If something goes wrong that has serious consequences, there is the issue of who is responsible and who is liable. Examples include material damage, accidents or occupational illnesses. Can you limit your liability? And if something happens to you, where can you recover the damage? The chance that the damage suffered by the victim can be compensated quickly, without (the company of) the person responsible going bankrupt, is greatest if the liability is properly arranged.
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Difference between liability for employees and self-employed people
The person who causes the damage is not always the one who has to foot the bill. Whoever is legally liable has to bear the financial consequences. In the case of employees, volunteers and interns, the employer is liable, unless there is intent or reckless behaviour. Self-employed people are personally responsible for damage, even if, for example, this occurs at the client’s workplace.
Limiting liability for employers and self-employed people
It goes without saying that you can never insure against or rule out damage caused by intent or reckless behaviour with general terms and conditions. The simplest tip: always work responsibly.
Work with or without legal entity
If you work with a legal personality with legal entity, such as a foundation, association or private limited company, you are not personally financially liable. If you work on the basis of a sole proprietorship, general partnership or partnership, there is no distinction between the assets of your company and your personal property. If you are held liable for damage and you are not (sufficiently) insured against that, then you will foot the bill for that personally if you do not have enough money in your business account.
Take out a business liability insurance
Legal entity or not: every employer/self-employed person can take out a business liability insurance (bedrijfsaansprakelijkheidsverzekering). This insurance covers damage to others that you, or your employees, volunteers or interns, cause while working. A personal liability insurance (aansprakelijkheidsverzekeing voor particulieren, AVP) is not valid in work situations.
Consider an on approval coverage and professional liability insurance
If you use, borrow, rent or process things from another person, this is also referred to as on approval (opzicht). In principle, supervision is excluded from a business liability insurance. You can add an on approval coverage (opzichtdekking). With a professional liability insurance (beroepsaansprakelijkheidsverzekering) you insure the financial damage that a client suffers as a result of a professional error for which you are liable. Suppose you are an architect and construction comes to a standstill due to an incorrect calculation. Then a professional liability insurance protects you against the consequences.
General terms and conditions
You can also limit or rule out liability with general terms and conditions. These should include that you or your company are not liable, or have limited liability, for damage that is caused within the context of work. For example, up to a certain amount (e.g. your fee). Or up to the amount that the insurance company will pay out.