What is a public liability claim?

Quick answer

A public liability claim involves suing an individual or organisation because their negligence caused you injury or loss. As the name suggests, most public liability claims arise from accidents in public spaces, such as tripping on a footpath or slipping in a shopping centre. However, you can also claim for accidents on private or rental properties.

In addition to lost income and medical expenses, public liability claims include compensation for pain, suffering, and loss of opportunity.

In depth answer

Public liability claims protect your right to safety in public. They include accidents in both public and privately-owned spaces, such as amusement parks, shopping centres, rental homes, and schools.

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

  • An individual, business or organisation owes you a ‘duty of care’, and
  • They breached that duty of care, and
  • That breach of duty caused an accident, and
  • You were injured or suffered a loss due to the accident.

‘Individuals, businesses and organisations’

This broad category encompasses small businesses, corporations, shops, bars, restaurants, venues, and any other space open to the public. It also covers government-owned places such as schools, TAFEs and sporting fields.

While councils are included, they are heavily protected by the law. We strongly suggest seeking legal advice before filing a public liability claim against a council.

‘Duty of care’ and ‘negligence’

‘Duty of care’ is the responsibility of individual people, businesses and organisations to act with reasonable regard for public safety. Failing to fulfil this duty of care is ‘negligence’. You may have a public liability claim if this negligence causes you injury or loss,

Crucially, you must be able to prove a direct link between the breach of duty of care and your injury or loss. You cannot make a public liability claim unless you’ve suffered some form of harm—even if the other party behaved negligently.

What are some examples of public liability claims?

While you can make a public liability claim for any accident resulting from negligence, the most common claims include:

  • Accidents on public property (e.g. parks or footpaths)
  • Accidents on private property (e.g. shopping centres, nightclubs or bars)
  • Accidents on rental premises (e.g. wobbly balconies or uneven flooring)
  • Physical assaults
  • Schoolyard or childcare injuries
  • Recreational and sporting injuries (e.g. jet-ski and diving accidents)
  • Aviation or boating injuries
  • Amusement park injuries
  • Health and fitness injuries (e.g. massage or personal training).
  • Accidents on public transport.

Public liability claims cover both physical and psychological injuries. This includes sexual assaults, injuries caused by animals, and even food poisoning.

What compensation could I get?

You can claim compensation for the loss you’ve suffered due to your injury. Public liability has two types of loss: ‘economic’ and ‘non-economic’.

Economic loss

‘Economic loss’ is the actual financial cost of your injury. It covers:

  • Lost income (both past and future)
  • Lost superannuation entitlements (both past and future)
  • Medical treatment
  • Travel (between home and medical treatment)
  • Professional in-home care
  • Modifications to your home and vehicle

Non-economic loss

‘Non-economic loss’ is compensation for the injury’s impact on your life. This includes:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Loss of opportunity
  • Gratuitous care (unpaid assistance from a loved one)
  • Loss of capacity to care for someone who depends on you.

Non-economic losses do not have strict financial values. Instead, the Court will look at the severity of your injuries. Importantly, each state in Australia has their own laws around non-economic loss, so make sure you understand which applies to you.

Do I have a public liability claim?

You may have a public liability claim if you’ve suffered an injury or loss due to a person, business or organisation’s negligence.

The only exceptions are where your injury falls under another area of law. For example, if your employer is negligent and you’re injured at work, you’ll be entitled to a common law damages claim. Likewise, road injuries will come under a Motor Vehicle Accident claim instead of public liability.

If you’re unsure about your right to compensation, contact us today. Public liability claims can result in substantial lump sum settlements, so speak to a lawyer to avoid missing out on compensation. Our consultations are always fast, free, and obligation-free.

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