What is Public Liability?

In the Australian Capital Territory, public liability claims are governed under the Civil Law (Wrongs) Act 2002. 

Public liability is a category of negligence that focuses on injuries sustained in either: 

a) publicly-owned locations; or  

b) privately-owned places that are open to the general public, such as supermarkets.  

The injuries sustained must be as a result of the fault (or negligence) of someone else. 

Public liability typically involves demonstrating a relationship between the injured person and the at-fault party, which requires the at-fault party to owe a duty of care to the injured person. To be successful, the injured person must then be able to demonstrate that the at-fault party breached their duty of care and their injuries have resulted directly from that breach of duty. 

Making a Public Liability Claim

In order to commence a public liability claim in the Australian Capital Territory, a plaintiff must establish the following factors: 

     – The plaintiff sustained an injury in a public / an open-to-the-public space in the Australian Capital Territory; 

     – The organisation or person in charge of the space owed a duty of care to the plaintiff; 

     – The plaintiff can identify the person or organisation at fault; 

     – The organisation or person was negligent and breached their duty of care owed to the plaintiff; 

     – The organisation or person’s breach of duty of care caused the plaintiff’s injury; and 

     – The claim is within statutory deadlines (see further below in this article discussions regarding time limits in the Australian Capital Territory for public liability claims). 

A plaintiff must provide evidence in support of a public liability claim and their injuries. This includes providing details relating to the incident, such as times, dates, addresses, witness information. Photographs and video evidence is often useful in a public liability claim, especially contemporaneous photographs of the injuries suffered, such as cuts and bruises.  

The types of categories of evidence that are relevant to a public liability claim are: 

     – Evidence that the organisation or person in charge of the space failed in their duty of care to prevent harm to the public (such as failing to repair safety equipment or keep a space free from hazards); 

     – Records and reports regarding the incident (such as incident report forms and letters to and from the defendant);  

     – Medical documentation regarding the injury suffered by the plaintiff; and 

     – Evidence of the plaintiff’s financial loss from the injury (such as payslips and income tax returns).  

If successful in establishing a breach of duty by the organisation or person in charge of the space (liability), a plaintiff can achieve compensation under a public liability claim for: 

     – Pain and suffering (typically a diagnosable injury); 

     – Current and future lost earnings; and 

     – Medical expenses and ongoing treatment.  

Time Limits

In the Australian Capital Territory, the Limitation Act 1985 provides that the time limit to commence a public liability proceeding is three (3) years from the date of the incident.  

In the Australian Capital Territory, there is no limitation period for actions for child sexual abuse.  

If you miss the above deadlines, you may still be entitled to file a claim and receive compensation, however, you will likely need to apply to the court for an extension and will need to provide a reasonable excuse for the delay.  

Emily Wright and our team are specialist personal injury lawyers who can assist you with your claim on a ‘No Win No Fee’ basis. If you would like advice in relation to a personal injury claim, please reach out to Emily Wright and Littles Lawyers today. 

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