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What is a Public Liability Claim?

Public Liability Claim

Here is the thing about personal injury law: It appears simple, but it can actually be quite complicated. Among other things, lawyers working in this area must determine whether a prospective client has a viable case and what type of claim to pursue. We must also weigh which legal strategy is most likely to result in a substantial judgment or settlement in favour of the claimant. All of this is largely determined by the circumstances that led to the person’s injury. Relevant factors include what happened, how it happened, and where it happened.

For the purposes of this article, we will explore the situations in which we may pursue a public liability claim on your behalf.

Defining public liability

In Queensland, public liability is legally defined as any situation in which:

  • an individual, business or entity;
  • has a legal obligation or duty;
  • to keep people safe whilst on the premises; and
  • violates that duty; and
  • you are injured as a result.

We may be able to help you pursue a public liability claim as long as you were not hurt at work or in a motor vehicle accident. It should be noted there is an exception for workers who are engaged as contractors or through a labour hire firm and are injured at work. They may be able to make a public liability claim unless there are indemnity clauses or conditions in the contract which protect the employer from injury claims by a contractor or labour hire firm.

Another thing to keep in mind is that contrary to popular belief, these claims are not limited to incidents that happen on public property. You may also be able to seek compensation from someone who:

  • owns or occupies;
  • a private home or similar space; and
  • fails to keep you safe;
  • while you are on the premises; and
  • you are injured as a result.

What must be proven

To make a successful public liability claim, there must be enough evidence to prove that:

  • someone had a legal duty of care (the legal obligation to keep you safe);
  • they did not fulfill this obligation;
  • there are reasonable expectations that their failure to do so could result in injury or damage.

In this context, it is important to note that you can pursue liability claims under state and federal laws. However, you should also be aware that changes in public liability laws have made it harder to show negligence if you were hurt by an “obvious hazard”.

Common public liability claims

The following are examples of incidents or accidents that often result in public liability claims:

  • shopping centre injuries;
  • playground and schoolyard injuries;
  • injuries incurred while playing sports;
  • injuries stemming from a slip or fall at a supermarket or similar location;
  • dog bites and other injuries caused by animals;
  • falls resulting in injuries while in parks, gardens or on footpaths;
  • illness caused by food poisoning.

Building your case

If you were hurt in any of the circumstances detailed above, be sure to seek medical treatment as soon as possible. Doing so is critical for three reasons. The first is for your wellbeing. The second is that it will boost your credibility. And the third is that any medical records will serve as valuable proof of your injuries.

In addition to your medical records, any pictures of your actual injuries will help bolster your claim. So will photographs of the place where you were hurt. We will also need any records serving as proof of lost wages and relevant expenses. Documents showing the dates of medical appointments will also be helpful as we build your case.

Expected amount of compensation

One question that most clients have is how much compensation they can expect to receive in a successful claim. Unfortunately there is no simple answer. This is because every case is different. Factors usually taken into consideration are:

  • Expenses associated with the initial treatment of the physical or psychological injury.
  • Ongoing medical costs, such as rehabilitation, home care and so forth.
  • Non-economic losses, such as pain and suffering.
  • Loss of earnings or superannuation due to the inability to work.

If the circumstances leading to your injury or injuries were especially egregious, the court may also award “aggravated and exemplary” damages. A court will usually do so when it wants to punish the defendant.

You should be aware that you may also be able to obtain compensation through this sort of claim if you weren’t actually hurt. Specifically, you may be able to do so as a family who incurred certain costs while caring for the injured person. Depending on the circumstances you may also be able to seek compensation for undue stress or other difficulties incurred as a result of their injury.

To learn more about making this sort of claim, we are here to help. Contact our Gold Coast personal injury lawyers through our website, by email at, or by phone at (07) 5627 0321 to schedule a meeting with a member of our public liability law team today.