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I am not sure if this is the best place for the question, but I am not sure where else to ask.

Background

I am a contract developer and have just been asked to provide a general liability policy for my next gig.

In 6-7 years this has never been asked of me.

Question

Is this common? If so, can anyone recommend a good underwriter that focuses on what we do as contract software developers?

I realize that Google could help me find underwriters but it won't give me unbiased public opinion about which companies actually understand what we do and factor that into the price of the policy.

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closed as off topic by Jim G., Karl Bielefeldt, Walter, gnat, Matthieu Sep 14 '12 at 13:55

Questions on Programmers Stack Exchange are expected to relate to software development within the scope defined by the community. Consider editing the question or leaving comments for improvement if you believe the question can be reworded to fit within the scope. Read more about reopening questions here.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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Down votes after the question was answered? Closing was sufficient, I think. There wasn't any need to get punitive--this info might help others. –  Matthew Patrick Cashatt Sep 14 '12 at 16:55
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It's possible that it might be appropriately moved to OnStartups or Workplace, though it's not quite an ideal fit for either; OnStartups is probably closest. Unless you want to sponsor consulting.stackexchange.com on Area51 ... –  JasonTrue Sep 14 '12 at 17:29

2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

I had one subcontracting engagement that required this. Fortunately, the impact to my life is only two or three hundred dollars a year, billed by the same company that handles my auto and homeowner's insurance, so the price is quite reasonable, and I've renewed it even though I'm no longer working with the customer that required it.

General liability is typically bundled with other worthwhile insurance, such as theft of business property, fire damage, and a few other things. To put it into perspective, it's more likely to protect you if you got in a fistfight with a client than if you wrote a bad line of code. It protects you if you ever speak about your former clients in public (defamation, libel, etc). It protects you from certain risks involving using the client's equipment or facilities, if you are using the client's office space or if the client ever visits yours, or if you get on the elevator together and they trip over your leg and chip a tooth after bouncing off the wall. The upside is that for covered incidents, your insurance company will hire an attorney (mostly to represent their interests, but once you are insured by them, many of those interests overlap).

The caveat is this: Errors and omissions coverage, also known as "professional liability", is quite expensive; it covers the legal risk of professional mistakes, unlike general liability coverage. I negotiated my way out of a requirement for E&O and had my attorney attach a revision to the contract that reduced my professional risk exposure. Talk to your own attorney to figure out what you should do there.

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Great advice. Thanks! –  Matthew Patrick Cashatt Sep 14 '12 at 2:37

I've only encountered anything like that once, when I was contracting to an electrical power company, and the people I was going through handled it. That could also have been some sort of bonding; I don't remember. That was a while ago, and there was an apparently good reason for it.

The first thing I'd ask is "Why?". If they're asking for a general liability policy, that means that they think you might be exposed to some liability, and you definitely want to know about that. Are they asking for anything else unusual, such as circumstances under which you'd pay them or a third party? Is what they're doing shady enough that people might get sued successfully?

If they tell you why they think you might be legally hit up for money, get a lawyer (short initial consultations don't usually cost much) and ask him or her. I'd consider this a danger signal, and you really don't want to go in blind.

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Thanks! It is a staffing firm and I am working with them on a 1099 basis since I have my own company. It seems like this is just "boilerplate" and that it might not apply to me since it is just me writing code for the end-client (who is a well-known entity and checks out, by the way). I will ask them "why". That is good advice. Thanks again. –  Matthew Patrick Cashatt Sep 13 '12 at 21:11

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