Run for cover
A straw poll of independent researchers I spoke to early in May revealed a confused and mixed bag. "I broke a shepherdess once", confessed researcher M, recalling a once-cherished figureine in a recruiter's home. In this case, the recruiter siad it was worth £50 and the researcher paid up. M still has no public liability cover, but worries about it every so often.
Researcher K was spurred into action by the very sorry sight of a recruiter's carpet ruined the previous week by a moderator who dropped his stimulus material, which appened to be a bottle of bleach. In this case the guilty moderator was refusing to pay, a situation which K found very unfair. A search by K's broker unearthed a specific stand-alone public liability policy with Lombard General which gives £1m cover for £75 a year. All of this happened after many years as an independent researcher and until now the subject hadn't crossed K's mind.
The experience of two other researchers who operate with seperate offices suggests that if you have a "proper busininess" insurance policy to cover the office, office equipment and employer liability (not simply an extension of your home policy to cover the tape recorder) substantial public liability is incorporated automatically.
Household policy may cover you but its intended for things like the milkman falling over your rollerskapes or the kids' cricket match destroying next door's greenhouse, and I reckon an insurance company would try to wriggle out of the liabiliites that arise while you are "going about your business".
Three others hadn't even thought about it before. My apologies for giving them something else to worry about.