Public and Occupiers Liability
Examples of public and occupier liability claims can include:
- Slipping over in a supermarket, night club or restaurant
- Tripping over on a poorly maintained footpath
- Falling down stairs that have not been built according to accepted standards
- Sitting on a chair at a cafe that collapses under your weight
As you can see, public and occupier liability claims cover a broad array of scenarios.
The basic premise behind all public and occupier liability claims is that the company, public authority or person in control of the location, is responsible for ensuring that the location is reasonably safe for members of the public or for persons specifically invited into a private location, to use.
If you’ve been injured in a public or private location, you may be entitled to claim compensation including medical expenses, pain and suffering, and lost wage.
As with most personal injury claims, if court proceedings are not commenced within 3 years of the date of injury, then you can lose your entitlement to make a claim.
Furthermore, if your injury occurred within the Australian Capital Territory, then it is usually necessary for notice of the intended claim to be given to the defendant or respondent within the earlier of:
- 9 months following the injury and
- 4 months after instructing a lawyer to provide legal advice about the claim
Provided you have not delayed past 3 years, a claim can still usually be pursued if late notice is provided, however your lawyer will need to take additional steps to convince the insurer that there was a reasonable excuse for delay and that the insurer has not suffered any prejudice.
As a general rule, the law regards the government and local councils the same as companies and individuals. If the government or council is responsible for maintaining a public space, and they fail to do so, then if a person suffers an injury due to the failure to maintain, then a claim can be brought against them.
Depending on the circumstances of the injury however, it is sometimes necessary to prove that the government or council either knew, or should have reasonably known of the risk posed to the general public.
For instance, if a cyclist is riding along a cycle path, and falls off their bike due to a pothole, then a claim for personal injury can be made provided it can be established that the government or council had knowledge of the pothole that caused the cyclist to fall.
Personal injury claims do not resolve overnight. Unfortunately, it is necessary for claimants to wait until their injuries stabilise and future prognosis can be assessed.
As a general rule, minor claims usually resolve within 6 to 12 months. Claims involving more serious injury however can take 2 to 4 years to resolve.
Personal injury claims are complicated and involve significant amounts of legal work by your lawyers. While one of the purposes of insurance is to enable payment of compensation to an injured party, insurers rarely agree to payment without a fight. To assist injured claimants, most firms who practice in personal injury offer “no win no fee” agreements.
“No win no fee” is an arrangement provided in personal injury proceedings whereby the lawyers agree not to charge their professional costs if the client is unsuccessful with their claim.
In exchange for offering a “no win no fee” service, many law firms will charge a premium in legal fees, meaning that an injured claimant will usually end up paying more to their lawyers. This is extremely relevant because although some claimants are unfortunate enough to not succeed with their personal injury claims, law firms will always assess a claim to make sure it has good prospects of success before offering a “no win no fee” service. What this means in simple terms, is that the law firm agrees to act on a “no win no fee” basis, knowing that it is far more likely they will win the claim than not, and also knowing they will ultimately be able to charge more in legal fees.
While BDN Lawyers offer “no win no fee” services, we do not use this as an opportunity or excuse to charge a premium for our legal services.
Unfortunately it is impossible to say how much a claimant will need to pay in legal fees at the very start of a claim.
We can however assure our clients that if they are successful with their claim, then the insurer will pay approximately 80% of the legal fees, and the remaining 20% will be paid from compensation monies received at the end of the claim. Furthermore, if we can convince the insurer to pay all of the legal costs, then our clients are charged no out of pocket costs at all!
As a general rule, the insurer is only required by law to pay about 80% of a claimant’s legal costs. As such, there is usually an unrecoverable component of legal costs that needs to be paid by the client at the end of the claim. That said, BDN Lawyers believe strongly in looking after our clients, and we are always looking to minimise the out of pocket legal costs of our clients, and from time to time, we are successful in achieving an outcome where our clients pay no out of pocket costs at all.