2019 Guide to Public Liability Compensation - Law Partners
 

Public Injury, Injury and Rehabilitation | 07 August 2019

What you need to know about public liability compensation.

 

What’s public liability?

In public places like shopping centres, parks, office buildings and rental properties, the manager of the building or facility has a duty of care to the public to provide a safe environment. Public liability refers to the fact that the manager can be held liable for breaching that duty of care if it results in an injury to a member of the public.

What’s a public liability compensation claim?

If you’re injured in a public place, and you can show that the injury resulted from someone’s negligence, you may be able to make a claim for compensation. This compensation is to cover your losses including time off work and medical expenses and also for future losses and pain and suffering. Managers of public places are required to have public liability insurance and it’s the insurer that pays compensation to you.

 

 

What accidents or injuries can I make a public liability claim for?

Some accidents involve faulty equipment or facilities, but many public injuries happen because of hazards, obstacles or spills that cause slip, trip and fall accidents. Regardless of how your injury occurred, if it happened because of the negligence of the building or facility manager and you’ve incurred any financial losses, you may be entitled to make a public liability compensation claim. 

Accidents can include:

  • Slips and falls due to spillages and wet surfaces
  • Trips and falls due to hazardous paths and walkways
  • Injuries from faulty or poorly-maintained equipment
  • Obstructions and hazards in public areas
  • Being struck by a falling objects
  • Injuries from assaults
  • Burns from hot water and spilled hot food or drinks
  • Contact with hazardous substances like chemicals
  • Injuries from shattered or broken glass
  • Finger and hand injuries from being jammed in doors

 


 

Am I entitled to make a public liability claim?

If you’re injured in a public place or someone else’s premises, there are a two key factors that will determine whether you can make a public liability claim. 

First, can you show that your accident could have been avoided if the building or facility manager had taken action to prevent it? This is not always straightforward – the building manager can only be held liable if they knew about a potential hazard and did nothing about it. Take for example a leaky roof in a shopping centre that causes a puddle to form on a tiled floor. If it has been leaking for months and the building manager fails to get it fixed or prevent people walking on the wet surface, it’s likely the manger can be held liable for your injuries if you slip and fall. But if the roof springs a leak and you slip on it moments later, before the building manger has time to do anything about it, it’s unlikely the manager could be held liable.

Secondly, you can only claim for losses you’ve incurred, and there’s a threshold that your injuries must exceed to qualify for compensation. So if you’ve had a significant injury, time off work and medical bills, you may have a valid claim. But if you’ve just had mild bruising and were able to continue about you daily activities without any treatment or time off, it’s unlikely you can claim.

 

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What if the place where I was injured doesn’t have public liability insurance?

If you make a claim against a business or facility that doesn’t have public liability insurance, it won’t affect your chances of winning the case. What it will affect is your chances of getting paid the compensation you’re entitled to. If there’s an insurer, and you win your case, the insurer will pay. If there’s no insurer to make the payment you’re in a position where you may be trying to get payment from an individual or business who might not have the means to pay, and that can get complicated. However, it’s very rare to come across a business that doesn’t have any public liability insurance.

 
If you’re thinking about making a claim it’s a good idea to speak to a specialist public liability solicitor first to understand your options and your chances of success.

 

Who pays my legal bills when I make a public liability claim?

If you decide to make a claim, you’ll have a much better chance of success and receive a much higher payout if you use a specialist public liability lawyer. Remember that your claim will be handled by an insurance company that has a team of lawyers on its side, and in many cases they will deny liability. A specialist public liability lawyer will gather the right evidence, manage your case for you and make sure you’re paid everything you’re entitled to.

Most good personal injury firms will run your case on a “no win no fee” basis, which means they’ll fund your case for you and take their fee out of your payout when you receive it. So it shouldn’t cost you anything up front to make a public liability claim. It’s also important to look at the fee structure offered by the law firm to make sure they’re not going to take too much of your compensation. Law firms are not allowed to charge a percentage of your compensation – they must either charge fixed fees for the services they provide, or an hourly rate.

 
Some firms, however, will cap their fess so you can be confident there will be no surprises at the end of your claim.

 

 

Public liability claims for injuries at supermarkets and shopping centres

What are the most common accidents in supermarkets and shopping centres?

Supermarkets are notorious places for spillages and wet floors that become hazardous, so it’s no surprise that the majority of accidents in supermarkets are from slips and falls. The second most common cause of accidents is obstacles and obstructions that are left in walkways causing trip and fall accidents. Slips, trips and falls can result in serious injuries, with the most common supermarket and shopping centre injuries being musculoskeletal injuries, cuts, bruises, fractures and dislocations.

What do I do if I’m injured in a supermarket, shopping centre or shop?

If you’re injured, your first priority is your health and you should seek medical attention immediately. Bring the cause of the accident to the attention of a member of staff as soon as you can and make a note of the staff member’s name. If there’s someone who can help you, ask them to take photos of the spillage or obstacle that caused your accident.

Take as many photos as you can, as these can be used as part of your evidence when you make a claim for public liability compensation. You should also ask the supermarket about any accident reporting they have in place, and ask what information they need from you for the report. If the staff member is being in any way evasive or unhelpful, insist on speaking to a manager. Most supermarkets and shopping centres take safety very seriously, and have processes in place that must be followed in the event of an accident.

Claiming compensation for a slip or fall in a shopping centre or supermarket

If you’re going to make a public liability compensation claim, gather as much evidence as you can. Evidence can include records and receipts from medical treatment; copies of any correspondence between you and the centre management; details of lost wages; any written reports about the incident; photos of the accident location or the hazard that caused the injuries; photos of your injuries and contact details of any witnesses. 

It’s a good idea to speak a specialist public injury lawyer as soon as you can after the accident. Some personal injury firms will provide free advice over the phone, so even if you’re not sure whether you have a valid claim, it’s a good idea to find out what you’re entitled to.

 
If you decide to proceed with a claim, choose a personal injury law firm that offers a no win not fee guarantee and has a specialist public liability legal team – they’ll have the experience to make sure you get your full entitlements.

 

How much compensation can I get for slipping on a wet floor?

The amount of compensation you receive will depend on the extent of your injuries and the expenses you incur. First you need to prove your injuries meet the legislated threshold by getting a doctor to assess your injuries. If you do meet the threshold, then you might be able to claim compensation for lost income, medical expenses, travel expenses, domestic assistance, pain and suffering, permanent impairment and future losses. If you qualify for all of these entitlements, compensation can run into hundreds of thousands of dollars. But even relatively minor injuries often result in compensation in tens of thousands of dollars in compensation, as long as the injuries meet the legislated threshold.

An important point about compensation that’s often missed is that simply claiming for the obvious injury could mean you miss out on significant entitlements. In many cases an injury leads to other problems – for example, an injured leg can lead to a limp that causes hip and back problems. This is where a specialist public liability lawyer can really help.  By gathering all the medical evidence and arguing your case on your behalf, a specialist solicitor will generally get you a much higher compensation payment than if you simply accept an offer from the insurer.

Can I sue if I slipped in a store?

If you’re injured in a slip and fall in a store or supermarket, you may be able to sue under the store’s public liability policy, but only if you can prove that a duty of care was breached. Owners of stores and supermarkets owe you a duty of care to keep you safe, but they’re not automatically liable if you’re injured – they’re only liable if it can be shown that they were negligent in their duty of care. Take for example a situation where liquid had been spilled on a floor. If the spill was left for a long period of time and not cleaned up, resulting in a slip and fall, it’s likely the store would be found negligent by a court of law. However, if the slip and fall happened within seconds of the spill, then it could be argued that the store had no opportunity to clean it up and was therefore not negligent.

 

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 Can I sue my employer for a slip and fall?

If you’ve been injured in a slip and fall at your workplace, you might be able to sue your employer for negligence. The first thing to understand is that compensation for a workplace injury in NSW is covered under the workers compensation scheme. This scheme is set up to make sure all of your expenses are covered in the event of a workplace injury, including lost income, medical expenses, travel expenses, domestic assistance, pain and suffering and permanent impairment. However, if it can be shown that your employer was negligent in providing a safe work environment, you may also be able to sue for Work Injury Damages, which can be a substantial lump sum.

 

Public liability claims for injuries at restaurants and cafes

What are the most common public liability claims against restaurants?

Restaurants and cafes present a number of injury risks, and are required by law to have public liability insurance in place. This insurance is to provide compensation to members of the public who are injured as a result of negligence on the part of the restaurant or café.

The most common public liability compensation claims against restaurants are for injuries caused by:

Slipping on wet or greasy floors
Falling or tripping because of poor lighting, badly maintained stairways or faulty floors
Badly maintained toilet facilities, with wet or flooded floors
Burn injuries from spilled food or hot drinks

 

What should I do if I slip and fall or get hurt at a restaurant?

If you’re injured at a restaurant, your first priority is your health and you should seek medical attention immediately. Then if you’re able to do so, or if there’s someone who can help you, gather as much evidence as you can about how you were injured. This could include photos of where you were injured and what caused the injury – for example, a wet floor or trip hazard. Also get the names of any restaurant staff members who assist you and speak to the manager. If there are any witnesses it can be helpful to have their names and contact numbers. Any evidence you can provide regarding the cause of the slip and fall or accident will be helpful in making a claim for public liability compensation.

How do I file a lawsuit against a restaurant?

If you’re injured in a restaurant, you may be able to file a lawsuit and claim compensation under the restaurant’s public liability insurance policy, but only if you can prove that a duty of care was breached. Owners of restaurants owe you a duty of care to keep you safe, and are liable to pay you compensation if they’re negligent in their duty of care. So in order to file a lawsuit against a restaurant, you’ll have to show that you were injured at the restaurant and that the restaurant could have taken steps to prevent the accident. You’ll need medical reports to show the extent of your injures and evidence of the cause of your accident. This evidence could include written reports, correspondence, photos and witness statements.

 
The first step is to speak to a specialist public liability compensation solicitor, who will advise you how to proceed.

 

What if I get sick from eating at a restaurant?

You may be able to make a public liability compensation claim for food poisoning if you can prove you got sick because the restaurant that served you the contaminated food was negligent. Proving negligence can be difficult, especially if you were the only person who got sick. But if you were one of a number of people who got sick eating at the same place or eating the same dish, then you may have a claim. Another factor to consider is how badly you were affected. You can only claim compensation for your losses, so if you got food poisoning but recovered in a day or two then your losses might not be large enough to justify making a claim for compensation. If your illness resulted in time of work and medical bills, it’s more likely you’ll have a valid claim.

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Public liability claims for injuries at hotels and bars

Can I claim compensation if I’ve slipped or been injured in a bar or hotel?

If you’ve slipped and fallen or been injured in a bar or hotel, you can only claim compensation if you can prove that the manager of the bar or hotel was negligent in their duty of care. For example, if you fell off a bar stool that broke because it was faulty, or if you slipped on a floor that had been left wet without any warning signs.  If you were in any way intoxicated it can be harder to show that the venue was responsible, and you might be found partially or fully responsible for the accident.

Can I sue a hotel for injury?

Suing a hotel for injury is basically the same as claiming compensation for your injury. So once again, you can only sue for injury if you can prove that the manager of the bar or hotel was negligent in their duty of care.

Can I claim compensation if I’m assaulted at a hotel or bar?

All venues that are open to the public have a duty of care to keep you safe, so if you’re assaulted at a hotel or bar and you can show that the management could have taken steps to prevent the assault, then you may be able to claim compensation under the venue’s public liability insurance policy. For example, if you were assaulted by a patron who was intoxicated, and the venue failed to eject the patron or keep him away from other patrons, then you may be able to claim compensation for your injuries.

Can I claim compensation if I’ve been injured at an Airbnb?

The same rules apply to an Airbnb that apply to any other venue or space that’s rented out to members of the public – (i.e.) the owner has a duty of care to make the environment safe. So if you’ve been injured because of faulty or poorly maintained facilities or equipment, you may be able to make a claim for public liability compensation. For example, if the property had poorly maintained steps that caused you to trip and fall, and it can be shown that the owner knew about the fault and failed to repair it, then you may be able to claim compensation for your injuries.

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Assaults and security guards

Can I get compensation for being assaulted?

If you’ve been assaulted and injured, there are a couple of ways you may be able to claim compensation. The first is to claim compensation from the person found guilty of the assault through the criminal court process. The second is to claim compensation from the public liability insurer if the assault happened at a public venue (like a pub) or at a private residence. To be eligible to claim public liability compensation, you’ll need to show that the venue’s management or owner failed in their duty of care to keep you safe.

Can I sue a person for assault?

Yes, there are a number of ways you can sue for assault. Suing is basically the same as claiming compensation, so the first step is to determine who you’re holding liable and how you want to pursue legal action. Do you want to pursue a criminal court process and sue the person who assaulted you? Or are you going to pursue a civil court process and sue the venue where the assault happened for not upholding their duty of care to keep you safe?

 
There’s no simple answer to these questions, so your first step in the process should be to speak to a specialist solicitor and get some advice. Some firms will provide free advice over the phone, so it makes sense to get advice before you take any action.

 

How much compensation can I get for being assaulted?

In the first instance you can claim for the losses you’ve incurred from your injuries including lost income, medical expenses, travel expenses and domestic assistance, and you may also be able to claim for pain and suffering, permanent impairment and future losses. So the amount you can claim depends on the extent of your injuries and the impact they’ve had on your life, or are likely to have in the future. If you qualify for all of these entitlements, compensation can run into hundreds of thousands of dollars. But even relatively minor injuries often result in compensation in tens of thousands of dollars in compensation, as long as the injuries meet the legislated threshold.

How long after a crime can I claim compensation?

If you’ve been injured as a result of a crime in NSW, you have three years from the date of injury to make a claim. If you’re a minor or a person with a disability you have six years from the date of injury.

 
Regardless of how long it’s been since your injury, if you’re considering claiming compensation you should speak to a specialist solicitor and get advice on your options.

 

What should I do if I’m assaulted by a security guard?

A security guard can use physical force to achieve a safe and effective outcome, but they can only use physical force that’s reasonable and necessary. If they use excessive force and you’re injured, you may be able to claim compensation under the venue’s public liability insurance policy. Alternatively, you may also be able to claim compensation from the security guard or their employer (for example, a contract security firm).

To be eligible to make a public liability compensation claim you’ll need to show that the security guard used excessive force. For example, if you were being ejected from a venue, security guards are entitled to use physical force to remove you. However, they’re not allowed to strike you unless they’re in danger of physical harm and need to defend themselves. 

Before deciding whether to make a compensation claim you should consider what losses you’ve incurred from your injuries – if they’re substantial, it may be worth pursuing a claim. If you’ve been assaulted and injured by a security guard and you wish to pursue a claim, you should:

  • Get the name of the security guard and their identification number if they have one
  • Get the names and contact details of witnesses
  • Get a medical report detailing your injuries, and take photographs of your injuries
  • Report the assault to the police
  • Lodge a complaint with the venue where the assault happened
  • Talk to a specialist public liability lawyer to find out if you’re entitled to make a compensation claim

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Rental properties

Are landlords responsible for injuries?

A rental property landlord has a duty of care to tenants and visitors, and must do everything possible to ensure their safety. If you’ve been injured at a rental property and it can be shown that the injury resulted from a breach of that duty of care, then you’re likely to be entitled to compensation. For example, if a balcony railing is faulty and the landlord fails to get it repaired, and this results in an injury from a fall, then compensation is likely to be available under the landlord’s public liability insurance policy.

Can I sue my landlord if I get hurt on their property?

If you’re injured and can prove that the landlord failed in their duty of care to ensure your safety, then you may be able to sue and make a claim for compensation under the landlord’s public liability insurance policy.

 
Your injuries will need to meet the legislated threshold for you to be eligible for compensation, so it’s a good idea to speak to a specialist public liability compensation lawyer to find out what your options are.

 

Does landlord insurance cover tenant injury?

Landlords are required to take out public liability insurance to cover tenants and visitors who are injured at the rental property. So if you’ve been injured as a tenant, and it can be shown that the landlord is liable for the injury, then you can claim compensation under the landlord’s public liability insurance policy.

Can I sue may landlord for negligence?

If your landlord is negligent in maintaining your property, keeping it safe and complying with building codes, and this results in an injury to you, then you may be able sue your landlord for negligence and claim compensation.

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Public and private schools

 Is a school liable for injuries?

Schools have a duty of care to provide a safe environment for students while they’re at school or out on an excursion. If a student is injured and it can be shown that the accident happened because the school was negligent in its duty of care, then the school is liable for the injuries.

Can I sue my school if I get hurt?

If you’ve been hurt at school or on an excursion, you can sue the school if your injures happened because the school failed in its duty of care to provide a safe environment. You will also need to show that you’ve incurred losses as a result of your injuries – for example, medical expenses. If you’re successful in showing the school was liable, you may be entitled to compensation under the school’s public liability insurance policy.

What can I do if my child is injured at school?

If your child was injured at school and you’re considering claiming compensation for your losses, here are some tips:

  • Keep detailed records of the accident, how it happened, and how the school dealt with it
  • Keep contact details of any other people involved in the accident, including witnesses
  • If possible, take photos of the location of the accident and any equipment that was involved, especially if it was faulty
  • Keep detailed medical records including photos of any injuries

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Sporting events and recreational facilities

Can I claim compensation for my sports injury?

Many sporting activities have inherent risks and people who participate in these activities are well aware of the risks. However, if you’ve sustained a sports injury because of someone else’s negligence, you might be entitled to compensation.  For example, managers of sports facilities have a duty of care to ensure the safety of visitors and players. If a manager is negligent and an injury results from that negligence, then compensation is likely to be available. Another example is personal trainers – if you’ve been told to do exercises that are unsuitable for you and result in injury, you might be able to make a claim for public liability compensation. 

Here are some examples of sports injuries that might lead to a public liability compensation claim:

Accidents caused by faulty sporting equipment
Slips and fall accidents at swimming pools
Jet boat, jet ski and other watercraft accidents
Injuries caused by personal trainers advising unsuitable exercises
Skiing and snowboarding accidents
Rock fishing accidents
Injuries resulting from contact sports
Injuries caused by diving into shallow water
Injuries caused by golf balls and golf carts
Surfing accidents

Can I claim compensation if I was injured as a spectator at a sporting event?

The short answer is yes – if you can show that the owner of the facility where the event was held failed to provide a safe environment for spectators. For example, if you were injured from a fall due to a trip hazard or faulty stairs, you might be eligible to make a compensation claim.

Can I claim compensation if I was injured at a recreational facility?

Many recreational facilities such as amusement parks and Go-karting tracks will ask you to sign a waiver, informing you of the inherent risks and stating that you’re participating at your own risk. However, a signed waiver doesn’t necessarily prevent you from claiming compensation if you’re injured. For example, an injury sustained crashing a go-kart into a safety barrier might be deemed to be the result of inherent risk, whereas an injury resulting from faulty brakes might be deemed to be the result of negligence. To make a claim for an injury sustained at a recreational facility, you’ll need to show how the operator was negligent in managing its duty of care, and you’ll need to prove that your injuries meet the relevant threshold.

 

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