What is a Public Liability Claim? And Can You Make One?

Best Injury Lawyers Insights  |  April 26, 2024

Have you ever been injured in a public space or at someone else’s property and wondered if you could be compensated? Public liability claims are designed to help individuals who’ve suffered injuries due to someone else’s negligence get the compensation they deserve.

Knowing what public liability claims entail, the conditions under which you can make one, and the essential steps involved can make the claims process much easier. Whether it’s a slip in a supermarket or an accident at a public event, understanding your rights is the first step towards recovery.

What is a public liability claim?

Public liability claims generally involve scenarios where someone sustains injuries in areas accessible to the public—such as shopping centres, parks, or commercial properties—and someone else is at fault.

The goal of these claims is to compensate the injured party for their losses, which can include medical expenses, lost earnings, and pain and suffering. Recognising the importance of these claims, especially in a bustling state like Queensland, is the first step towards safeguarding your rights and potential compensation.

To make a successful public liability claim in Queensland, you need to prove negligence, document injuries properly, and navigate through legal processes correctly.

Who can make a public liability claim?

Although public liability generally refers to accidents in public places, you might be surprised at some of the scenarios that may be eligible for this type of claim:

Accidents and Injuries Eligible for Public Liability Claims:

  • Slips, trips, and falls: These can occur in public places like shopping centres, restaurants, or on poorly maintained sidewalks.
  • Injuries in a commercial space: Such as supermarkets or retail stores, due to falling objects, spills, or other hazards.
  • Accidents at public events: For example, injuries from crowd surges, inadequate security, or faulty equipment at concerts or festivals.
  • Sporting accidents: Injuries sustained in public sporting facilities due to poorly maintained equipment or facilities.
  • Dog bites and animal attacks: Occurring in public areas or when animals stray from private property.
  • Playground and park injuries: Due to poorly maintained equipment or unsafe public grounds.
  • School accidents: Injuries occurring on school grounds or during school activities, due to negligence.
  • Workplace accidents involving the public: Such as construction sites not properly secured, leading to injuries to passersby.
  • Injuries due to defective products: Where a manufacturer’s product contains a safety defect which causes injury.
  • Injuries due to defective public infrastructure: Such as potholes, broken pavement, or malfunctioning public utility equipment.
  • Accidents involving rental properties: Where the landlord’s negligence leads to tenant injuries.
  • Food poisoning from public eateries: Due to improperly handled or contaminated food.
  • Exposure to hazardous substances: In public areas, such as chemical spills or gas leaks.
  • Occupier’s Liability: Injuries sustained on private property due to the occupier’s negligence, such as unsafe conditions in a friend’s home, or hazards that the occupier failed to address or warn about. This can include slips, trips, and falls, or injuries caused by defective structures or equipment within the property.

Basic Criteria for Eligibility

To be eligible to make a public liability claim in Queensland, three main criteria must be in place:

  • Injury: You must have sustained some form of physical or psychological injury.
  • Negligence: There must be proof that another party’s negligence caused your injury. This means showing that the person or entity responsible failed to take reasonable care to prevent the accident.
  • Loss: You need to demonstrate that your injury resulted in specific losses, such as medical costs, loss of income, or pain and suffering.

Exceptions to Note

Even though some of the criteria may be similar, it’s important to recognise what typically does not fall under public liability claims:

  • Workplace Injuries: These are generally covered under workers’ compensation insurance.
  • Car Accidents: Injuries from vehicular accidents are handled through Compulsory Third Party (CTP) insurance, not public liability claims.

Who pays out in a public liability claim?

In a public liability claim, the compensation is typically paid out by the insurance company of the party found to be at fault. These types of accidents are covered by different insurance policies depending on where the accident happened and whose fault it is:

  1. Property Owner’s/Occupier’s Insurance: For accidents that occur on property owned or occupied by an individual or business, such as slips and falls in a store or injuries at someone’s home, home insurance policies may cover the claim.
  2. Business Insurance: For incidents that happen in a business setting, such as a customer getting injured in a supermarket or an employee suffering an injury in a public area of their workplace, the business’s public liability insurance would cover the claim.
  3. Event Organiser’s Insurance: For injuries at public events like concerts, festivals, or sports events, the event organiser’s public liability insurance is generally responsible for the compensation.
  4. Local Government Insurance: If the injury occurs due to faulty public infrastructure (like damaged footpaths or public playground equipment), the local government’s insurance may be liable to pay the claim, as they are responsible for maintaining public spaces.
  5. Personal Insurance: In some cases, individuals might have personal insurance policies that include public liability coverage (for example, most home contents policies usually extend to cover the policy holder’s liability for events that happen in Australia), which can be used to settle claims made against them personally. This type of insurance usually responds to dog bite claims.

The Claims Process in Queensland

At Best Injury Lawyers, we break down the process into clear, actionable steps and support you from start to finish.

Timelines are crucial in these cases due to strict deadlines, so beginning the process as soon as possible after an incident is essential to preserve your right to compensation.

Overview of the Claims Process

The public liability claim process in Queensland typically involves the following stages:

1. Notice of Claim

  • Filing the Claim: The first step is to submit a ‘Notice of Claim’ form to the person or entity you believe is at fault. This form details the nature of your claim, the circumstances of the incident, and the injuries received.
  • Deadline: This notice must usually be given within nine months from the date of the injury.

2. Investigation by the Respondent

  • Response from the Opposite Party: Once the Notice of Claim is filed, the respondent (the party you are claiming against) will conduct an initial review of the claim to determine their position. They must respond within one month.
  • Liability Assessment: They will investigate the circumstances, possibly visiting the incident site and reviewing any available CCTV footage.

3. Evidence Gathering

  • Medical and Expert Evidence: You will need to provide evidence of your injuries and any related expenses. This includes medical reports, receipts for treatment received, and expert testimony if necessary.
  • Documenting Losses: Evidence of lost wages and other financial losses due to the injury will also be gathered at this stage.

4. Negotiation

  • Settlement Discussions: If the respondent acknowledges their liability, the next step is to negotiate a settlement. Your lawyer will handle these negotiations on your behalf to ensure you receive fair compensation.
  • Offer and Consideration: Both parties will make offers and counteroffers until a settlement is reached.

5. Settlement or Court

  • Reaching a Settlement: Most public liability claims are settled out of court. A settlement agreement is made in which the respondent agrees to pay a sum of money to the claimant.
  • Going to Court: If a settlement cannot be agreed upon, the case may go to court where a judge will make a final decision.

Importance of Acting Quickly

Time Limits

  • Statutory Deadlines: Queensland law imposes strict time limits for notifying the other party of your claim and for filing a lawsuit if necessary.
  • Three-Year Limitation: Generally, you must start court proceedings within three years from the date of the accident.

Why Speed is Essential

  • Preservation of Evidence: The sooner you act, the easier it is to gather fresh evidence and witness testimony.
  • Medical Benefits: Early claims processing helps in receiving compensation for medical treatment without delay.

Other Important Info About Public Liability Claims

What happens if I am partially at fault for my injury?

In Queensland, you can still make a public liability claim even if you were partly at fault for the incident. However, any compensation you receive may be reduced by a percentage that reflects your share of responsibility for the injury.

Can I make a public liability claim for psychological injuries?

Yes, you can claim for psychological injuries in Queensland if you can prove that the psychological injury was a direct result of the accident and that the defendant was negligent.

What should I do immediately after an accident in a public place to support my claim?

Report the incident to the manager or owner of the premises, seek medical attention, and collect contact details of any witnesses. It’s also recommended to take photographs of the accident scene and the hazard that caused the injury.

What types of damages can I claim in a public liability case?

You can claim both economic and non-economic losses. Economic losses include medical expenses and lost earnings, while non-economic losses might cover pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and psychological harm.

How are public liability claims settled?

Most public liability claims are settled out of court through negotiations with the insurer of the party at fault. If a settlement can’t be reached, the case may go to court, where a judge will decide the outcome.

What happens if the other party refuses to accept liability for my injury?

If the other party or their insurer denies liability, you may need to prove their negligence caused your injury. This often involves gathering substantial evidence such as witness statements, expert testimonies, and medical records. If liability is disputed, it may be necessary to go to court where a judge will look at the evidence and make a ruling.

Can I make a claim if the accident happened at work?

If you’re injured at work, you may need to file a claim under workers’ compensation instead of a public liability claim. However, if a third party’s negligence caused your injury at work (someone other than your employer or a co-worker), you might still be able to pursue a public liability claim against that third party in addition to the workers’ compensation claim.

What if I am injured by a defective product?

If your injury is due to a defective product, you might have a product liability claim. These claims can be made against the manufacturer, distributor, or retailer of a product if it can be proven that the product was defective and caused your injury.

What should I do if I was injured but did not feel symptoms immediately?

Some injuries, particularly soft tissue injuries or psychological impacts, may not manifest immediately. It’s important to seek medical attention as soon as symptoms appear and document everything since the date of the incident, as this information will be crucial for your claim.

Can I still claim if the business or property owner is no longer in operation?

Yes, you can still make a claim if the responsible party has ceased operations, as their public liability insurance may still cover incidents that occurred while the policy was in effect.

Get the Best Public Liability Claim Lawyers on Your Case

If you’re looking into a public liability claim, having an experienced lawyer can really make a difference. At Best Injury Lawyers, we specialise in personal injury law to ensure you get the compensation you deserve. Here’s what our service involves:

  • Legal Expertise: Our team is knowledgeable in public liability law and will handle all the necessary procedures and deadlines to make sure your claim is filed correctly and on time.
  • Maximising Your Compensation: We calculate the full value of your claim, taking into account medical expenses, lost earnings, and compensation for pain and suffering. We handle all the conversations with insurance companies to get you a fair settlement.
  • Legal Representation: If your claim goes to court, our lawyers will represent you, making sure your rights are protected. We work on a ‘No Win, No Fee’ basis, meaning you won’t pay any legal fees unless we win your case.

Our team of expert lawyers take a client-centric approach to everything they do, aiming to make the legal process as clear and stress-free as possible for you. If you’ve been injured and believe it was someone else’s fault, contact us for a free consultation to discuss your options.