Public Liability

Time Limits for Public Liability Claims

Unfortunately, accidents can occur anytime and anywhere. Even in places where you should have the right to feel safe, accidents can still occur due to the negligence of others. It is not uncommon for people to sustain injuries in public places such as in supermarkets, schools, parks or even footpaths, due to the failure of another party to take reasonable care.

If you are a victim of an accident occurring on public property due to the negligence of another, such as the occupier of the premises, read on to find out more about how you are protected under public liability law and the time limits for public liability claims.

You may be entitled to make a public liability claim in any situation where you have been injured in a public place due to the fault of another party. This claim is brought against the party at fault for failing to take reasonable care for those around them (even if they are only partially at fault), such as failing to reasonably ensure a safe environment free from spillage or slippery surfaces. A public liability claim settlement aims to fairly compensate victims for any personal injury resulting from such accidents. In cases of injuries on private property, read our guide on how to make a claim if you get injured on private property.

What is a public liability claim?

Public liability claims are claims for injuries sustained in a private or public premise, such as a shopping centre, rental premise, amusement parks, recreational centre, public areas etc. whereby the injuries sustained are the result of the negligence of the owner or occupier of the premise.

The owner or occupier of the premise owes you a duty of care to put reasonable measures in place to prevent your injuries, such as placing a sign to warn you that the floor is wet or regularly checking the premises to remove dangerous trip or similar unusual hazards etc.

If the owner or occupier has not taken reasonable steps to protect your safety and you suffer an injury as a consequence, then you are eligible to make a public liability claim.

There are two important things that you will need to prove:

  1. Your accident could have been avoided if the owner or occupier took reasonable steps to prevent it; and
  2. You suffered losses as a result of the occupier/owner’s breach of duty of care

Determining liability for your injuries can be difficult depending on the circumstances of your case and the available evidence, however, once liability has been established and we can prove you sustained a loss a result of the owner’s / occupier’s breach of duty of care, then you will be able to make a public liability claim.

How long will a claim take?

The duration of the public liability claim depends mostly on the severity of the victim’s injuries. In cases where the injury is minor and a fast recovery is made, a quick settlement can take place. In cases where the injury is quite substantial and takes a while to stabilise, the process may take longer in order to determine the true long-term nature of the victim’s injuries, and ensure that they receive a fair amount of compensation.

Who pays the compensation?

Public liability claims are lodged with the negligent party’s insurance company. The person at fault will usually be the occupier of the premises, and such occupiers usually have public liability insurance. Therefore, their insurance company will pay out the public liability claim settlement.

What can I claim?

If we are successful in obtaining evidence to show the owner or occupier breached their duty of care to you, that this breach was reasonably foreseeable and not too far remote, then under the Civil Liability Act, you will be able to claim:

  1. Past and Future Economic Loss – This may include time off work, loss of overtime or additional hours, or even a loss of a potential promotion
  2. Past and Future Medical Expenses – This may include hospital fees, doctors fees, cost of medication etc
  3. Past and Future Domestic Care & Assistance – Applicable in cases where your injury may require you to seek assistance from other people to help with household duties
  4. Non-economic Loss, i.e. Pain and Suffering.

What time limits apply?

Yes, strict time limits do apply in making a public liability claim. As most claims can be settled directly between the injured party and insurer, many cases will never need to be settled in a courtroom. However, in cases where the two parties cannot reach an agreement, there is a 3 year statute of limitations period on public liability claims. This means that all legal action must be made within 3 years from the day the accident occurred.

Under what circumstances can time limits be extended?

Claims made after 3 years from the accident will be barred, except under special circumstances where the time limit may be extended. This may include circumstances where the victim’s injuries (such as a psychologic illness) did not present itself until some time after the accident itself, or the true severity of the injuries took a long time to become apparent. However, victims should aim to act within the 3 year limit and should not rely on these special circumstances as they are highly difficult to prove to the courts.

Why do I need to act as soon as possible?

If you believe you are eligible to make a public liability claim, you should contact Schreuder Partners immediately to ensure you have not lost the chance to receive compensation for your injuries. Although you have up to 3 years to undertake any legal action, it is best to start a claim as soon as possible, as the claims process itself can be complex and may take more time than anticipated.

An important, but sometimes timely, step involves collecting evidence to substantiate your claim. The evidence you can collect can help maximise the compensation you will receive, but will take some time to gather. This may include:

  • Reporting the injury to the occupier of the premises, and keeping records of any correspondence after the injury
  • Taking photographs of the location where the injury occurred, the surroundings, and of the injury itself
  • Writing a statement of events
  • Obtaining medical records for your injury, such as the dates of appointments, medical certificates and x-rays
  • Obtaining the names and other contact details of any witnesses
  • Obtaining receipts or records of any expenses incurred due to your injury, such as the cost of home modification, or travelling expenses
  • Obtaining records of any lost wages due to your injury

The sooner you begin a claim, the sooner you can receive compensation to help with any medical expenses, care and assistance costs, home modifications and lost earning capacity you may be dealing with. Therefore it is in the victim’s best interests to act as soon as the accident occurs. Consult a public liability lawyer today to get the compensation you deserve.

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