If you’re injured in a public place and need to receive medical treatment or take time off work, there’s a good chance you’re entitled to make a public liability claim. However, unless you’re a lawyer, knowing where to start can be confusing.

It doesn’t need to be though. This guide will talk you through when you’re entitled to make a public liability claim in Australia, walk you through the claims process and offer advice on when and who you should speak to so that you can get the compensation you deserve. 

What is a public liability claim?

A public liability claim is a claim made for injuries you’ve received in a public place due to someone else’s negligence. For a claim to be successful, you’ll have to show that the accused person, business or organisation owed you a duty of care. To do this, and get the maximum compensation that you deserve, it’s often worth getting legal representation.

Most businesses have public liability insurance, so you’ll generally find that you or your lawyer will submit your claim to their public liability insurer.

Who is entitled to make a public liability claim?

The first step is working out if you’re entitled to make a public liability claim. To do that, ask yourself:

  • Did my injury occur in a public place?
  • Do I believe my injury was due to someone else’s negligence?
  • Have I received any treatment or had to take time off work due to the injury?

If you can answer yes to these questions, then there’s a good chance you can make a public liability claim. 

Types of public liability claims

Public liability claims encompass a broad range of injuries. One of the most common examples is a slip and fall accident in a supermarket or shopping centre. This is usually due to spillages.

The common claim types include:

  • Slips and falls due to spillages
  • Slips and falls due to other hazards
  • Injuries from faulty equipment 
  • Injuries from falling objects
  • Injuries from broken glass
  • Injuries from assaults
  • Burns
  • Dog bites

Where do injuries for public liability claims commonly occur?

Not sure if where you were injured would qualify under a public liability claim? Here’s a list of common places people have been injured that led to public liability claims. 

Public liability claims process: a step-by-step guide

Here’s each stage of the public liability claims process broken down:

  1. Gather evidence. To build a case against the person or organisation you’re accusing of negligence, you need evidence that they caused your injuries. This can include photos and videos of the hazard that caused the accident, accident reports and eye witness statements.
  2. See a doctor. You’ll also need medical evidence that you’ve been injured, so get a doctor’s report. This might include x-rays, scans and written statements. Keep hold of all your medical bills and receipts as well.
  3. Find out who is responsible. You’ll need to identify who was responsible so that you know whose public liability insurer to submit your claim to. It’s usually the person or organisation in charge of the building or location where you were injured. 
  4. Submit your claim. Once you’ve gathered all the evidence, you can submit your public liability claim to the person or organisation’s insurer. If they accept liability, they’ll offer you a settlement payment. 
  5. Disputing the settlement amount. If you don’t feel the settlement amount properly compensates you for everything you’ve been through, it’s worth speaking to a lawyer. You can dispute the claim by writing back to them and providing reasons why you feel the amount offered is insufficient.  
  6. Court action. In some cases, if you can’t come to an agreement, you can take court action to gain the compensation you feel you deserve.

How to claim against an organisation

Submitting a claim against a company or organisation is similar to any other type of public liability claim — you will generally always submit it to their public liability insurer. However, it’s worth getting advice from a personal injury lawyer, particularly one who offers a free consultation to work out whether or not you have a valid claim. They can make sure you don’t miss any important details and ensure you have all the evidence you need to make a successful claim. They can help prove:

  • That the injuries and damages you’ve suffered are a direct result of the incident
  • Negligence on the part of the insured party
  • That the accident was not your fault

How to make a successful public liability claim

To make a successful public liability claim, you need to show that:

  • Your accident could have been avoided if it wasn’t for the negligent actions of another person, company or organisation
  • You’ve incurred losses as a result of the injuries (e.g medical treatment or loss of income)

Proving that someone was negligent is usually the difficult part. This is because you need to show that they should have known about the hazard that caused your injury but failed to act. For example, if you slip and fall down broken stairs in a rental, it’s not enough that they’re faulty; you need to show that the property owner knew about this and did nothing about it.

Making this connection is the key to a successful public liability claim. If you’re not sure about how to do this yourself, it’s worth speaking to a no win, no fee lawyer. They’ll be able to assess your case and work out if the person you believe is at fault failed in their duty of care.

What can I claim for with a public liability claim?

What you can claim depends on the nature of your injuries and their severity. The two main types of compensation are:

  • Economic loss. This is compensation that is directly related to the financial impact that the injury has had on you which can include: 
    • Lost income
    • Medical expenses
    • Travel expenses (to receive medical treatment)
    • Domestic assistance
    • Permanent impairment
    • Future losses (wages, medical bills and care)
  • Non-economic loss. This is compensation that is not directly related to the financial loss you’ve suffered. Rather, it compensates you for the physical and psychological impact that the injury has had on you which can include:
    • Pain and suffering
    • Inconvenience
    • Loss of pleasure
    • Loss of independence
    • Disfigurement

What’s the time limit for public liability claims?

You have three years from the date of the incident to submit a public liability claim. However, you may have longer depending on the “date of discoverability”. This is a legal term that refers to the date you discovered you were injured — in some circumstances, this date is some time after the time of the incident occurred. There are also generally time exceptions for minors and people with disabilities. You usually can’t submit negligence claims 12 years after the incident occurred though.  

While you should try and submit your claim as soon as possible, it doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t ask for help if you’ve passed specific time limits. If you think you deserve compensation, we can put you in touch with one of our specialist lawyers.

How long does a public liability claim take?

Nobody can tell you exactly how long your public liability claim will take without specific details about your case — though most are resolved within 12 to 18 months. However, there are lots of reasons that it might take longer, including:

  • How long your injuries take to stabilise
  • If the defendant refuses to accept liability
  • If you are unhappy with the settlement offer and need to negotiate
  • If the insurer refuses to settle and you need to go to court

Do I need to go to court during a public liability claim?

No, you don’t usually need to go to court during a public liability claim. The process works like this: you submit a public liability claim to the accused person or organisation’s personal liability insurer (a lawyer can do this on your behalf). Next, the insurer either admits or denies liability. If they accept their client has been negligent, they’ll offer you compensation in the form of a settlement amount. You only need to consider court action if you and the insurer can’t agree to a settlement or the defendant denies liability.

How much can I get for a public liability claim?

There’s no way to say exactly how much you’ll get for a public liability claim — it depends on the extent of your injuries and the money you’ve incurred during your recovery — but an example can help give you an idea of what to expect. For instance, say you were employed as a postal worker and you made a successful slip and fall claim, you might be entitled to:

  • Lost income of approximately $13,000 for the three months it’s expected you will be off work
  • Medical expenses of around $3,000 to cover the treatment you’ve received
  • Travel expenses of $300 to cover the costs of getting to and from the place you receive medical treatment.

Keep in mind that this is only an example. You might also be able to get compensation for domestic care and pain and suffering. Remember that in some cases, injuries such as a broken bone can lead to other more permanent issues, like a back problem, which may entitle you to additional compensation. Put simply, it all depends on your circumstances, which is why a specialist public liability lawyer can be really helpful.

How much can I get for pain and suffering?

Pain and suffering is a type of non-economic loss that compensates you for the physical and mental toll an injury has had on you. Currently, the maximum amount you can get for non-economic loss is $612,500. However, it’s worth keeping in mind that damages for non-economic loss are only awarded for very severe injuries. You’ll need to get evidence from an independent medical expert to verify that your injuries are significant. 

How to get help with your public liability claim

Public liability claims can be complicated and a lot to deal with all by yourself. If you want help, get in touch with us at What’s My Claim Worth for some free advice on the next steps to take. We can look into your case a little more, highlight what else you might be entitled to and put you in touch with one of our no win, no fee lawyers. They’ll be able to complete a case assessment for you and establish whether or not you have a valid claim worth pursuing. If you decide you’d like them to work on your case, you’ll only have to pay their legal fees if you win. 

You can call us on 13 WMCW (13 96 29) or complete our call back form and we’ll get in touch with you.