Who's liable for beach-related injuries?

Date:Jan 31, 2019

As temperatures continue to soar, more and more Victorians are heading to the beach to make the most of the summer sun and the activities that go hand in hand with the warm weather. For many, this involves swimming, sunbathing and partaking in beach games.

But who's liable if a beach-goer becomes injured?

Lifeguard liability

On public beaches during daylight hours, there should always be one or more lifeguards present. They are trained in injury prevention and resuscitation techniques, amongst other crucial job requirements. However, lifeguards are often responsible for watching over a large group of people and as such, mistakes can arise. While some injuries occur as an unforeseeable accident, others are as a result of a lifeguard failing to fulfil his or her duties.

Common law requires lifeguards to operate under the 'standard of care.' This term is defined as how a reasonable person with similar training and experience would act under similar circumstances in the same place.

Potential legal issues arise when the standard of care isn't met - for example, if a lifeguard failed to perform an important procedure. If negligence occurs and causes injury or death to a victim, the court may find the lifeguard and/or the employer liable. However, if a person disobeys clear rules i.e. ignores posted warnings about dangerous currents, you may have no claim for compensation.

Beach injury liability

If you become injured at the beach, determining liability isn't always obvious. Take private beaches for example. These are off limits to civilians and are often signposted to showcase this. If you're a guest on a private beach and become injured as a result of negligence, you may have a claim for public liability. However, any injury that is a result of trespassing will likely be your liability. 

Litter and debris is another cause of injuries on beaches. With public beaches, government organisations are often responsible for cleanup and general maintenance, while property owners are responsible for private beaches. If you injure yourself on a piece of glass or man-made debris, these parties may be liable if they failed to properly maintain their property. However, hurting yourself on a shell is not a cause for compensation. 

Avoid injuries and extensive public liability claims by ensuring the beach is safe and guarded at all times. Do not swim in dangerous areas and do not enter the water after dusk.

If you've sustained injuries at a beach or public place as a result of a breach of duty of care, you could be eligible for compensation. Get in touch with the personal injury lawyers at Gerard Malouf & Partners to see how we can help. 

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