What Is Public Liability?

You may be aware that you can claim compensation if you’re injured in a motor vehicle accident or at work due to someone else’s negligence. But what happens if the accident occurs elsewhere, such as in a shop or on public transport?

This is where public liability laws can protect you. What is public liability you might ask? These laws allow you to make a public liability claim for compensation if you’re injured in a public place or on private property due to another party’s negligence.

Businesses like supermarkets, retail outlets and event organisers usually take out public liability insurance to cover them for injury or property damage that a member of the public experiences while on the business’s premises.

However, an accident doesn’t have to occur in a public place to be covered under public liability laws. You may be able to claim damages if you’re injured in a private space, such as the home of someone with public liability insurance.

This area of the law can be quite complex, so you should seek legal advice from experts like Main Lawyers if you believe you have a claim for compensation.

What Types of Accidents are Public Liability?

Public liability covers a wide range of accidents and injuries, such as:

  • slips and falls in supermarkets, retail stores, offices and other commercial properties
  • accidents in playgrounds and school grounds
  • injuries in sporting activities
  • dog attack injuries
  • falls on council property, such as parks, gardens and footpaths
  • food poisoning in restaurants and food courts
  • some accidents in private homes.

It can even cover physical attacks and accidents out on a boat under specific circumstances.

These are only a few instances where public liability could apply. Our experts at Main Lawyers can assess your situation to see whether it applies in your case.

Proving Public Liability

To make a public liability claim, you need to meet certain criteria:

  • You were injured physically or psychologically.
  • You were injured in a location covered under public liability law (e.g. not in the workplace).
  • You can identify the person or organisation that is at fault.
  • The at-fault person or organisation owed you a legal duty of care and breached that duty through negligence.
  • You suffered a loss due to the accident, such as lost income.
  • You can submit your claim before the legal time limit expires.

What is Not a Public Liability Claim?

In some circumstances, your injury might not be covered under public liability law. However, knowing what is public liability and what is not is important to determine how you may be able to make a compensation claim under a different law:

  • Injury at work or due to your work: You may be covered by WorkCover and able to make a claim for workers compensation. Read more about workers compensation claims.
  • Injury in a motor vehicle accident: You could make a personal injury claim under their compulsory third-party insurance. Read more about car accident compensation claims.
  • Injury due to medical negligence: You could make a compensation claim for injuries and wrongful death caused by medical malpractice. Read more about medical negligence claims.

What You Can Claim For

If a person or organisation breaches a duty of care to you as a member of the public and causes you injury or loss, you’re eligible to claim compensation to cover various expenses and losses.

Usually, that party’s insurance company will pay your compensation, rather than the at-fault individual or organisation themselves.

Generally, under public liability, you can claim for:

  • lost income (past and future)
  • medical and treatment expenses (past and future)
  • pain and suffering, and lost enjoyment of life
  • domestic assistance you require due to your injury.

How Much Compensation You May Receive

Public liability is a broad area and every claim is different. Therefore, it’s not possible to know exactly how much you will receive for your claim.

Generally, the amount is based on many factors, including how your life was before your injury and how it will change after the injury.

The amount also depends on:

  • the extent of the injury – how much harm or loss you’ve experienced
  • your age
  • your lost income
  • expenses you have to pay, such as medical and treatment expenses.

Our experts at Main Lawyers have a long track record of successful public liability claims. We will gather all the evidence to help you prove the extent of your loss and injury.

Once we have considered all these factors, we can estimate how much you might be eligible for, based on our experience.

Why Do You Need a Public Liability Lawyer?

It’s important to get in touch with an experienced public liability lawyer as soon as you can after your injury. This area of law is quite complicated and you need to be sure that your particular accident is eligible for a public liability claim.

Additionally, there are strict time limits for making a claim. In Queensland, you have three years to lodge a claim from the date you were injured.

If you’re in hospital or unwell, it may be difficult for you to get the required paperwork together and ensure everything is submitted correctly. And insurers are often reluctant to pay out compensation, so you need someone negotiating on your behalf to make sure you get what you’re entitled to.

For these reasons and more, it’s highly beneficial to engage a public liability lawyer. 

Evidence You Will Need

A major key to proving your case is the evidence you can provide the insurer. So it’s important to retain as many records as possible. Your lawyer can help you collect the information you need.

This evidence can include:

  • payslips, income tax returns and other financial information that shows the financial loss you’ve experienced due to your injury
  • medical records such as treatment plans, doctor’s notes, psychiatric evaluations, x-rays, medical certificates and appointment bookings
  • photos of your injuries and the location of the accident, as well as other important photos that can help prove your case
  • expense records, including travel to and from your treatment, domestic assistance you have paid for, medication and any other relevant out-of-pocket expenses
  • written records of your accident, including your own notes and any witness statements
  • letters, emails and other correspondence about the accident, including any responses from those responsible for your accident.

Do You Need To Go To Court?

Most public liability compensation cases don’t go to court; they’re settled in a compulsory conference. This is where engaging an expert lawyer can really pay off.

By law, you must attend a compulsory conference with the other party to try to settle your claim. This can help resolve the issue before it gets to court. Your lawyer will attend with you and negotiate on your behalf.

The other party will usually make an ‘offer of settlement’, which we would discuss with you and decide whether to accept. It’s an important decision, as you can’t seek further compensation from the other party once you accept the offer – even if your losses turn out to be more than the settlement sum.

If you can’t resolve the issue at the compulsory conference, your matter may then proceed to court.

How Will Main Lawyers Provide Help?

While each claim is different, there is a general process we will follow when assisting you with a claim for public liability compensation:

  • To start, our expert lawyers will meet with you to listen to the details of your accident and assess whether you may have a case for compensation. This is a no-cost and no-obligation meeting.
  • If we determine that you have a strong case and you wish to make a claim, we will notify the other party that you’re making a claim. You have one month to submit the claim from the date of your injury.
  • The other party’s insurer will assess the claim and inform us whether they will accept full or part liability for your injury, or reject any liability.
  • We will then help you gather evidence to prove your claim. You may need to be examined by a medical specialist and obtain other reports from various experts.
  • Once we have all the information, we can assess how much you could receive as a settlement and provide the insurer with an opening offer. They will either accept or counter this offer.
  • If you can’t settle your claim through negotiation, we will then commence court proceedings on your behalf.
  • When the matter is settled, we will arrange for you to receive the compensation you’re entitled to and pay the required legal fees from the funds.

Are You Ready To Start Your Claim?

Now that your question of “what is public liability” is answered it’s important to know that public liability claims can take some time to be settled, depending on how complex the situation is. The more experts are involved, the longer it will take. Therefore, you should get legal assistance and start the claim process as soon as you can.

At Main Lawyers, our No-win, No-fee policy means you won’t pay legal fees unless your case is successful and you receive compensation. And if you can’t get to our Gold Coast or Brisbane office, we are happy to come to you for your initial consultation.

For expert advice, contact our public liability lawyers for a no-obligation discussion about your case.

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