It’s likely that your first reaction if you take a tumble in a public place is embarrassment. That’s perfectly natural, but once the red face passes, you not only need to assess whether you’ve sustained any injury but there are also a number of other things you should do in case you later wish to make a compensation claim.
Successful compensation claims for this type of harm requires solid evidence to prove that your injury was caused by the owner of the place, where it occurred, failing to take reasonable care to ensure such accidents were avoided.
Public parks, public transport and interchanges, supermarkets, shopping centres, schools and even private residences are examples of places where the owner or operator may be held liable for failing in its duty of care to provide a safe place for those who use it. Common accidents resulting in injury in such places include slips and falls as a result of unsafe surfaces, uneven footpaths or loose material left on the floor.
Most places have public liability insurance in the event of such accidents. Claims against these policies by an injured party may see you compensated for the costs of emergency medical treatment, rehabilitation and subsequent support services such as counselling or physiotherapy. Loss of earnings as a result of being unable to work because of the injury are also claimable.
What to do after the accident
Depending on the seriousness of the incident, it’s very important to try and keep your composure and presence of mind if you have an accident in a public place. This is because what happens immediately afterwards can have a significant bearing on the success of any later compensation claim.
Obviously if you’ve sustained an injury in the fall, you should seek immediate medical treatment. Provided you are able to remain on the scene while this happens, you should also try to gather as much information as possible about the circumstances in which the injury has occurred (or deputise a companion, if you are with one at the time).
- Noting the details of the location where the incident has occurred.
- Noting the name and details of the owner, business or local council in control of the area where your injury has occurred and, if possible, finding out their insurance details.
- Reporting the injury to the owner or proprietor of the space. Depending on where the accident occurs, they may have their own incident report process, which it’s advisable you follow. Most large commercial premises such as shopping centres, for example, will have a formal accident reporting process.
- Where possible, take photos of the area and if discernible, the specific cause of the injury (such as debris on the floor).
- Gather contact details for any witnesses to the accident as your legal representative may need to contact these people later.
- Preserve all medical records relating to treatment resulting from the injury, including all receipts and invoices.
Once your expert compensation lawyer has gathered all relevant evidence, your injury has been medically assessed and the party responsible for the injury correctly identified, then you can submit your claim. If the insurer accepts liability then you may be offered a settlement amount without the need for court action. But if the insurer rejects liability or you’re unable to settle out of court, you may need to proceed to court.
Time limits and the Civil Liability Act
In order to make a public liability compensation claim, an injured person must make the claim within three years of the date that the claim was discoverable, usually three years from the date of accident.
Under NSW’s Civil Liability Act (CLA), damages in public liability claims may be made for loss of past and future earnings, as well as for other losses such as medical expenses and pain and suffering.
While the loss of wages claim is based on the claimant’s pre-accident income, the maximum amount is capped at $3,617.40 gross per week. Damages for non-economic loss (such as ‘pain and suffering’) are only awarded for injuries that are at least 15 per cent of a most extreme case.
The importance of expert advice
The steps outlined above – including the gathering of evidence, meeting of statutory time limits, potentially responding to an insurer’s offer and working within the restrictions provided by the CLA – are time-consuming, stressful and sometimes complex.
Consulting award-winning compensation specialists such as BPC Lawyers will remove the unnecessary worry involved in making a compensation claim for an injury that wasn’t your fault. We have a long track record of obtaining the recompense a client is entitled to when they’ve sustained an injury in a public place. Contact our Sydney personal injury lawyers today on (02) 8280 6900 for a free case evaluation.