Professional genealogists conduct research for others, publish books on genealogical methods, teach, or may work for companies that provide research solutions.

Genealogist may be called in to help an individual trace their family history from scratch, may be called in when a hobbyist genealogist has hit a dead end and needs some professionals intervention to get back on track. Professionals have need of the professional services provided by Genealogists in order to trace a next of kin.

Professional Indemnity Insurance Risks

Research can be a complex process that uses historical records and sometimes genetic analysis to demonstrate kinship. Reliable conclusions are based on the quality of sources, ideally original records, the information within those sources, ideally primary or firsthand information, and the evidence that can be drawn, directly or indirectly, from that information. In many instances, genealogists must skillfully assemble indirect or circumstantial evidence also referred to as a derivative source to build a case for identity and kinship. Genealogists can be full time researchers or may be part time fitting the work around another job or it may be just a paid hobby for someone in retirement who has a passion for the work.

Information is collected from time spent in archives, wading through institutional records, certificates, census returns and probate records to name just a few sources. Sources of information or evidence are generally categorised in two categories: original and derivative. An original source is one that is not based on another source. A derivative source is information taken from another source. This distinction is important because each time a source is copied, information about the record may be lost and errors may creep in from the copyist misreading, mistyping, or miswriting the information. In addition to copying errors, compiled sources such as published genealogies and online pedigree databases are susceptible to misidentification errors and incorrect conclusions based on circumstantial evidence.

Identity errors usually occur when two or more individuals are assumed to be the same person. Errors leading to negligence claims, whilst rare are not unheard off so adequate Professional Indemnity Insurance is a must for anyone providing these services for a fee or who is holding themselves out as a professional.


What do insurers look for when issuing terms?

Genealogy is seen by insurers to be a low risk activity as a whole, however many firms can branch out into other field of research such as palaeography, and the investigation into the historic merits of a property or location. A researcher failing to recognise a significant historic event or person linked to a place of business, such as an old Inn may be pursued by the owner for loss of potential revenue as a result of the researchers negligence.

Genetic Genealogy is a growing area and should be seen as something outside of the normal activities of a genealogist when it comes to seeking Professional Indemnity Insurance. Where activities are other than basic Genealogy a proposal form should be provided for formal underwriting. Were the activities of the Genealogist are fairly traditional many professionals and professional practices can benefit from the savings that can be made via online "quote and buy" engines.


Policy Wordings

Professional Indemnity Insurance can be written in a number of ways. There are civil liability wordings and what we refer to a legal wordings. Cover can be offered on an each and every claim or an aggregate basis with the legal defence costs being dealt with in one of two ways, see "The usual cover" below. Genealogists are categorised by most insurers as a miscellaneous risk business which is to say they are business’s that do not fall into one of the standard 'traditional' professions. With some of the standard professions the level and standard of cover to be provided is prescribed and insurers must provide cover to a minimum standard to be able to offer insurance to the profession, surveyors and accountants are a good example, their governing body will only accept insurance from its members from insurers who adhere to the standards.

With miscellaneous risks such as genealogists there is no standard so when obtaining terms there is a lot more to consider than just price. The most basic wordings offered by the Lloyd's market and insurance companies offer very basic, no frills cover and need many extensions to bring them up-to-date.


The usual cover

Most miscellaneous wordings offer an indemnity clause limited to claims (including claimants' costs) arising out of any negligent act, error or omission. Many have costs inclusive limits of indemnity that are eroded by the insurer's costs and expenses incurred in the investigation, defence or settlement of claims. Many also have costs inclusive excesses that apply to the insurer's costs and expenses incurred in the investigation, defence or settlement of claims even if there is no third party claim made.


The usual exclusions

Typically, miscellaneous policies will exclude things that should have more specific insurance:

  • Bodily injury / property damage, except where caused by a breach of professional duty
  • Vehicles
  • Products liability
  • Contractual liability - this is liability assumed under any express warranty, agreement, guarantee unless such liability would have attached anyway. But take care with agreements such as collateral warranties (see construction professions)
  • Insolvency / bankruptcy of insured
  • Fines and penalties
  • Claims by financially associated parties - some insurers will cover these claims if they emanate from a third party
  • Radioactive contamination and war


The usual extensions

Some insurers will include these extensions as standard others wont

  • Libel & slander
  • Loss of documents
  • Dishonesty of employees
  • Unintentional breach of confidence
  • Infringement of copyright


Presenting your proposal for insurance

The presentation of your business to insurers is very important both in respect of the facts i.e. the things for which cover is required, and the way in which you do your business, both of which influence an insurer's perception of your business and the risk it poses to them.

We would always recommend that in addition to the proposal form you are asked to complete, you provide supporting documents with your proposal such as:

  • A CV showing the principals qualifications and experience in the areas of business to be covered
  • Any Terms of Business or terms of engagement you use
  • A copy of your corporate brochure
  • Details of your website

An insurance history listing all material changes to your business since you first had professional indemnity insurance. For example, mention any previous businesses for which you require cover. It is possible you may be asked for a claims history from the previous business or a copy of its last completed proposal form.

Don't forget to include the names of any businesses with which you have merged, or any that you have acquired, as these will need historic cover. Likewise you may have ceased to offer certain services for which cover is still required. Keep a written record of all requests for cover to be extended and any historic or material changes to your business. This information can be updated each year and provided as an addendum to the proposal. Any certification the business may have i.e. accreditation by a governing or standards council, is also well worth disclosing.

Keep your presentation neat and tidy. Bear in mind that an untidy presentation may be construed as an untidy business. Allow yourself time to complete the presentation and remember that a hard copy always look better that a faxed one sent in at the last minute.

The Professional Indemnity Insurance market is relatively small so at the point of renewal, concentrate on asking only one or two specialist brokers to quote. Bombarding the market with requests can result in your proposal being locked out of some markets. Renewal is an ideal time to review your insurance requirements. As your business grows and your contract values increase, it is wise to consider what could go wrong and how much it may cost to settle a claim - and also cover the attendant legal costs. Some policy wordings provide a limit of indemnity with legal costs in addition to the limit. Others provide limits of indemnity which include the legal cost. However, the cost of litigation is high and can eat into the limit of indemnity provided if costs are inclusive.

Many professionals are obliged to carry PI by their professional bodies. Many of these bodies not only have specific requirements in respect of policy wording but also on the limits a professional must carry and the excesses they are allowed. Renewal is an opportune time to check your cover both in respect of your own requirements and those of your professional bodies.


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