Slip & Fall / Public Liability Claims

A public liability claim arises when someone is harmed as a result of negligence on the part of an owner or occupier of a public or private space. For example, if you slip and fall in a shop, you might be able to make a negligence claim against the shop owner.

This is our guide to public liability claims. It has been put together by our expert lawyers to help you understand public liability law and answer common questions about public liability claims.

Gerard Malouf & Partners (GMP) is a firm of expert personal injury lawyers with extensive experience advising on and handling public liability claims. We work on a “no win, no fee” basis (subject to our terms) and offer a 90-day complimentary trial of our legal services.


What is public liability?

Public liability refers to the responsibilities that individuals, businesses and public entities have towards anyone entering their spaces.

If someone visits a shop, goes to the theatre, walks along a footpath, visits a hospital or nursing home or visits the home of a friend or family member they have a reasonable expectation that they will be safe. They should not come to any harm – physical, emotional or financial – as a result of negligence.

If the owner or occupier of a space fails in their duty of care and someone is harmed as a result, that person might be able to bring a negligence claim under common law.

What about public liability insurance?

Certain organisations are required by law to hold a minimum level of public liability insurance. Even those that aren’t will often take out a policy to indemnify themselves against claims for compensation.

As a result, compensation awarded in public liability cases is often paid out by insurers.

How much does it cost to make a public liability compensation claim?

Public liability claims vary enormously. The cost depends on the scope of the case and how it is ultimately resolved.

Cases that are resolved in mediation cost less than cases that go to court. For those cases that do end up in court, the cost depends on the length and complexity of the case and which court hears it. Cases that go to the Supreme Court tend to be the most expensive.

GMP assists with public liability and negligence claims on a “no win, no fee” basis. That means if you lose the case, we don’t charge you for our services. If you win, the court will order the other party to pay our fees. Some firms charge an upfront fee or pass on the cost of investigations and other expenses. We absorb all of that for you.

How much compensation will I get?

According to the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA), the finance industry regulator, the estimated gross ultimate cost of insurance claims for public and product liability last year was $1.26 billion.

The level of compensation paid out in each case depends on the particulars of the claim. Typically, damages are broken down into four areas:

  1. Cost of treating the immediate physical or psychological injury
  2. Ongoing medical costs, such as domestic care to recuperate from long-term injuries
  3. Non-economic (pain and loss) damages for psychological or emotional distress
  4. Loss of earnings or superannuation if the incident leaves you unable to work

In extreme circumstances, the court might award “aggravated and exemplary damages”. This is usually when it wants to highlight a particular element of the case and make an example of the defendant.

It is worth noting here that you may be entitled to damages even if you weren’t personally injured as a result of someone’s negligence. It might be possible to claim compensation for the cost of looking after a close family member who needs ongoing medical care or for the nervous shock you suffered as a result of their injury.

How can I find out quickly if I can make a claim?

The best way to find out if you can make a claim for compensation is to speak to a lawyer.

Public liability is a broad area. Some claims are more straightforward than others.

For example, if you slip and fall in a public space, and the incident is captured by CCTV, it might be relatively easy to prove negligence. In other circumstances more extensive investigations may be required to build a successful case.

What types of incidents are covered by public liability law?

Public liability law covers a broad range of situations and incidents. Here are some common examples of where there may be grounds for a claim:

  • Food or drink in a restaurant makes you sick
  • Fire or flood damages your property
  • You slip, trip or fall
  • You’re attacked or otherwise injured by an animal

To make a claim, you would have to be able to show that the harm you suffered was a result of negligence by the owner or occupier of the space where the incident occurred.

How long do public liability claims take to resolve in NSW?

It’s not possible to guarantee a particular timeframe to resolve a public liability claim. There are a number of factors to consider and every case is unique.

That said, cases that are resolved through mediation usually take between 12 and 18 months. You can download a guide setting out our process for handling claims here.

It’s important to note that it often takes time to demonstrate the impact of an accident or personal injury. For example, if you’ve been physically hurt, then you may require assessments from a doctor over a 9-month period. This will be important for assessing the loss or harm you have suffered, especially if you have been unable to work.

How long do I have to make a claim?

You have up to three years to bring a public liability claim.

But, bear in mind that gathering evidence to support your claim will be a lot easier if you act quickly.

If you wait too long before speaking to a personal injury lawyer the space where the accident occured might have changed significantly and it could be more difficult to track down CCTV recordings or witnesses.

It is sometimes possible to bring claims for cases older than three years. However, this is a particularly difficult and complicated process and one that requires expert legal advice.

For free over-the-phone advice or to take advantage of our free face-to-face consultation call our expert public liability lawyers team today on our Free Call Number 1800 004 878.

Call us now on 1800 004 878 to book a free appointment with one of my compensation experts, or email your enquiry.