Accidents and injuries in public places can occur unexpectedly and at any time. When such accidents are due to the negligence of another party, you have the right to seek compensation through a public liability claim. This article explains what a public liability claim is in New South Wales (NSW), eligibility for a claim and how you might be compensated.
What is public liability?
Public liability refers to the legal responsibility of an individual or organisation for any harm or injury caused to another person while on their premises or in a public space. It covers a wide range of accidents, such as slip and fall incidents, defective premises, dog bites, or injuries sustained at public events.
Public liability claims seek to hold the responsible party accountable and to provide compensation for the injured person's physical, emotional, and financial loss due to their injury. A claim is made under the Civil Liability Act 2002 (NSW).
Examples of types of public liability injuries can include:
- injuries on private property, including rental properties;
- injuries sustained at work by contractors who are not employees;
- boat and water-sport accidents;
- sporting injuries;
- injuries caused by animals;
- slips and falls in supermarkets and other retail outlets or shopping centres; and
- playground and schoolyard accidents.
Time limits for making a public liability claim
In NSW, there is a statute of limitations which prevents you commencing court proceedings after 3 years from the date the cause of your action is discoverable. So what does that mean?
A cause of action is 'discoverable' on the first date that you know or ought to know each of the following facts:
- the fact that the injury or death concerned has occurred;
- the fact that the injury or death was caused by the fault of the defendant;
- in the case of injury, the fact that the injury was sufficiently serious to justify the bringing of an action on the cause of action.
This has been interpreted by the Courts as the first date that you know or ought to have known each of the following:
- that an injury or death has occurred; and
- the key factors necessary to establish legal liability; and
- that your injury is sufficiently serious to overcome the statutory thresholds for the recovery of damages.
Generally, it is best to take all steps to commence your proceedings within 3 years of the date of your accident or injury.
To successfully pursue a public liability claim, it is essential to establish negligence on the part of the defendant. In NSW, you as the injured person, known as the plaintiff, must prove the following elements:
- Duty of Care: That the defendant owed a duty of care to you as the plaintiff, meaning the defendant had a legal obligation to take reasonable precautions to prevent harm to you.
- Breach of Duty: That the defendant breached their duty of care by failing to take reasonable steps to prevent the accident or injury from occurring.
- Causation: That the defendant's breach of duty directly caused the accident or injury.
- Damages: That you as the plaintiff suffered physical, emotional, or financial losses as a result of the accident or injury.
What can I claim?
The specifics of your claim will vary depending on the circumstances of your accident and the nature and extent of your injuries. Generally, a public liability compensation claim will cover things including:
- General Damages – this is compensation for your pain, suffering and loss of enjoyment of your life resulting from injuries you sustain in an accident.
- Medical Expenses (including past and future costs) – is compensation for things which can include expenses such as surgery costs, rehabilitation, medication, and therapy expenses required as a consequence of your injuries. This can also include the cost associated with travelling to and from these appointments.
- Loss of Earnings – this is compensation for the income you have lost due to your injury, including wages, bonuses, and your potential lost future earnings.
- Domestic Care and Rehabilitation Support Services – this is compensation for funding to pay for specialised services, such as home modifications, mobility aids, or in-home domestic and personal care, that you may require for your recovery or on a continuing basis due to the nature of your injuries.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.