Having a trip or fall in a public place is most people’s worst nightmare, usually because of the fear of embarrassment. But if you are injured during the incident and suffer either physical or psychological injuries, you may have the basis for making a public liability compensation claim.
Depending on the circumstances surrounding the accident, these claims can be complicated and require the guidance of expert compensation lawyers. A successful claim will depend on clear evidence to show that your injury was caused by another person or entity who failed to take reasonable care to ensure an accident such as the one in which you were injured didn’t occur.
Public parks and footpaths, transport interchanges, supermarkets and shopping centres, schools and even private residences are examples of places where the owner or operator may be held liable for failing in its duty of care to provide a safe place for those who use it. Common accidents resulting in injury in these places include slips and falls as a result of unsafe surfaces, uneven footpaths or loose material left on the floor, but can also include a bite from another person’s dog or food poisoning in a restaurant, for example.
When you’re injured in a shopping centre or on a property owned and operated by a local council, for example, these places are required by law to have public liability insurance in case of such accidents. In this case your claim for compensation will be assessed by the insurer and, if accepted, can result in you being compensated for the costs of emergency medical treatment, rehabilitation such as counselling and physiotherapy, and lost earnings as a result of being unable to work because of the injury.
What to do after the accident
In order to give your public liability compensation claim the best chance of success, there are a number of things you should try and do when the incident in which you’re injured occurs.
Clearly your first priority is trying to assess how serious your injury is, and whether you require immediate medical treatment. Some of the steps suggested here may not be possible if you need to be removed from the scene of the accident to a hospital or medical centre, in which case deputise a family member, friend or colleague if you are accompanied.
Ideally, despite your injury, what you (or your deputy) need to take note of includes:
- The details of the location where the incident has occurred.
- The name and details of the owner, business or local council that maintains control of the area where your injury has occurred as well as – if possible – their insurance details.
- Reporting the injury to the owner or proprietor of the venue. In the case of shopping centres and other large commercial premises, for example, they will likely maintain a formal accident reporting process requiring you to fill out and sign a form documenting the details of the accident.
- If you have the presence of mind, take photos of the area and any evidence of what you believe was the cause of the injury (such as a loose tile or uneven footpath join, for example).
- Collect the contact details of any witnesses. They may need to be contacted later by your legal representative.
- Keep all records relating to your medical treatment as a result of the injury, including all receipts and invoices.
Making a claim
Once your injury has been medically assessed, the party responsible for the injury correctly identified, and your legal representative has compiled all the supporting evidence, your compensation claim can be submitted.
Your expert compensation lawyer will compile evidence to help prove your claim, including medical, taxation, financial and employment records. Expert medical reports may be required to show the extent and nature of your injuries, while the insurer may insist you attend a separate medical examination with a specialist/s that they choose.
Once your claim is made the insurer will investigate it and make a determination about whether they will accept liability in full or in part, or alternatively deny that the insured party is liable for your injuries. This can involve a protracted, ongoing dialogue between the insurer and your legal representative, particularly if your injuries are serious, deteriorate or only properly emerge at a time after the accident. In some cases, the insurer may be obliged to assist you in obtaining rehabilitation for your injuries.
At this stage your lawyer will be able to give you an assessment of how much money you could reasonably expect as a settlement from the insurer. With your agreement, they may begin negotiations on a settlement amount in order to resolve the issue without needing to go to court. This is a preferable course of action given the delay, cost and stress involved in court proceedings. Of course, court action remains available if a settlement can’t be achieved.
Time limits and the Civil Liability Act
In order to make a public liability compensation claim, an injured person must make the claim within three years of the accident occurring.
A time extension may be granted by a court in the situation where a fact material to the accident is revealed to the victim after the three year time limit is over, after which you have 12 months to make a claim.
Once a claim reaches the court, the negligence of the party you’re claiming against will be assessed by the court on the basis of the Civil Liability Act 2003 (CLA). The CLA sets out the test for finding a person or business at fault, based on whether they owed you a duty of care and breached that duty of care because the risk was foreseeable, the risk was significant, and a reasonable person in the same position would have taken precautions. The CLA also limits the amount of damages a person can claim, particularly for ‘pain and suffering’ or ‘loss of the amenities of life’.
Speak with a specialist
As this article shows, there is quite a process involved in making a claim for compensation if you are injured in a public place. Seeking the advice of highly experienced legal professionals like Lifestyle injury Lawyers, who specialise in these types of claims, is the sensible and stress-free course of action in order to give your claim the best chance of success.
We will help you gather the relevant evidence, guide you through the medical assessment process, deal with the insurer, represent you in court (if necessary) and make sure your claim is made and assessed promptly in order to get you the compensation to which you’re entitled. We have an impressive record gaining compensation for clients injured in a public place so call our Gold Coast personal injury lawyers today for an initial consultation through our website, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone on (07) 5627 0321.