Comprehensive General Liability Insurance: A Complete Guide

Thang Truong
Thang Truong
Updated on:

Business owners may have heard that if you get only one type of business insurance, make sure it’s comprehensive general liability insurance. That’s sound advice, but what is comprehensive general liability insurance? How much does it cost? And where can you buy it?

What does comprehensive general liability insurance mean?

Comprehensive general liability insurance is the same thing as general liability insurance. The insurance industry switched over to the term “general liability insurance” back in 1986 because they thought the term comprehensive was misleading. It might give customers the idea that absolutely everything was covered under their policy (after all, that’s what ‘comprehensive’ means—including nearly all aspects of something) and this was not the case then and it’s not the case now. All insurance policies have exclusions, and general liability insurance is no exception. Sometimes insurance companies refer to it as commercial general liability insurance. 

Learn more at the best general liability insurance companies and the cheapest general liability insurance companies

What does comprehensive general liability insurance cover?

The insurance industry dropped ‘comprehensive’ from the name of general liability insurance, but the policy itself still covers the same things:

  • Third-party bodily injury
  • Third-party property damage
  • Copyright infringement
  • Reputational harm
  • Advertising injury

Let’s examine these one by one.

Third-party bodily injury: This refers to injuries suffered by customers or vendors. If you run a supermarket and a customer slips on a grape, that is an example of a third-party bodily injury and general liability insurance will cover the customer’s medical bills. 

Third-party property damage:  This refers to damage you or your employees do to a customer’s property. If your business involves going into someone’s home, like a cleaning business or a contractor, this is absolutely essential. It doesn’t take much to cause thousands of dollars worth of damage. Scratching the wood floor, knocking over the electronics system, or breaking an antique vase are all very easy to do. 

Advertising injury: Advertising injury occurs if you slander (spoken) or libel (written) someone’s business, copy their ideas, or use a name or an image without permission. 

Copyright infringement: Copyright infringement is a type of advertising injury. This involves someone using your professional work without your permission. For example, if you’re a photographer and one of your photographs appears in someone’s ad without your knowledge or compensation, you have cause to sue for copyright infringement. 

Reputational harm: If you say something derogatory about someone else business in an interview or even on social media, they can sue you for reputational harm. Businesses are very sensitive about this because it takes years to build a reputation, but a reputation can be irreparably harmed in seconds. Also, the cost of reputational harm can be in the millions. All it takes is one social media post to go viral and years of hard work can be damaged. 

How much does comprehensive general liability insurance cost?

The cost of comprehensive general liability insurance is fairly inexpensive—according to Insureon, the average cost is about $42 a month. It varies according to:

  • Coverage limits
  • Deductible
  • Claims history
  • Location
  • Risk factors

The cost of general liability insurance is far less expensive than a lawsuit would be. The average cost of a slip-and-fall lawsuit is $20,000 and the average cost of a reputational harm lawsuit is at least $50,000 but can be much higher. Few small businesses can afford the cost of a lawsuit. 

Learn more at how much general liability insurance costs for different professionals

Who needs comprehensive general liability insurance?

General liability insurance is such a basic type of business insurance that almost every business needs it. Here is a list of who should get general liability insurance:

  • Customers or vendors enter your place of business
  • You advertise your business
  • You post on social media about your business
  • Your business goes into customer’s homes 
  • You use third-party locations for business
  • Clients require it (many customers won’t hire contractors who don’t have general liability insurance)

Many insurance professionals will tell you that if you can only afford one type of insurance, it should probably be general liability insurance. 

Comprehensive general liability insurance for an event

If you’re hosting an event, such as a corporate party or a wedding, you’ll need event insurance. Basically, event insurance is general liability insurance for one day. It covers everything general liability insurance does; i.e. property damage claims and third-party bodily injury. You can add event cancellation insurance as well. 

Learn more at the best event insurance companies.

Comprehensive general liability insurance for contractors

Contractors and construction work is risky. As such, you’ll pay more for general liability insurance, but in many states, you’re required to have it. Also, many clients will require it before agreeing to work with you. 

General liability insurance for contractors covers the same as it does for anyone else. However, the level of risk is higher, since construction zones are inherently risky. General liability insurance is by no means the only policy you need. You should also consider:

You could bundle commercial property with general liability insurance, called a Business Owner’s Policy. Some of them include things like business interruption insurance and cyber liability. As with all insurance, it’s important to shop around. 

Learn more at the best general liability insurance companies for contractors and the cheapest general liability insurance companies for contractors

Where can I buy comprehensive general liability insurance?

Pretty much anywhere that sells business insurance will be able to sell you a general liability policy. You can choose to buy comprehensive general liability insurance from the following providers:

Buying comprehensive general liability insurance from a digital broker

You can buy comprehensive general liability insurance from a digital broker like CoverWallet, Policy Sweet,, . They work with several leading insurance companies and are able to provide several quotes for your to compare and select the best one for your business. It is convenient if you want to compare several before making the final decision.

Buying comprehensive general liability insurance from established insurance companies

There are more than 100 companies offering business insurance in general or comprehensive general liability insurance in particular. The leading ones are Chubb, Travelers, Nationwide, the Hartford, Liberty Mutual, and Hiscox. Many established insurance companies are still catching up with the digitalization wave in the industry and are not able to provide quotes online or sell policies online. If being able to get a quote online is important to you, you can consider the Hartford, Liberty Mutual, and Hiscox. Some of these established insurance companies do not work with any digital brokers, so the only way to get quotes and buy the policy from them is to work with their agents.

Buying comprehensive general liability insurance from insuretech startups

In the past 5-10 years, more and more startups have entered the business insurance industry. They are generally referred to as insuretechs. Many are offering comprehensive general liability insurance coverage. They all offer a great digital experience from quoting, selling, and servicing policies. This makes it very easy for small businesses to buy business insurance coverage. Some of the popular insuretechs offering comprehensive general liability insurance are Next, Thimble, Huckleberry, and Vouch.

Last thoughts

Comprehensive general liability insurance is an outdated term for general liability insurance, but the policy itself hasn’t changed much since 1986. Shop around, get some quotes, and protect yourself and your business.

Thang Truong
Thang Truong

Thang Truong covers small business insurance and small business success at BravoPolicy. He is a licensed P&C insurance agent. Previously, he held product leadership positions at, Capital One, NerdWallet, and Mulberry Technology. He holds a MBA degree from UC Berkeley - Haas School of Business.

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