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Public Liability Claims: Your Comprehensive Guide

Through public liability claims, injured persons can seek compensation for damages sustained due to another’s negligence — covering physical, financial and psychological harm. Read on as we cover public liability claims in detail: The compensation types, eligibility criteria, legal processes and more.

If you’re considering pursuing a public liability claim, gain free, personalised advice from one of GMP Law’s expert personal injury lawyers. Based on your circumstance, we’ll inform you about the strength of your case and estimated compensation entitlements.

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What is a public liability claim?

A public liability claim is made, typically by an individual, against another party to compensate them for injuries, damages, or losses suffered as a result of negligence or wrongdoing.

Public liability claims do not exclusively refer to accidents occurring in public spaces, such as supermarkets or shopping centres. Incidents that happen in both publicly and privately owned areas, where a duty of care is owed to individuals, can form the basis of a public liability claim.

A public liability claim may be brought if you have suffered from a personal injury, and can prove the following:

  1. The accident took place in a public or private entity that legally owed you a duty of care.
  2. The entity, or individual, breached their duty of care.
  3. This breach directly led to the injury.


Establishing this breach is the foundation of a successful public liability compensation claim. Your legal representation will work to prove that the negligence of the party at fault resulted in your damages and, in turn, secure appropriate compensation for your losses.

What compensation am I entitled to?

The two main compensation categories for public liability claims are economic damages and non-economic damages, also commonly referred to as special and general damages, respectively.

  • Economic damages refer to the financial losses that have arisen directly as a result of the injury. This can include a wide range of expenses, such as medical bills for treatment received and future medical care, and lost wages if the injury has left the person unable to work — either temporarily or permanently.
  • Non-economic damages, also known as ‘pain and suffering’ damages, refers to the injury’s psychological effects. This category includes compensation for emotional distress and loss of enjoyment of life. Non-economic damages generally need to be diagnosed by a certified psychiatrist or psychologist for it to be compensable.


Australian states differ in how they approach the quantification and limitation of both economic and non-economic damages in public liability claims. Moreover, other forms of compensation may be applicable — such as punitive damages — depending on the nature of your case. For personalised legal advice on what compensation you may be owed based on your circumstance and state-specific legislation, book a free consultation with one of our expert public liability lawyers.

The public liability claims process

The claims process starts with an obligation-free consultation with an accredited personal injury solicitor at GMP Law. Once we have established you have a case, there are three key stages to the claims process:

  1. Gathering evidence, such as photos or CCTV footage of where your accident took place, witness statements, and any other documentation that can substantiate liability.
  2. Notifying the defendant and their insurance company by submitting a claim.
  3. Negotiating with the other party to, ideally, reach a settlement without proceeding to court (litigation) — referred to as mediation. Most claims settle in mediation, offering claimants a more cost-effective and streamlined approach compared to litigation.


If a settlement cannot be reached, the claim proceeds to court. Here, the legal representation from both parties presents evidence, and a judge or jury determines liability and the amount of compensation owed. Litigation can be lengthy and complex, requiring a detailed presentation of evidence and legal arguments. It’s for this reason that it’s important to have legal representation that you can trust.

At GMP Law, we almost always settle out of court, providing our clients with maximum compensation, in the minimum time possible.

Book a free, confidential consultation with one of our expert personal injury lawyers to start the claims process today.

In a personal injury claim, the statute of limitations is three years from the accident date. This requires you to submit your claim in court by or on the final day of the limitation period. Failing to do so may result in your case being statute barred, preventing it from being heard in court.

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Public liability claims: Who is liable?

Commonly, those found to have breached their duty of care in public liability claims include businesses, property owners, local councils, and organisations that manage public or private spaces. More generally, liability can fall on any entity or individual whose negligence led to the harm suffered by a member of the public (the claimant).

Can I make a public liability claim against my local supermarket?

Yes, you can.

Local supermarkets legally owe their shoppers a duty of care to maintain a safe environment. If you sustain an injury due to their negligence, such as a slip on a wet floor or a fall from poorly maintained facilities, you may have grounds to make a public liability claim against them.

One instance of a Sydney supermarket not fulfilling its duty of care led to our client receiving a payout of $92,500. As our client was walking down an aisle, she slipped on some grapes that had been left on the floor. Despite her attempt to stabilise herself by grabbing onto a shelf, the fall led to severe injuries to both knees and right hand. This incident affected her mobility and ability to perform daily tasks, causing considerable economic and non-economic losses. Through effective legal representation, it was possible to challenge the supermarket’s denial of liability and secure compensation for her injuries and suffering.

In another case involving a fall, a Bunnings Warehouse customer slipped on stray onions during a charity sausage sizzle event. This slip resulted in serious injuries and, in turn, a successful claim against the store. Bunnings, acknowledging the recurring issue, changed their food serving practices to enhance safety, placing the onions beneath the sausage to prevent them from falling onto the floor and creating a slip hazard.

Can I make a public liability claim against my landlord?

If you sustain injuries due to your landlord’s negligence in maintaining the property safely, such as failing to repair known hazards, you may have grounds to make a public liability claim against them.

We acted on behalf of a client who sustained significant injuries after falling down poorly maintained stairs at her rental property. Despite multiple complaints to the real estate agent about the condition of the external wooden stairs, neither the agent nor the landlord took the necessary steps to repair them. This negligence directly led to our client’s accident, providing a strong basis for a public liability claim against the landlord — and, resulting in significant compensation.

Can I make a public liability claim against my local council?

Yes — if you’ve sustained an injury due to the local council’s failure to properly maintain public spaces, you may have grounds to make a public liability claim against them.

Local councils aren’t exempt from the legal duty of care required to ensure public areas are safe for everyone. If you are injured because a council neglected this duty — for example, if a sidewalk was left in a dangerous condition or if public lighting was inadequate, leading to an accident — you may be able to hold the council responsible for your injuries.

Can I make a public liability claim for a dog bite?

If you’ve suffered a dog bite, you can file a public liability claim against the dog’s owner.

In this context, the basis of public liability claims is the owner’s failure to adequately control or secure their pet, leading to an injury. A dog bite is a breach of the owner’s individual duty of care, especially if the dog was not properly restrained or if the attack occurred in a public space where it was reasonably expected that the dog should be under control.

Public liability claims: Your questions answered

The decision to accept a settlement offer or to pursue litigation requires careful consideration of several factors.

1. Settlement size comparison

Settlements are often proposed by defendants to mitigate the potential costs of a court case, including legal fees and higher compensation amounts if the judgement goes against them. It’s necessary to assess whether the settlement offer adequately covers the full extent of the incurred losses — both economic and non-economic damages.

2. Case strength and uncertainties

The clarity of liability and negligence plays a significant role in the decision to litigate or settle. In instances where the defendant’s liability is clear and substantial evidence supports the claim of negligence, proceeding to court may be advantageous. However, the presence of contentious issues, such as the claimant’s contributory negligence or disputes over the extent of the defendant’s liability, introduces a degree of uncertainty that could make a guaranteed settlement more appealing.

3. Consideration of time and emotional toll

Litigation processes can be lengthy, sometimes extending over several years — especially in complex cases or when appeals are involved. The duration of the process can impose significant emotional and financial strain on claimants, particularly when recovering from serious injuries. The immediate certainty of a settlement may therefore be preferable for those unwilling or unable to endure the prolonged nature of court proceedings. Plus, in many cases, mediation resolves in favourable settlements without the need for court proceedings.

4. Legal counsel and objectivity

The emotionally charged nature of personal injury cases can cloud judgement, making it challenging for claimants to assess their options objectively. This is where the expertise of legal professionals becomes necessary. An experienced public liability lawyer can offer a detached evaluation of the case’s merits, the fairness of a settlement offer, and the potential outcomes of litigation. This professional legal advice is central to guiding claimants toward a decision that best aligns with their interests and circumstances.

Ultimately, deciding whether to accept a settlement offer or proceed to court is a multifaceted process that demands a comprehensive assessment of the financial, emotional, and legal implications. Claimants are advised to carefully evaluate the adequacy of the settlement in relation to their damages, consider the strength and uncertainties of their case, weigh the personal impact of prolonged litigation, and seek professional legal advice to effectively navigate this complex decision-making.

The law allows you to seek compensation if you’ve been injured or suffered due to someone else’s carelessness. This includes not just physical injuries but also mental harm, which — while equally important — is not as well-known.

What exactly does mental harm mean in this context? It falls into two categories:

  • Consequential mental harm: This is when your mental health is affected as a result of a physical injury. Imagine breaking a leg so severely that you’re confined to your bed, leading to depression, for example.
  • Pure mental harm: This happens from the trauma of witnessing or being part of a distressing event directly, like anxiety after seeing a violent act, without any physical injury to you.


If you’re suffering from either type due to another’s negligence, you may be eligible for compensation. But, there are certain situations where compensation for mental harm is not available. For instance, if someone warned you about the potential for mental harm and you still proceeded, claiming compensation might not be straightforward. Your personal injury lawyer can assess your specific situation and advise you accordingly on its merit.

In one example, a claimant received $202,000 for non-economic losses, including mental harm, after being struck by falling ceiling panels on a cruise ship. This figure was part of a larger settlement amounting to $445,372, covering past and future medical expenses, loss of income, and other care costs. The mental harm component was assessed based on the claimant’s development of a chronic adjustment disorder with mixed anxiety and depressed mood as a direct result of the incident.

Yes, being intoxicated can significantly impact your public liability claim under certain circumstances. According to the Civil Liability Act 2003 (QLD) and reflected in similar legislation across different jurisdictions, there is a presumption of contributory negligence for claimants who were intoxicated at the time of their injury. In other words, this means that if you were drunk when the accident occurred, it’s presumed that you were partly at fault for the injuries you sustained.

Contributory negligence leads to a reduction in the compensation you may receive. For alcohol-related incidents, there’s a minimum reduction of 25% in the damages awarded. This percentage can increase depending on the specifics of the case and the degree to which intoxication is deemed to have contributed to the accident.

However, there are exceptions. You can rebut the presumption of contributory negligence if you can prove that your intoxication did not contribute to the breach of duty by the defendant, or if the intoxication was not self-induced — for example, if your drink was spiked.

It’s also worth noting that for car accident compensation claims, the minimum discount due to intoxication can be as high as 50% in certain cases. Yet, the specific facts and nuance of each case are what matters and determine whether compensation is owed or not; speak with a public liability lawyer to determine the degree to which contributory negligence may apply to your case.

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Public liability claims: The legalese explained

Navigating the complexities of public liability claims requires an understanding of two legal principles: contributory negligence and causation. These concepts play a central role in determining the outcome of claims and the extent of compensation awarded.

Contributory negligence arises when the claimant bears a portion of the blame for the injuries they sustained. This principle acknowledges instances where the defendant’s negligence is evident, yet the claimant also exhibited a lack of reasonable care for their own safety.

Under the Civil Liability Act 2002 (NSW), for example, contributory negligence is evaluated by considering whether a reasonable person in the claimant’s position would have acted differently to avoid injury. The court examines the claimant’s actions in light of what they knew or should have known at the time of the accident. This determination can lead to a reduction in damages awarded to the plaintiff, proportional to their degree of fault. In extreme cases, this could result in a 100% reduction, nullifying the claim entirely due to the plaintiff’s significant contribution to their own harm.

Causation — or ‘factual causation’ — is the linchpin that connects the defendant’s negligence to the plaintiff’s injuries. It’s not enough to simply prove that negligence occurred; the plaintiff must demonstrate that this negligence was the direct cause of their injuries.

The Civil Liability Act 2002, among other legislation, outlines the necessity of showing a direct link between the negligence and harm suffered. This can be particularly challenging in cases where multiple factors could have contributed to the injury. The claimant’s solicitor must provide clear evidence that the defendant’s breach of duty directly resulted in their injuries, often requiring expert testimony and other forms of evidence to substantiate the claim.

Furthermore, the court also considers the scope of the defendant’s liability, assessing how directly the negligence led to the injury and if other parties may share in the blame. This evaluation helps in apportioning damages and understanding the extent of the defendant’s responsibility.

How GMP Law can help with your public liability claim

The expert public liability solicitors at GMP Law operate under a no-win, no-fee basis, meaning that you won’t have to pay any legal fees unless your claim is successful. As we take on all the upfront costs, this arrangement provides you with financial peace of mind and reduces the risk involved in pursuing your claim.

To begin the claim process, reach out to our team today for a free consultation.

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Public Liability Claims

About Us
Gerard Malouf & Partners have provided friendly, experienced legal advice to communities across Australia for over 35 years. Our Personal Injury Lawyers have taken on ten’s of thousands of cases and we are proud to have won billions of dollars for our clients.
Meet the diverse and dynamic team of compensation lawyers and supporting staff that have made this all happen below. Our multi-lingual team can discuss your claims in Arabic, Assyrian, Turkish, Greek, Italian, French, Serbian, Croatian, Armenian, Mandarin, Hindi, Punjabi or Malayalam.
Meet the diverse and dynamic team of compensation lawyers and supporting staff that have made this all happen below. Our multi-lingual team can discuss your claims in Arabic, Assyrian, Turkish, Greek, Italian, French, Serbian, Croatian, Armenian, Mandarin, Hindi, Punjabi or Malayalam.

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