What is Public Liability?

A successful public liability claim provides compensation for accidents & injuries in a public space, caused by someone else's negligence.
wet floor for a possible public liability claim in Queensland

A successful public liability claim compensates for accidents and injuries caused by someone else’s negligence in a public space. However, the term “public liability” can be confusing.

If you have had an accident and been injured in a public place, you might be unsure about your legal options for compensation. Legal obligations under civil liability legislation extend to many public and private areas. You could claim compensation for an economic or non-economic loss if you had an accident due to another party’s full or partial negligence.

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What is The Meaning of Public Liability?

Public liability claims happen in a wide range of circumstances. For example, when someone suffers a public place injury:

• on private property like a shopping centre
• a public car park
• a playground or footpath
• at school or in a childcare centre
• a shared pool and so on.

Injuries on private property like theme parks, cafes, clubs, restaurants, casinos and inside rental property. Public liability law also applies if a product or service, including your car and home appliances, harm you.

To have a valid claim, the negligence of the owner/operator of the place must contribute to your injury. You could still have a case even if you were partially responsible for your physical or psychological damage.

What is my claim worth?

Queensland Civil Liability Act 2003

Case law initially determined legal matters related to public negligence in Queensland. Currently, they are also regulated by the Civil Liability Act 2003.

Queensland public liability legislation is complicated. You must show that the person or party that caused your injury owed you a duty of care and that they breached their responsibility. The circumstances of your accident need to be foreseeable (that a reasonable person could see it might happen), and the defendant can attempt to minimise their liability by claiming the danger was apparent. Section 13 of the Civil Liability Act details the meaning of “obvious risk”, although this definition is regularly disputed.

What is an obvious risk?

The Civil Liability Act 2003 section 13 defines the meaning of “obvious risk” to a person who suffers harm is a risk that, in the circumstances, would have been evident to a reasonable person in that person’s position.” This definition excludes circumstances that are obvious or commonly known.

Unfortunately, the wording of this legislation is open to interpretation. Opposing parties will have differing ideas of what is and isn’t “obvious.”.

You should be aware that venue owners and operators are not obligated to warn you about an obvious risk. Claims that depend on the absence of signs and warnings are likely to fail.

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4 Required Elements for a Successful Public Liability Claim

For your public liability case to be successful, you must establish the negligence of the person or party who caused your harm. Proving negligence involves four steps.

Duty of Care

You have to demonstrate that the defendant owed you a duty of care. Law, a contract, or the ownership or use of an instrument that causes harm can all impose obligations. An obligation must exist before you can make a claim.

Breach of Duty

Next, we need to show that the defendant breached their duty of care. An action or failure to act, resulting in harm, both qualify as a breach.


Once liability is established, you must show that your injury is linked to the breach of care. It’s possible that your incident exacerbated an existing physical or psychological condition. This step establishes the defendant’s liability, so you can seek damages.


Once legal liability is in place, you must prove the extent of your injuries and the value of your loss. Your damages would include costs like lost income, superannuation, medical and hospital bills, and pain and suffering.

QLD Insurance Claim Lawyers

Splatt Lawyers has a team of experienced insurance claim lawyers led by Kerry Splatt, an Accredited Specialist in personal injury law. Since 1994, we have supported Queenslanders seeking compensation for a physical or psychological injury in a public place or on private property. Our legal team has considerable expertise in establishing liability and what it takes to succeed. Find out for yourself how we might help you – Call 1800 700 125

Injuries at Work or on the Road

Public liability law does not cover workplace or road accident injuries. Instead, Queensland Workers’ Compensation covers personal injuries acquired at work. Car accidents and other road-related incidents are resolved as motor vehicle accident claims. If you were injured walking along a footpath, the insurance claim would be against your local city council.

Please speak with our legal team to understand the laws and regulations that apply to your situation.

What is Covered by Public Liability?

When claiming legal damages, you seek injury compensation from the public liability insurance company covering the negligent venue, property owner or operator. Accidents at work are actioned against WorkCover. Damages for incidents on the road are claimed against the CTP insurer of the at-fault party.

As a result, public liability law typically applies to any negligence-related physical or mental harm that occurs off-site and not on a public road.

Common Kinds of Queensland Public Liability Claims include:

What Will I Need to Make a Claim?

To have a successful case, you will need evidence. You should gather as much information as possible to give your lawyer or solicitor arguments to create a compelling claim.

Wherever your accident occurred, you should report it in writing to the venue owner, e.g. city council, shopping centre manager, private property or theme park operator. You could also request a copy of any surveillance footage that might be available. Check to see if any witnesses can substantiate your circumstances. Take photos and videos of where you were injured and document the events proceeding and following your incident.

Seek medical treatment immediately, and ask your doctor to conduct a medical examination. Keep a copy of your medical report, hospital report, X-rays, ultrasounds and any other police or incident reports that might be available.

Will I Have to Go to Court in Queensland?

Most personal injury cases in Queensland settle without going to court. Mediation is the standard method of resolving damage claims and achieving a settlement. Unless you advised them to do so, Splatt Lawyers would not take your case to court. Court cases are expensive and do not guarantee success, so mediation is always the preferred option.

Lawyers for Public Liability Damages

When you have been harmed by the action or inaction of someone else, you should seek legal advice from an experienced personal injury lawyer to know your legal options.

Claiming damages for public liability is complicated. The success or failure of your case can, to some extent, depend on the experience and knowledge of your legal team. Find out now how Splatt Lawyers can help you. It’s free to know where you stand and your chances of success. Call Now 1800 700 125.

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