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Photo Shoot Disasters

 19th Sep 2012

If you are fortunate enough that your skills as a photographer finds you in demand for work then you need to ensure you have liability insurance. Photo shoots do not get any worse than an incident last year involving a privately owned terra cotta figurine, the figurine had been valued at 300’000 Dollars (about £250’000) and was smashed to pieces during a photo shoot. The question is: What happens when you break a valuable object whilst on a paid assignment and how do you protect yourself?

The lawsuit, which was filed on April 24th in New Yorks State Supreme Court states ­ the figurine was destroyed during a photo shoot by photographers hired by the magazine ‘Art  + Auction’,but are not personally named in the lawsuit. The photographer was named by the New York Times as Eric Guillemain. The story goes that during the assignment Guillemain was with an assistant and the owner of the property, and whilst the owner of the property was out of the room the figurine fell onto the floor and was smashed into multiple pieces. The lawsuit states that the photographers acted negligently and without due care necessary to protect the figurine. Guillemain said he never touched the figurine and was in fact on the other side of the room adjusting his camera when he heard it smash on the floor. 
One photographer has stated that’s “It’s a touchy subject. It happened to me once and it’s quite a grey area. I just don’t want my name to come up in a Google search about this” Obviously it’s a big mess for the lawyers and insurance companies to sort out, but it's also a there-but-for-the-grace-of-god incident that ought to make any assignment photographer wonder: What if? And as it turns out, standard liability insurance typically carried by photographers would NOT cover the accidental dropping of, say, a $300,000 figurine on the set. That's because liability insurance policies typically exclude damage claims "for property of others in the care, custody or control of the insured," "The safest thing, is to have [the owners or their agents] move valuable objects. That way, if it breaks, it's not your problem.
The standard liability policy will cover "bodily injury" to third-party members of the public (not "employees" of the photographer) and/or "property damage" to real and/or personal property that is not being used as part of the photographic set, props, sets and wardrobe, rented camera and lighting equipment and/or a location subject to a location agreement " For full details, consult your insurance agent, and ask your lawyer to review the fine print of your insurance policies to help you figure out what's covered, and what isn't. 

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