Public Liability Claims Guide.
When you’re out and about, whether you’re shopping, enjoying recreational activities, or visiting 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 and this can create significant financial stress for you and your family. A public liability compensation claim can be a real lifeline, providing financial support while you recover, and in some cases significant lump sums.
In this guide, we explain in simple terms everything you need to know about making a successful public liability claim, including claim examples and how to get help with your claim.
What is a public liability claim?
A public liability claim is a claim for compensation to cover the losses you incur from being injured in a public place. It can include amounts for:
- Lost income – from having time off work
- Medical expenses
- Travel expenses
- Domestic assistance you’ve needed during treatment and recovery
- Pain and suffering, permanent impairment, and future losses lump sums
All public places and buildings, including rental properties, are required to have public liability insurance in NSW. So if you’re injured in one of these buildings and you make a public liability claim, it’s likely you’ll be claiming compensation from the public liability insurer.
Am I entitled to make a public liability claim?
Ask yourself these three questions:
- Have you been injured in a public place like a supermarket, office building or park?
- Was the injury caused by someone’s negligence?
- Have you had any time off work to recover or any medical or treatment costs?
If you answered yes to these questions, then it’s likely you can make a public liability claim.
The second point about negligence can be hard to determine, but read on to learn more about whether you’re entitled to make a public liability claim. We’ve also included examples of claims and payouts and the simple steps you can take to make a successful claim.
- 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?
Even if you’re going to get a lawyer to handle your claim for you, it’s a good idea to have a basic understanding of the public liability claims process before you start. Here are the basic steps to the claim process:
- 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 (e.g. building manager, landlord or tenant) in charge of the location or building where the accident occurred, as you’ll likely 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.
Although the public liability claim process is relatively straightforward, there are two important factors to keep in mind before you proceed with a claim:
- The initial settlement offer from an insurer may be significantly lower than the actual amount you’re entitled to.
- The success of your claim, and the amount of compensation you receive, will be largely determined by the quality of the evidence that supports your claim.
Now that you understand the claim process, read on to learn how you can use this information to give your claim the best possible chance of success, and how to make sure you receive absolutely everything you’re entitled to, including any lump sums.
How do I know if my public liability claim will be successful?
For your public liability claim 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 – you can only hold someone 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 clean it up or put up
Proving liability is key to the success of your claim, and this is where we can help. At Law Partners, we have extensive experience building strong public liability claims and negotiating significant settlements for our clients. We win over 99% of our cases.
Public liability – what can I claim for?
Depending on the extent of your injuries, you might be able to claim public liability compensation for:
- Lost income – the amount of income you’ve lost through time off work.
- Medical expenses – resulting from your injuries.
- Travel expenses – to and from medical appointments and treatment.
- Domestic assistance – the cost of getting help with home duties.
- Pain and suffering – a lump sum to compensate you for your pain and suffering, based on the extent of your injuries.
- Permanent impairment – a lump sum to cover your loss of functionality or limitation of movement of a part of your body.
- Future losses – for example, your future earnings that you will miss out on as a result of your injuries.
If you can’t work, you might also be entitled a lump sum TPD payment through your super fund.
What’s the time limit for public liability claims in NSW?
Generally, 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 as soon as possible. The sooner you start the process the easier it will be to gather the evidence you need to make a successful 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.
It’s also important that your injuries are given time to stabilise before you finalise your claim, to make sure you’re claiming everything you’re entitled to. This is another reason why you should never allow yourself to be pressured into taking an early settlement.
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.
Even if the defendant admits liability, the settlements we win for our clients are often significantly higher than the first settlement offer from the public liability insurer.
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. Looking at settlements from past claims can be a good way to get an indication of what you might be entitled to.
Claim example: small business owner wins $540,000 settlement for slip and fall.
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 our specialist public liability lawyers can really help. By getting to know you personally, then gathering all the medical evidence and arguing your case on your behalf, we’ll 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 in a public liability claim?
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. The maximum amount payable in NSW is $705,000*. However, most pain and suffering compensation payouts fall into the 0-$120,000 range.
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. It’s calculated based on the extent of your injuries compared to the ‘most extreme case’ (MEC), and is payable if your injuries are assessed as being at least 15% of the MEC.
*This applies for the year commencing 1 October, 2022.
What are the most common public liability claims?
Here’s a list of the most common situations for accidents and injuries that lead to public liability claims:
|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|
A very 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, so it’s strongly advised that you engage an experienced public liability lawyer to act on your behalf and manage the claim process for you. At law Partners, we have a team of dedicated public liability lawyers. We win over 99% of our cases and we’ll fund your claim for you so you’ll only have to pay us after you receive your compensation.
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.
An accredited specialist in personal injury law and spokesman for the Australian Lawyers Alliance, with the best part of 20 years’ experience in assisting injured Australians receive everything they’re entitled to.
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