Peter Stevenson from photographer insurance specialist, InFocus, examines the after effects in the recent case of a scrap between Justin Bieber’s bodyguard and a photographer. The tale raises important legal issues for the photography community, Peter explains:
The ugly dust-up between a paparazzo and one of Justin Bieber’s heavies made news around the planet the other week but not because of the consequent legal issues it raised. The public was more interested in the gory details and the implications for the teenage superstar.
I’m not familiar with the details of this particular incident - apparently the snapper got arrested - so I won’t sit in judgement. It did, however, turn my attention to the scenario in which a normal, well-balanced member of the professional photography fraternity gets involved in a bit of a fracas.
It’s not that infrequent an event. Photographers are often on hand at events where people have had a bit more to drink than is good for them for example and we all know that the intoxicated are more likely to behave irrationally taking offence when none was intended.
Weddings, charity fund-raising functions, balls, prom parties and celebrations of all sorts produce situations where a sober snapper, going about his lawful business, runs the risk of a confrontation with some self-righteous, self appointed defender of someone-or-other’s pride or dignity; the classic, ‘Who are you looking at?’ scenario.
My advice, of course, is to retire at once with as much speed, dignity and equipment as you can carry. There are no prizes to be won for valour in the face of drunken opposition in the course of duty!
If, however, your escape route is blocked and no moderate alternative presents itself you may find yourself embroiled.
Think on this.
If you have to defend yourself against a criminal or subsequent civil action, will there be help from your insurer with legal fees? Or, if you’re the victim, will you get help in securing damages for injury from the offending party?
First, we would look at the Public Liability section. A lot will depend on whether you were defending yourself, or attacking your opponent with your deadly weapon (to be fair I don’t know if a clip with a camera or prod with a tripod makes either a deadly weapon).
If you were defending yourself and there are no criminal proceedings in train, I would expect a Public Liability policy to defend you against private legal actions, ‘Civil Proceedings’, for any alleged personal injuries and property damage. The cover provided would be up to the policy indemnity limit, which is rarely less than £1m.
If, however, it’s believed you acted deliberately, maliciously or recklessly and are ultimately found guilty on one of these charges, this would not be covered by a Public Liability insurance policy. Public Liability policies are designed to cover accidents causing injury or property damage, not by deliberate or reckless acts.
Turning to Commercial Legal Expenses insurance, these policies can cover ‘legal defence’ costs in criminal prosecutions (e.g. for alleged criminal assault). I should mention this only applies while the insured is acting in an employment capacity as a Photographer, not, for example, as a result of getting involved in a brawl down the pub.
Normally the indemnity limit is much lower on Commercial Legal Expenses policies ranging from £25k to £100k as a general rule. They may pay your legal defence costs but these policies will not reimburse court awards for criminal damages, court fines and penalties for obvious reasons.
Finally, should you want to pursue the bodyguard, or drunk, for personal injuries and property damage, while working, using Civil Proceedings (especially if they won the fight by knocking you out) then you’re legal fees should be covered by a Commercial Legal Expenses policy with a ‘Personal Injury’ section. Think how you would cope with these scenarios if you were not insured properly and how this would affect your ability to cope with on-going work commitments.
As always with legal expenses policies, the insurer has to be satisfied that there is sufficient evidence and reasonable prospects of success. They are unlikely to fund personal vendettas against bodyguards with a bigger punch - or drunks who struck lucky - on your word alone.
About The Author
Infocus Photography Insurance
Infocus is a leading provider of insurance for photographers in the UK with more than 20 years experience.
Their insurance product is tailored for UK photographers in association with Hiscox, the award-winning insurer. Their aim is to provide quality of service and breadth of cover to ensure that everything you value is protected.