Public liability law is an area of the law of negligence where businesses, governments or owners of property owe a duty of care or responsibility to the general public who make use of their space.

Most businesses and organisations understand that sometimes things can go wrong and will often take out public liability insurance to cover claims made by individuals who are injured whilst on their site. In some industries, public liability insurance is mandatory (e.g. a tradesperson operating under a state government licence).
 

Do I need to be injured in a public place?
 

No, not necessarily. If you suffer an injury in a public space or on property owned by a local council or a business, and that injury was reasonably foreseeable to the property owner, you may want to consider a public liability claim.
 

Common claims include:

  • Injuries such as slips or falls in public places
  • Injuries in private buildings such as shopping centres or other business premises
  • Injuries in rental premises (e.g. landlord/tenant)
  • Injuries in schools
  • Injuries at entertainment venues

Making a successful claim

Broadly speaking, there are three elements that must be satisfied before your claim can be successful and before you could be awarded damages in a court.  An absence of one of these elements could mean that you may face difficulty in making your public liability claim.

  1. A duty of care was owed
  2. This duty of care was breached in some way (e.g. a failure to provide visible warning signs, to maintain equipment on site)
  3. You suffered harm as a result of that breach of responsibility

Excusable negligence?

There are certain factors in addition to the above elements that you and a legal team will need to be conscious of before commencing your claim.  Depending on the situation, these may constitute a defence to the negligence of the business or organisation at the centre of your claim. Defences to negligence include:

  • Obvious risk – where a risk was so noticeable or prominent that its existence and a warning telling the public to beware was unnecessary.
  • Contributorily negligence – where you have failed to do something to protect yourself from the harm of others. This can be a basis for the courts reducing your payout.
  • Risky activities and inherent risk – where you engage in activities that are considered inherently dangerous (e.g. extreme or adventure sports), you are assumed to take on the risks of those activities 

Act quickly

In Australian states and territories, there are strict time frames for a public liability claim to be brought to court. If not complied with, you run the risk of the courts rejecting your claim. However, there are certain exceptions to the time limits – get the right legal advice as soon as possible after an accident happens.

LHD Lawyers can help ensure your claim is within the timeframe and can give you legal advice about pursuing a public liability claim. Get in touch today to organise a free consultation and find out how we can help you.