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Public Liability

Guide to Public Liability Claims in Australia 

By LHD Lawyers

Accidents can happen anywhere, and when they do, you may be entitled to compensation for any injuries you suffered by filing a public liability claim. This guide will answer the most frequently asked questions (FAQs) about public liability claims, as well as explore any related legislations and processes. For example, you’ll learn:

  • What a public liability claim is
  • What counts as a public liability claim
  • Who can make a claim
  • Which expenses a public liability claim can potentially cover
  • How long it takes, on average, to receive a payout
  • What you can expect to receive from your payout

What is a public liability claim?

A public liability claim is a type of compensation claim. It is open to anyone who can prove that a significant injury in a wide range of circumstances that they suffered in a public or privately-owned space was due to the negligent actions of the owner of that space.

The following statistics about public liability compensation claims show how important it is that Australians are aware that this legal route exists:

  • The gross incurred public and product liability claims costs in Australia in 2022 amounted to 1.8 billion Australian dollars.
  • According to the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority’s (APRA) May 2023 NCPD analysis of the 2015-2021 period, public liability costs for bodily injuries rose in the Construction, Agriculture, Accommodation Cafes and Restaurants, Retail Trade, Wholesale Trade, and Mining industries.

Business owners; owners of public or commercial spaces, like a sports field or shopping centre, or private spaces, like an apartment complex; government organisations; and even certain everyday individuals in Australia have a “duty of care.” This is a legal term that obligates these entities or individuals to place reasonable measures around their building or property to protect people from getting injured.

If reasonable measures aren’t in place and someone can prove that they were injured as a result of negligence, then that person can bring a public liability claim. When they do, they may be eligible to receive an insurance payout to cover damages.

What is the difference between a public liability claim and public liability insurance?

A public liability claim is a claim that someone who was injured on a public or private property due to the negligence of the property owner can file to pay for damages they incurred.

Public liability insurance is a policy that most public and private business or property owners pay for (although they aren’t required to do so), so that they are protected financially in case someone files a claim against them.

What are public liability claim examples?

Below is a list of examples of scenarios in which you could file a public liability claim, if you can prove that your injury was the result of someone else’s negligence:

  • Slipping on a wet spot on the floor that was not properly marked in a store
  • Tripping or falling off stairs, paths, or potholes that are not properly maintained
  • Injuring oneself while playing or watching a sport
  • Injuring oneself while working as a contractor, not an employee
  • Injuring oneself at a playground or schoolyard
  • Being attacked in public by a person or animal
  • Getting sick or injured from unsafe or improperly prepared food in a restaurant

What are the most common public liability claims?

The most common public liability claim is a slip and fall. This type of event usually occurs when a surface has not been properly maintained; is under construction; or is the site of a mess – i.e., a spilled liquid or some other substance – that hasn’t been marked with a caution sign or cleaned up yet.

If you would like to learn more about slip and fall claims, you can read our guide on our website.

Who can make a public liability claim?

A public liability claim can be made by anyone of any age, regardless of whether they have public liability insurance or not, providing they were injured in a public or privately-owned space due to the negligence of the property owner.

Furthermore, they must be able to prove that whatever caused their injury was not an “obvious risk,” meaning it was not visibly obvious that it was a hazard. This is an area where your public liability claims lawyer can assist you.

Public liability legislation per state

State Legislation
New South Wales
Victoria
Queensland
Western Australia
South Australia
Tasmania

What do public liability claims cover?

If proven, public liability claims can cover the following expenses:

  • Medical bills covering treatment of injuries
  • Cost of ongoing care at home
  • Lost income
  • Compensation for pain and suffering
  • Travel expenses

How do you make a public liability claim in Australia?

In this section, we will explain the  processes for making a claim for public liability in Australia by state:

New South Wales

To make a public liability claim in NSW, you must:  

  • Seek medical help and have your injuries assessed by a doctor.
  • Gather evidence (i.e., photographs, video footage, eyewitness statements, etc.) that the incident occurred and that it was the result of negligence.
  • Calculate and provide documentation for all the costs associated with your injuries.
  • Get legal advice for filing and negotiating your claim.
  • File your claim (along with all your evidence and documentation) with the insurer covering the individual, business, or organisation who is responsible for your injuries. This step must be taken within three years of the accident.

Victoria

In VIC, the process is the same as in NSW.

Queensland

 In QLD, claimants must:

  • Prove that they were injured in a public space.
  • Prove the owner of said space had a duty of care and were negligent in that duty, thereby causing the claimant’s injury.
  • Provide evidence and documentation of their injuries and the costs associated with them.
  • Serve a Notice of Claim form to the person, business, or organisation who is responsible for causing their injuries within nine months of the incident (or within one month of engaging a lawyer).
  • File the claim within three years of the incident occurring.

Western Australia

In WA, public injury claimants should follow the process as outlined for NSW and VIC.

South Australia 

In SA, claimants should follow all the steps outlined above, but they must also be sure to send a Notice of Claim to the person or organisation at fault within six months of the incident.

Tasmania

Public liability claimants in TAS must adhere to the processes described for New South Wales, Victoria, and Western Australia.

How long does it take to make a public liability claim?

Making a public liability claim takes as long as the claimant needs to obtain all the necessary evidence and documentation. However, they only have three years to initiate the claims process. In some cases – i.e., if there is a child involved or the claimant is disabled – the statute of limitations may be extended.

How long does it take for a public liability claim to process?

Although every case is different, in general, a public liability claim takes 12-18 months to process from start to finish.

Guide to public liability claim payouts in Australia 

Next, we’ll cover what you can expect when it comes to public liability insurance payouts. As a reminder, payouts can cover a variety of expenses that you incurred as a result of your injury, which is why it’s important to view making a claim as an option.

Example of a successful public liability payout

Our elderly client sustained back and hip injuries in an incident where they tripped and fell at a large retail store. Our client’s injuries were assessed by the Medical Panel as not meeting the threshold required to claim pain and suffering damages under the Wrongs Act. This decision was appealed to the Supreme Court, and we were successful in overturning the Medical Panel decision, paving the way for the resolution of the claim for pain and suffering damages.

More case studies like this can be found at our public liability payout hub.

Make a public liability claim today

If you think you have a public liability claim, LHD Lawyers can help everyday Australians receive the benefits they’re entitled to. We are so sure of our abilities to win your case that we stand firmly by our No Win No Fee Policy: if we don’t win, you don’t pay. Call 1800 455 725 for a no-obligation consultation about your case.

Author: James Bodel

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