • Auto insurance – Bodily injury and property damage from auto accidents
  • Homeowners insurance – Injuries to visitors like falling on icy steps
  • Renters insurance – Coverage for injuries to guests in your apartment
  • Umbrella insurance – Added liability limits beyond base policies
  • Business insurance – Protection against customer or vendor claims

Any policy covering you for third party claims qualifies as third party liability insurance.

Typical Examples of Public Liability Policies

Public liability insurance is common for these types of entities interacting with patrons:

  • Stores and restaurants – Slip and falls or food poisoning
  • Event venues – Injuries to concert attendees
  • Hotels and resorts – Guest accidents like pool injuries
  • Medical facilities – Malpractice claims against staff
  • Fitness centers – Patron injuries using equipment

The key element is public access to the business premises.

Overlaps Between the Two Policy Types

There are certainly scenarios where third party liability and public liability insurance can overlap in coverage:

  • Auto insurance could cover an injury in a store parking lot also covered by the business’ public liability policy.

  • A homeowners policy may protect against a patron injury during a garage sale similar to coverage offered by a public liability business policy.

  • Umbrella liability insurance could supplement coverage from either more specific policy.

Proper insurance portfolio planning ensures adequate coverage limits in these overlapping situations.

How Businesses Use Both Third Party and Public Liability

Many businesses leverage both third party liability and public liability policies:

  • General liability insurance covers public liabilities on the business property.

  • Commercial auto insurance protects against third party claims from delivery drivers.

  • Workers’ compensation insurance covers employee injuries as a third party liability.

  • Umbrella insurance boosts totals limits available across policies.

Layering various liability policies creates a robust protection foundation.

Do You Need Both?

While related, third party and public liability meet different risk needs in many cases. Some guidance on when both make sense:

For individuals: Homeowners or renters insurance covers most third party risks, but adding public liability could protect against claims by babysitters, vendors, visitors in your home-based business, etc.

For businesses: Having both helps fill liability gaps – general liability for on-site patrons and commercial auto for off-site third party driving incidents. Umbrella insurance enhances overall coverage.

For specific policies: Special liability policies like medical or cyber insurance are tailored to meet niche public or third party risks.

The Takeaway

While they share some DNA, key characteristics differentiate third party liability insurance and public liability coverage. One provides protection for a wide array of personal and professional incidents. The other focuses specifically on injuries that occur to patrons on the policyholder’s premises.

Understanding the scope of each is crucial when making insurance decisions. Overlapping third party and public liability policies creates a formidable shield against liability claims and

Module 4: What is Public Liability Insurance


What is considered third party liabilities?

Third Party Liability (TPL) refers to the legal obligation of third parties (for example, certain individuals, entities, insurers, or programs) to pay part or all of the expenditures for medical assistance furnished under a Medicaid state plan.

What is the difference between first party liability and third party liability?

First-party and third-party insurance claims are different ways to make insurance claims. A first-party insurance claim is a claim you make directly against your own insurance. A third-party insurance claim occurs when you submit a claim to someone else’s insurance provider.

Is public liability insurance the same as commercial liability?

Public liability protection falls under commercial general liability insurance. Bundled with business property insurance, it is also included in a package called business owner’s policy (BOP).

What is the third party liability clause?

Third-party liability refers to the right of a person to seek remedies for damages suffered as a result of the performance of a contract they are not a party to.

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