Public Liability Claims Guide.
What is a public liability claim?
When you’re out and about, whether you’re shopping, visiting friends, enjoying recreational activities, or at a public building, the last thing you expect is to be injured in an accident. But if you are injured, you may need time off work and medical treatment. This can create financial stress for you and your family, but a public liability claim can be a real lifeline.
A public liability claim is a claim for compensation to cover the losses you incur from your injuries. All public places and buildings, including rental properties, are required to have public liability insurance. So if you’re injured you might be able to make a public liability claim against the insurer.
Am I entitled to make a public liability claim?
Ask yourself these three questions:
- Have you been injured in a public place?
- Was the injury caused by someone’s negligence?
- Have you had any time off work to recover or any treatment costs?
If you answered yes to these questions, then it’s likely you can make a public liability claim. The second point can be hard to determine, but read on to learn everything you need to know about the public liability claims process.
- The public liability claims process in NSW
- Public liability settlements and payouts
- Types of public liability claims and examples
The public liability claims process in NSW.
What’s the public liability claims process?
Here’s how to make a public liability claim in NSW:
- Gather evidence of your accident. This could include photos of the hazard that caused your accident, statements from witnesses and accident reports from the local authority or building manager.
- Have your injuries assessed by a doctor. You’ll need medical evidence such as scans and x-rays to prove what injuries you suffered from the accident.
- Identify who’s responsible. You’ll need to identify who is the organisation or person in charge of the location or building where the accident occurred, as you’ll be claiming against their public liability insurer.
- Once you’ve submitted a public liability claim, if the insurer accepts liability then it’s likely it will offer you a settlement payment. Many public liability claims are settled without the need for court action.
- If the insurer rejects liability or you’re unable to settle out of court, you may need to take court action to gain compensation for your losses.
How to claim against a company’s public liability insurance.
Before you submit your claim, it’s strongly advised to get advice from a personal injury lawyer on the best way to submit your claim. Some lawyers will provide free advice over the phone, so even if you intend to submit your own claim, it makes sense to get professional advice from a specialist public liability lawyer before you start.
How do I know if my public liability claim will be successful?
For public liability claims to be successful, you’ll need to prove that:
- Your accident could have been avoided if the authority or building manager had taken action to prevent it
- You’ve incurred losses as a result of your injuries
Proving these two points isn’t always straightforward – a building manager can only be held liable if they knew or should have known about a potential hazard and did nothing about it.
Take for example a slip and fall accident. If a hazard like a roof leak causing a slippery floor had just happened prior to your accident, and there was no way for the building manager to know about it yet, it’s very unlikely they could be held liable. However, if the building manager knew about the slippery floor and failed to do anything about it, then it’s likely they would be held liable for your accident.
If someone can be held liable for your accident and you’ve had a significant injury, time off work and medical bills, then it’s likely to be worth pursuing public liability compensation. On the other hand, if you’ve just had minor injuries and were able to continue about your daily activities without any treatment or time off, it may not be economically viable to claim.
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Public liability – what can I claim for?
Depending on the extent of your injuries, you might be able to claim compensation for:
- Lost income
- Medical expenses
- Travel expenses
- Domestic assistance
- Pain and suffering
- Permanent impairment
- Future losses
What’s the time limit for public liability claims in NSW?
You have three years from the date of injury to claim public liability compensation. However, in some cases, it might be possible to claim up to three years from becoming aware of your injury. 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 public liability compensation you should speak to a specialist lawyer and get advice on your options. The sooner you start the process the easier it will be to gather the evidence you need to make a claim.
How long does a public liability claim take?
Public liability claims typically take 12-18 months to settle. However, they can take significantly longer depending on your injuries, especially if you can’t reach a settlement agreement and you need to take the insurer to court to pursue compensation.
Do I need to go to court during a public liability claim?
When you make a public liability claim, you’re claiming the defendant is liable for your injuries. If the defendant admits liability, then their public liability insurer is likely to offer you a sum of money as compensation – this is known as a settlement. If you can’t come to an agreement on the settlement amount, or if the defendant denies liability, then you have the option of taking them to court and letting a judge decide on the outcome – this is known as litigation.
Public liability claims – payouts and settlements.
How much will I get for a public liability claim in NSW?
Public liability claims payouts depend on the extent of your injuries and the expenses you’ve incurred, but payouts can run into hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars.
Take for example the slip and fall claim made by a small business owner who received a settlement of $540,000. Frank took a break from his news agency at a shopping complex in South-West Sydney to go to the toilet. When he got there, he slipped on newspaper and cardboard that had been laid across a wet floor at the entrance. Frank suffered full tears of both his rotator cuffs and broken bones in both his wrists. He underwent two operations to repair the severely torn muscles, and not long after the accident he also developed carpal tunnel syndrome in both wrists. Frank’s lawyer, Chantille, discovered that the shopping centre had no adequate hazard identification system or regular system to clean the floors of the common areas. Chantille made a successful public liability claim on Frank’s behalf, resulting in his $540,000 settlement.
An important point about public liability 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 lawyer will generally get you a much higher public liability compensation payout than if you simply accept an offer from the insurer.
How much can I get for pain and suffering?
If your injuries are significant, you might be able to claim a lump sum for pain and suffering as part of your public liability claim payout. Most pain and suffering compensation payouts fall into the 0-$120,000 range, but some can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Pain and suffering is a payment for the harmful impact the injury has had on your life, physically and mentally. It’s also referred to as general damages or non-economic loss.
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Public liability claims examples and claim types.
Public liability claims arise in a number of situations – here are some of the most common:
|Supermarkets and shopping centres||Slips, trips and falls|
|Restaurants and cafes||Slips, trips and falls, food poisoning|
|Hotels and bars||Slips, trips and falls, assaults and security guard incidents|
|Rental properties||Accidents from poorly maintained premises|
|Public and private schools||Slips, trips and falls, sporting injuries|
|Sporting events and recreational activities||Slips, trips and falls, accidents from poorly maintained premises and equipment|
What are some common public liability claims examples?
Public liability claims generally fall into the following categories:
- Slips and falls due to spillages and wet surfaces
- Trips and falls due to obstructions and hazards
- Injuries from faulty equipment and facilities
- Being struck by 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
- Dog bites
A common public liability claim example is a slip and fall accident in a supermarket or shopping centre. 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.
For more public liability claims examples, refer to this article: Three examples of when to make a public liability claim.
How can I get help with my public liability claim?
Public liability claims can be complex and it’s strongly advised that you engage an experienced public liability lawyer to act on your behalf and manage the claim process for you. A no win no fee lawyer will fund your claim for you so you’ll only have to pay their fees after you receive your compensation.
Even if you’re not yet ready to engage a lawyer, you can call Law Partners on 13 15 15 and get free legal advice over the phone.
Do I have a case?
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