What types of accidents are included in public liability claims?

Quick answer

Public liability covers many accidents: from tripping on a public footpath to dog attacks, schoolyard injuries, and public transport falls.

To make a successful claim, you must prove that the accident was caused by a person or organisation’s negligence. This means they acted without reasonable regard for public safety, and you were injured as a result.

In depth answer

Public liability, also known as ‘occupiers liability’, covers public, private and rental property accidents. This also includes short-term lodging such as AirBnB or Stayz.

Since public liability is a broad category of law, there is no definitive list of accidents. However, an accident is generally covered by public liability if it results from a person or organisation’s negligence. In other words, the accident must be someone else’s fault.

Examples of accidents covered by public liability

Over the years, we have won public liability claims for a vast range of injuries, including:

Slips, trips and falls in public spaces

Uneven footpaths, overgrown walking tracks and large tree roots are just a few examples. You can claim for accidents in all public spaces, such as parks, leisure centres, footpaths and roads.

Accidents on private or rental properties

Carparks, restaurants, bars, stores and building common areas are all covered by public liability. You might slip in a wet supermarket aisle, trip on an uneven floor, or run into hazards due to poor lighting. If you belong to a gym, you can also claim for injuries caused by unsafe equipment.

Animal attacks

Dogs cause the most common injuries, but you can claim for any animal attack. This also includes horse-riding accidents.

Defective product injuries

Defect product injuries result from a malfunctioning or improperly-designed product. This could be an electrical shock from a faulty appliance or a head wound caused by defective airbags.

You may claim against anyone involved in designing, making and distributing the product. This includes manufacturers, suppliers and retailers. For more detail, read our guide to making a product liability claim.

Food poisoning

You can make a claim for food poisoning if the venue that made or sold you the food was negligent. They might have served expired meat or prepared food in an unclean kitchen.

Defective service injuries

A defective service occurs when a job is done poorly or without skill and care. Many services can harm a person or organisation, such as:

  • Electricians, plumbers and other tradespeople: poor workmanship can cause severe damage to yourself and your home. For example, a badly-installed light fitting may fall and hit your head, or you could trip on a poorly-paved driveway.
  • I.T., web development and other website services: a careless mistake from an I.T. or website services professional can result in a business losing income and other opportunities. This is especially relevant if an organisation is launching a new product, service, or advertising campaign.

Physical and sexual assaults

This includes physical and sexual assaults by security guards or patrons at a private venue.

Schoolyard accidents

You may have a claim if your child falls off unsafe play equipment or suffers physical assault by a student or teacher. It is also possible to claim if your child is the victim of bullying and their school has taken no action to help them.

Recreational activity and sporting injuries

This includes jet-skiing, diving, skiing and boating accidents. Since these activities are already high-risk, you must show that your equipment was defective or that the instructor or driver was reckless. For example, they may have speeded or failed to provide proper instructions.

Amusement venue incidents

Malfunctioning machines, faulty rides, and negligent workers can all cause injury. A functioning ride may also trigger an undiagnosed condition, such as epilepsy.

Health and fitness injuries

Improperly-performed acupuncture and massage can cause muscle, tendon and nerve damage. A personal trainer may injure you through physical contact or inexpert instruction.

Public transport accidents

This includes bus, train, tram, light rail, and ferry accidents. Sudden stops, crashes, and poorly-maintained vehicles can all cause injuries.

What to do if you’ve been involved in an accident

At the time of the accident

First and foremost, get medical attention if you’ve suffered more than minor injuries. Your health and well-being are the most important considerations. To help with your public liability claim, keep your treatment records.

If your injuries are minor, take photos of the injuries and the accident site. Our general advice for photos is ‘more is more’, so ensure you take as many as possible.

After the accident

Speak to a lawyer as soon as possible. Photographic evidence will help us accurately assess your case, but even without photos, we can provide detailed advice on your legal options.

At this time, we also advise seeing your doctor (if you haven’t already) and any other relevant medical practitioners. This can include physiotherapists, chiropractors, counsellors and psychologists. If you’ve taken time off work because of your injury, record those dates.

Proving negligence

A public liability claim involves proving that your accident (and subsequent injury) resulted from a person or organisation’s negligence.

To establish negligence, you need to prove that:

  • You were owed a duty of care, and
  • That duty of care was breached, and
  • That this breach resulted in your injury or loss.

A ‘duty of care’ is a responsibility people and organisations have toward the public. It requires them to act with reasonable regard for your safety and avoid ‘foreseeable’ injuries.

Importantly, negligence cannot be found without injury or loss. This means you cannot make a public liability claim unless you can show that the other party’s actions caused you to suffer a physical injury, mental injury, or financial loss.

What accidents are not covered by public liability?

Public liability does not cover accidents related to other areas of law. This includes workers compensation, which provides weekly compensation if you’re injured at work. Likewise, any driver, passenger, cyclist or pedestrian injured on the road is entitled to make a Motor Vehicle Accident claim.

In addition, any accident that did not result in an injury or loss will not be covered by public liability. You cannot claim for the accident alone—even if the other party acted negligently.

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