Every year thousands of people experience a mishap in a public place that leads to injury, serious or otherwise.
In many cases, compensation may be available to the injured person to cover the costs of medical treatment, lost income, pain and suffering, domestic assistance and other expenses.
Such claims are called public liability claims. Some examples of situations giving rise to this type of claim include:
- Slips, trips and falls in public places such as shopping centres, supermarkets and other retail premises;
- accidents leading to injury on council-owned property and land, such as schools, car parks, children’s playgrounds and footpaths;
- mishaps in rental properties and other private residences provided the owner of the venue has public liability insurance; and
- injuries on other commercial properties.
If you believe your injury in a public place was caused by a negligent act or omission by the owner or occupier of the venue where it occurred, you may have a claim for compensation.
Generally speaking, the claim will be made against the insurance company that the venue or location holds a policy with, as public venues are required by law to hold public liability insurance.
Depending on the circumstances, public liability claims can be complicated and time-consuming. The guidance and advice of legal professionals with specialist knowledge in this area of the law is the best way to ensure your claim has the best chance of success.
What to do when the injury occurs
First and foremost, if you have a trip and fall in a public place, you need to check the extent of your injury and whether you need immediate medical attention.
There may be first aid available in the location in which you’re injured or you may need to go to the hospital.
If you have the presence at mind at the time, there are a number of things you (or someone else with you) can do that will be of assistance in a later compensation claim.
Some of the things that will help are to record:
- details of the location where the incident occurred;
- details of the owner, business or local council that controls the area where the injury occurred;
- details of the venue’s insurer;
- photos and/or notes about the area where the injury occurred, and any possible cause (such as a broken tile or uneven footpath);
- the contact details of any witnesses.
Most large venues such as shopping centres or public transport hubs will have formal accident reporting procedures, where details of the incident will be recorded and signed off by you and the owner/occupier. A copy of this report should also be sourced to include with your claim.
After your injury, it is vital to keep records of all doctors’ visits and any associated costs, such as taxis to and from the surgery in the event you can’t drive.
How does the claims process work?
Compelling evidence of the cause of your injury – provided through medical reports, eyewitness statements and other documents – is essential to a successful claim.
Most public venues have a duty of care to ensure the safety of those who use their facilities. If it can be demonstrated this duty was neglected by the owner/occupier and that it was reasonably foreseeable that your injury would result from that neglect, then liability for your harm may be proved.
In NSW a public liability claim for compensation must be made within three years of the accident unless the court makes a special exception to apply out of time.
The State’s Civil Liability Act places caps on the amounts of compensation available for the loss of past and future earnings, and for non-economic loss such as pain and suffering.
Compensation for pain and suffering, for example, is only awarded for injuries that are at least 15 per cent of the most extreme case.
The claim can include an amount for past and future medical expenses, including pharmaceutical, rehabilitation and travel expenses, and for domestic and nursing care.
Once the claim is submitted, negotiations begin provided the insurer accepts liability and offers a settlement payment.
But if the insurer rejects liability, or settlement negotiations prove fruitless, legal action through the courts might be required to win the compensation you believe you’re entitled to.
In either situation, the advice of experienced public liability lawyers is invaluable.
How Bourke Legal can help
At Bourke Legal, we have wide experience advising clients on public liability claims.
We will take the stress and time off your shoulders as you recover from injury. Compensation claims require a lot of detailed work to compile the evidence necessary to support the claim. Our professional team will gather all the information needed to give your claim the best chance of success.
Call us today to discuss your case at an obligation-free first meeting.