How Long do Public Liability Claims Take to Resolve in NSW?

Let’s face it, we live in an age of instant gratification. Thanks to the Internet, we’ve grown accustomed to having immediate access to just about everything we could possibly want or need. So if you’ve been injured in a slip and fall accident, or similar circumstances in which someone else is to blame, chances are that you want the matter resolved quickly and to your complete satisfaction.

If you’re not careful, however, this impatience may jeopardize your chances of getting the compensation you deserve. That’s why it’s important to work with an experienced personal injury lawyer who can not only manage your expectations, but also fight for optimal results.

During your first meeting, a qualified lawyer will gather certain information and interview you about what happened to determine whether you have a viable public liability claim. You can usually make this type of claim if you’ve been badly hurt on public or private property, but only in certain circumstances.

For example, you may have a viable claim if someone assaulted and hurt you in a car park with inadequate lighting and security. You may also have a viable claim if you were hurt when you slipped and fell on a wet floor at the movie theatre, or even if a dog bit you at the park.

This is because New South Wales law mandates that business owners and other organisations do everything possible to make sure that people are not in danger while on the premises.  In other words, they must make sure their properties are well maintained, that their employees have adequate training and that other measures are in place to ensure public safety. Any failure to fulfill these obligations which results in personal injury is legally classified as negligence.

Although it sounds like a cliché, one of the first things your lawyer will probably tell you is that every personal injury case is different. It’s therefore impossible to say exactly how long it will take to resolve your public liability claim in NSW. Some of the factors taken into consideration include:

  • The extent of your injury or injuries;
  • the extent of your treatment;
  • how long it takes to assess your long-term needs and what they are;
  • how long it takes the responsible party’s insurance provider to make a settlement offer (if at all).

If the insurer doesn’t make a reasonable settlement offer, or refuses to make any offer whatsoever, your only recourse will be to take the matter to court. If you and your lawyer agree to pursue this option, the court’s schedule will dictate how quickly (or slowly) the case goes forward. In general it can take 12 to 18 months until the case is actually heard.

Even if the case goes to court, there’s no guarantee you’ll win. In one documented case, for example, the court awarded $90,000 in compensation to a woman who brought a public liability claim against the Coles supermarket where she was injured when she slipped on a grape. In this particular case, the woman argued that the supermarket was negligent because it hadn’t removed a hazard (the grape) or done anything to make customers aware of it, and had been negligent for not clearing the floor of grapes and not warning customers of the slip danger. In response, the supermarket employed a legal defence called ‘obvious risk’.  Specifically, it argued that the presence of grapes on the floor constituted an ‘obvious risk’, and consequently it wasn’t legally obligated to warn customers. The court disagreed, ruling that the supermarket breached its duty of care, and awarded damages accordingly.

In another case, a woman brought a public liability claim against the owners of a shopping mall after she was hurt when she tripped over a kerb in an underground car park. The plaintiff here claimed that she couldn’t see the kerb due to fading paint and inadequate lighting. Unconvinced, the court sided with the defendants and ruled that kerbing was an ‘obvious risk’ for a trip injury. The Court also ruled that the woman’s distraction caused her fall, that there was sufficient lighting, and that the failure to refresh the paint on the kerb did not constitute an act of negligence.

Clearly there’s a lot to consider when you are deciding whether to make a public liability claim. At BPC lawyers, we have the knowledge and experience necessary to help you through every step of the process. Based on evaluation of your unique circumstances, we will determine whether you have a viable claim. If so, we will then work to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve through a settlement or court hearing. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you today.