One former SWPP member, one ruined wedding and one court judgement for nearly £1,500 plus legal fees

aaduki Does this sound familiar? It should do as a photographer made it onto the national news after ruining a wedding taking over 500 shots with less than 25 being of "merchantable" quality. A judge found against the photographer, ordering him to pay back the wedding couple and also to cover their legal fees! Although the exact cost of these legal fees are not known, in a similar case with an Insurer 10 years ago, the fees came to £12,000!

For a £99 membership and a £115 insurance this photographer could have avoided a lot of that.

So what mistakes were made? This photographer was insured but the Insurance Company refused to pay out - why? Quite simply, he had received the complaint, ignored it, gone to court and had the judgement made and then phoned his Insurance Company! In almost all cases involving Professional Indemnity, Insurers insist that you notify them as soon as you have a complaint. The reasoning behind this is so they can deal with and try and stop cases like this coming to court.

Why not Court? What are the implications?

The reason Insurance Companies don't want cases like this to come to court is simple economics. As soon as Solicitors need to be involved the costs spiral sometimes out of control. Secondly, a case like this appearing in court and then making national news damages the reputations of ALL photographers and leads to a massive increase in spurious claims! Indeed, Aaduki received over 30 complaints in the 24 hours immediately after this case was on the news, one from a wedding shot over 12 months beforehand! To date, no payments have been made! Thirdly, a case like this appearing in court will be reported - even if it is just a local newspaper in your area. Suddenly the enquiries start to dry up, the work disappears and before you know it you are no longer a photographer as you have had to get out and get another job because no one will use you.

How can I stop something like this happening?

The short answer is you can't. However, there are ways that you can minimise a claim under these circumstances:

1) Regularly update yourself with what is new and going on in the industry. Undertake training courses or seminars - these are usually widely available from The Societies. This means if a case goes to court you can prove that you are a "good" photographer.

2) Consider a qualification. Whilst a BA (Hons) proves that you can take a great "technical" picture - it doesn't mean that you can take a great picture that is saleable. A licentiate or professional qualification with a Trade Association or Body that is an expert in your field of photography is likely to be better - especially in a court of law!

3) Make sure you are insured! The premium to pay is £115 a year if you are a member of The Societies, £187.50 if you are a member of the RPS, BIPP or MPA and around £199 if you're not a member of any recognised Trade Association or Body.

4) As soon as you receive a complaint notify your Insurance Provider. This allows them move quickly and attempt to sort it out on your behalf, or advise you on what to do to minimise costs for all and to speedily bring the matter to a conclusion.

5) Get advice. If you think there is nothing wrong with your pictures then it is worth asking you Trade Association or Body to review them and if they agree, issue a letter stating so. In many cases this will put off the client or in the case of a court a judge is usually likely to consider the Trade Association or Body as an expert witness.

6) Make sure the wedding couple are insured for their wedding. This makes them more wary and aware of the risks plus less likely to claim. Make sure you get a copy of their policy as well, just in case you need to claim off them!

What is the difference between Professional Indemnity and Professional Negligence and which do I need?

You need Professional Indemnity! Professional Negligence is likely to pay if you fail to produce work to a professional standard but what happens if you fail to make the wedding as your involved in a serious car crash and are taken to hospital? Professional Negligence will only usually take effect if the work has been undertaken, so in the case of a complaint for not "turning up" as your speeding off to your local A & E there would be no claim! Professional Indemnity would usually cover this eventuality as circumstances were outside of your control.

So what is the definition of Professional Indemnity and how would it help me?

Professional Indemnity or PI as it is known, covers your liability for failing to produce work to a professional standard. Professional Indemnity Insurance provides you with financial protection for your business, the costs of defending claims made against you, including damages that may become payable. Claims can occur where a client or other person suffers financial loss as a result of alleged errors or omissions on your part.

PI cover is a MUST for one off events like weddings, where you have been booked to provide photographs, but is unlikely to be needed at events where you would "sell" photographs afterwards to make money - after all, if you don't get the shot that is wanted you won't sell any pictures!

You may be sued unfairly by a client who is merely dissatisfied, but has no valid claim. This would involve you in substantial legal costs and non-productive time. From the legal standpoint, the position with regard to the "duty of care" is the same for any professional. If you offer a service in a specific area or set yourself up as a specialist, you owe a "duty of care" to anybody who might reasonably rely upon your service and advice over and above that owed by the ordinary man in the street.

A good example of where PI would be useful is if you were to undertake wedding photography and the bride and groom felt the pictures you produced were substandard or you were unable to produce them as the film had been lost or stolen or the data card wiped. They may then choose to issue legal proceedings against you. If this was the case, PI insurance would cover the costs of defending and/or settling the claim.

How Much Professional Indemnity do I need?

For your premium of £115 per year, your cover would be for £75,000. With the average cost of a wedding now in excess of £20,000 to restage, it means that you have cover for 2 1/2 restaged weddings. If you need more cover than this then Insurers will start to worry about your skills!

Does the £115 include anything else?

Yes! There is £2 million worth of Public Liability too - an essential cover that you need as a photographer form the moment you leave your home! Plus, if you want to insure your equipment, you can add that on for an additional premium and the added extra of Legal Expenses can be added for £23.38 for the year for cover up to £100,000.

All photographers that undertake any kind of one off events like weddings should be covered for Professional Indemnity. This is an ideal opportunity to learn from someone else's mistake. Don't be taken to court and pay costs or compensate clients and potentially lose all your business. Just insure yourself and make sure you do the most professional work you can.

Aaduki Multimedia Insurance is online at or 020 3633 2280 Mon - Fri from 9am - 5pm

Call us on 020 3633 2280 for more advice or if you have a specific question.

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