How to Make a Public Liability Claim in NSW?

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What is a Public Liability Claim

A public liability claim refers to a claim made for injuries sustained in public places in accidents caused by the negligence (failure to exercise reasonable care and skill) of a person or organisation.

For instance, let’s say you’re walking through a shopping centre and you slip and fall as a result of a spilt liquid on the floor causing an injury to you. The owner of the shopping centre possibly could have prevented the unfortunate incident by ensuring that their cleaning staff better maintained the centre’s floor.

Compensatory damages are available under the Civil Liability Act NSW 2002 as follows:

  • Past and future medical expenses;
  • Pain and suffering (past and future);
  • Past and future loss of earnings, including loss of superannuation contributions;
  • Cost of other assistance (domestic assistance, personal care provided by friends, family or professional organisations for the past and future).

Public liability claims derive from numerous accident types. Here are some examples:

  • Assault-related injuries;
  • Animal attacks (most commonly dog bites);
  • Injuries due to defective machinery;
  • A slip and fall in public spaces and facilities;
  • Food poisoning;
  • Sporting, recreational  injuries;
  • Physical assaults;
  • Sexual assaults;
  • Schools and playground injuries;
  • Aviation (planes, helicopters) injuries;
  • Maritime (boats, ships) injuries;
  • Hotels and other venues injuries;
  • Injury at a construction site;
  • School yard injuries;
  • Amusement venue injuries;  and
  • Injuries in rental premises (e.g. landlord/tenant).

Public liability insurance

In most cases, business (private or public) have public liability insurance for these types of incidents,  which essentially means that in making a claim against the business, you’re in fact making a claim against their insurer. Some people can wrongly assume they are pursuing legal action against the business and for that reason, do not follow through with a public liability claim, despite incurring significant inconvenience and financial hardship.

Notwithstanding this, it is not uncommon for people who have an accident in a public place to initially suffer from only a little pain and discomfort, choosing not to pursue a claim, only to later find that the injuries sustained were serious, requiring surgery. For this reason, it is often wise to seek medical attention regardless of the injuries sustained.

Proving a Public Liability Claim

In a public liability claim, the evidence of the incident is vitally important, because your lawyer will need to be able to demonstrate that:

  • The person or company at fault owed you a duty of care.
  • The person or company breached that duty of care.
  • As a consequence, you were injured and suffered loss.

Practically speaking, following an injury in a public place if you’re able, the following should be attended to.

  • The first thing you should do, when injured in a public place is to let the owner/manager of the business know.
  • Ensure pictures are taken of everything, the injury itself, the establishment, the object causing the injury.
  • Witnesses are very important, take notes of their names and phone numbers
  • Access any surveillance camera footage
  • Make a video recalling what happened right away
  • Seek medical assistance as soon as possible.
  • Seek advice from a specialised lawyer in personal injury claims.
  • Save all medical evidence, bills, receipts, doctor’s records and anything else proving you sustained an injury.
  • Financial documents are also important to prove a loss of income resulting from the accident.

Getting Help

Public liability claims can be difficult to prove, hence the need to ensure you collect as much evidence as possible as promptly as possible and seek legal advice.

These matters have very strict time limits that apply.