Henry Carus + Associates | Injury Lawyers

Public Liability Claims

More Than 40 Years Experience Representing Clients’ Public Liability Claims


What seems like a normal day can change course dramatically when an accident happens. Virtually anywhere you go in your daily life can become an accident scene, particularly when those responsible for maintaining safe conditions fall short of their duty.

If you have been hurt in an accident through no fault of your own in a public space – and it didn’t involve a motor vehicle or a workplace incident – you may be entitled to claim compensation for your losses through a public liability claim. The lawyers at the Melbourne law firm Henry Carus + Associates have the expertise and the commitment necessary to secure the money you need and deserve for your accident in a public space.

With over 40 years of experience working on public accident cases, we have in the past represented numerous insurance companies (both commercial and domestic) and government agencies in Australia and the US. This experience has given us unique knowledge and insight from which to build your case.

Led by experienced litigator Henry Carus, the team understands what it means to take a matter to court, and knows the matters that have the best chance of achieving a positive outcome before a jury.

To put things in perspective, we took on a public accident case that was about to be settled for $40,000. Believing this not to be an adequate compensation amount, we worked hard on the case for a year and secured our client a massive $400,000 in compensation.

How Public Injury Claims Work


Once the injuries are stable, we send the person off to a doctor who will complete an AMA Assessment and provide us with a Wrongs’ Act Certificate. This Certificate confirms that a person has suffered an injury of greater than 5% “Whole Person Impairment”.


We immediately investigate the circumstances of the accident, usually including a visit to the accident site with the client to take photos of the site before any changes are made to the area.


We take a careful and detailed statement from the client and from all witnesses as soon as we can in a bid to increase the chance of recall accuracy.


We get copies of all contemporaneous medical, ambulance, hospital and GP records in order to establish the extent of our client’s injuries.


We put the public liability claim to the persons responsible, and move forcefully to achieve the best possible outcome.

Why choose Henry Carus + Associates For Your Public Liability Claims?

Our results speak for themselves -

98% of our clients win their cases, with some getting up to five times their initial offer.

Our approach is a little different -

As a small firm dedicated to each client, we see every case as important. Our principal, Henry Carus, is involved in every matter in the firm.

Our experience is second to none -

Over the years we’ve helped win compensation cases in a diverse range of areas including public accidents, including slips trips and falls, defective premises, sports injuries, inappropriate conduct by security guards, defective restaurant equipment and more.

Learn More About Public Liability Claims

Who’s Responsible for Your Injury?

Individuals, companies, government agencies and others who own or control public spaces like shopping centres, parks and schoolyards may be held responsible for accidents that result from their negligence, or failure to maintain reasonably safe conditions.

Parties such as pet owners, sports and entertainment organisers, construction companies, transit organisations, and tour operators may also be responsible for injuries caused in an accident related to an activity rather than the physical condition of property.

Most of the time, it is the responsible party’s insurer that actually pays the claim.

What types of accidents can give rise to a public liability claim? Here are few examples:

  • A supermarket customer slips and falls in a puddle created by a freezer that had been leaking water all day.
  • A child gets hurt on unsafe playground equipment in a community park that was poorly maintained..
  • Spoiled food makes a restaurant patron seriously ill.
  • A jogger is bitten by a vicious dog whose owner failed to control the animal.
  • A pedestrian trips over uneven pavement on a footpath on a neighbourhood street.
  • A young athlete suffers injuries caused by improperly maintained sports facilities.
  • A traveller slips in an airport terminal.
  • A guest is the victim of a sexual assault in a hotel hallway that had inadequate lighting to deter crime.
  • A poorly maintained balcony collapses at an apartment building, injuring tenants and their guests who were on it.
  • A tourist drowns on a diving excursion because the guides handled the equipment improperly.
  • Passengers are injured in an airplane, train or boat accident caused by operator negligence.
  • A concert-goer is injured when a drunken brawl breaks out because the arena didn’t have enough crowd control.
  • A pedestrian trips over unmaintained, broken concrete caused by an overgrown tree root.

What Type of Compensation Could You Recover?

A successful public liability claim could provide money to pay for your losses such as:

  • Hospital bills and other medical expenses, including future costs
  • Wages you are unable to earn due to work absences caused by your injuries, both past and future
  • The pain, suffering and lost enjoyment of life you endured due to the accident
  • The cost of hiring help to assist you with tasks at home that you are unable to perform because of your injuries

To find out how you can maximise the benefits you receive after a public accident in Victoria, contact Henry Carus + Associates for a free claim review and confidential consultation with one of our public liability lawyers. We are ready to discuss your situation and your legal options. We operate on a No Win, No Fee basis, meaning you owe us nothing for our legal services unless we recover compensation for you.

Injured in a public accident? Here's what to do next

What Is Public Liability Law?

Broadly speaking, public liability is the area of personal injury law concerned with the safety of publicly accessible spaces. As a rule, individuals should be able to access spaces that are open to the public without being exposed to an unreasonable risk of harm.

Many different circumstances may fall under the umbrella of public liability law, including injuries sustained on residential, commercial, and government and council properties as a result of another party’s negligence. Public liability law also covers some injuries sustained on boats.

(It is important to note that accidents that lead to injuries sustained in the driving of a train, bus, or tram fall within the provisions of the Transport Accident Act (VIC) and are governed by the Transport Accident Commission (TAC), which has its own claims process with detailed benefits and limits on access to common law compensation. At the same time, accidents that lead to injuries arising from the use of a train, bus, or tram do not fall within the purview of the Transport Accident Act (VIC). Instead, they fall within common law concepts that are not restricted by any legislation. Noting these complexities, contacting a specialist personal injury law firm like Henry Carus + Associates immediately after your accident is crucial.)

Ultimately, public liability law covers many claims that fall outside of the primary compensation schemes in Victoria (TAC and WorkCover). Public liability claims are governed by Victoria’s Wrongs Act 1958, the legislation that entitles the victims of personal injury outside of transport and workplace accidents to common law compensation.

Read More: How Do Public Liability Claims Work?

Do I Have a Public Liability Claim?

It is crucial to seek legal guidance as soon as possible if you are injured on a property owned and operated by someone else or while on a boat. The only way to know for sure if you have a public liability claim is to speak to a lawyer promptly.

The elements that need to be proved for a public liability claim to succeed are:

  1. The party in control of the property had an obligation to take reasonable care for your safety on the premises (known as the duty of care)
  2. The owner, occupant, or operator breached this duty through negligence
  3. The negligence of the other party caused you physical and/or psychological injury
  4. You suffered damages as a result of your injuries

If you can prove that your injuries occurred due to the negligence of an individual, business, transit operator, or other organisation, you may be entitled to compensation for economic and non-economic loss (“pain and suffering” damages). Non-economic damages are only available if you can prove that you sustained a significant injury as defined by Section 28LF of the Wrongs Act. The definition incorporates reference to the AMA Guidelines for the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment, 4th Edition, which can be a very complicated reference book to comprehend.

With a few exceptions, the threshold for an injury to be considered significant is 5% permanent impairment for injuries to the spine, more than 5% permanent impairment for other types of physical injuries, and 10% permanent impairment for psychiatric injuries.

Permanent impairment is assessed by an approved medical practitioner according to specific guidelines. After the examination, the practitioner will issue a Certificate of Assessment stating whether the victim’s injury meets the significant injury threshold.

Simply proving that someone else was at fault for your injuries is not enough to recover maximum compensation in a public liability claim. At the very least, you will need to undergo an assessment of impairment to establish your right to compensation for pain and suffering-type damages.

In this process, you will greatly benefit from having a specialist personal injury law firm assist you in detailing what injuries you have suffered that allow you to establish that you have suffered a “significant injury”.

What Should I Do If I Am Injured in a Public Place?

Most public accidents happen without warning. Whether you slip and fall in the supermarket, get bitten by a dog, or suffer injury while simply walking in a public area (to name just a few common examples), it is difficult to know what to do.

These are the steps you should take if you are injured on premises belonging to someone else:

  1. Seek medical care immediately. Call 000 if you are unable to move on your own or don’t feel you can safely get yourself to hospital.
  2. Take photographs of the area. If you are able to remain on the scene, take pictures of any pertinent details (such as spilled liquids, tripping hazards, etc.).
  3. Speak to witnesses. If anyone sees you get hurt, be sure to ask what they saw and get their contact information.
  4. Report the accident. Notify the individual or organisation that owns or operates the premises of your injury as soon as possible.
  5. Contact a public liability lawyer promptly. If you were injured by someone else’s negligence, the importance of speaking to a knowledgeable lawyer cannot be stressed enough.

One of the major challenges of a public liability claim is that the evidence of the defendant’s negligence and the cause of your injuries doesn’t last for long. By taking the steps above, you will improve the viability of your claim and increase the likelihood of a favourable outcome.

How Do You Report an Accident in a Public Place?

Reporting that you have been injured is one of the most important steps after a public accident. A report creates official documentation of the incident, establishing your right to bring a public liability claim and limiting the ability of the defendant and/or the insurance company to dispute the circumstances.

However, it can be difficult to know whom to inform and what the procedure is for reporting an accident in a public place. If you are not sure who controls the property, look for signs or ask an employee for help.

You should always notify the property owner in writing; a verbal report can be forgotten or disregarded, making the claim come down to your word against the defendant’s. If you are injured on a business- or government-run property or on public transport, you may be asked to complete an incident report form.

How Do I File a Public Liability Claim?

Once you have reported the incident, the business or government agency involved or the insurance representative is likely to contact you to get more information and to see if there is any merit to resolving your potential common law claim immediately.

It is generally not in your best interest to engage directly with these representatives, as they are well-trained to seek an early resolution of valid claims for the least amount of compensation.

Instead, it is in your best interest to have a public liability lawyer immediately assess the strength of your claim, ascertain its true value, and negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf. Many times such negotiations are not fruitful, as these representatives generally do not have the authority to provide fair compensation for those seriously injured.

To achieve fair compensation, it will likely require that a lawyer be appointed by the insurance company to handle the negotiations of such serious claims.

Public liability claims centre on issues of negligence. You need to present proof of negligence or wrongdoing to recover the compensation you deserve. Unfortunately, insurance companies are highly likely to dispute liability or, at the very least, make a low settlement offer for a nominal amount of compensation. Worse, if you try to deal with the insurer on your own, your words may be twisted and used against you.

Without legal guidance, you may not know any better than to accept the first settlement offer or walk away if your claim is rejected. You also run the risk of saying something that hurts your claim. An experienced public liability lawyer can collect evidence, protect your rights and interests, and negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf.

Most public liability claims are settled out of court. However, it may be necessary to commence legal proceedings in order to finally achieve a fair level of compensation for those seriously injured.

How Long Do I Have to Bring a Public Liability Claim?

The Victoria Limitation of Actions Act § 5(1AA) requires that all claims for personal injury be brought no more than 3 years after the date the injury occurs. If you have a public injury claim, you have a maximum of 3 years to take legal action.

Multiple steps need to be taken after a public accident to secure compensation. These include investigating the cause of the accident, determining who is at fault, assessing the seriousness of your injuries, and calculating damages. You do not want to lose your opportunity to recover the compensation you deserve, so it is important to get started on your public liability claim as soon as possible.

Who Can Be Held Liable for a Public Accident?

Many different parties may be liable for public injuries. Businesses are among the most common defendants in public liability claims. Liability for a public accident on commercial premises may rest with the owner of the business, a commercial tenant, and/or a third party working on the property (such as landscapers, contractors, etc.).

Other public liability claims may arise due to accidents and injuries on properties operated by the government or a local council. Some of the most common areas for these public injuries include streets, sidewalks, footpaths, schoolyards, playgrounds, etc.

Finally, public liability claims may also be brought against the owners of residential properties. This includes homeowners, rental providers, and renters whose negligence causes harm to those accessing the property.

How Long Does a Public Liability Claim Take?

Generally, you can expect a public liability claim to take more than a year. That said, a number of different factors can affect how long it will take to resolve your public accident claim, including:

  • The seriousness of your injuries
  • How long it takes for your injuries to become stable
  • The nature and extent of your damages
  • Questions and disputes concerning liability
  • The willingness of the insurance company to negotiate
  • Whether or not you need to file a lawsuit and the matter goes to court

A public liability lawyer can assess the complexity of your case and advise you how long it might take to achieve a result. Patience is key, as is staying in contact with your lawyer throughout the course of the claim.

Who Pays Compensation for Public Liability Claims?

Many people are hesitant to make a public liability claim because they think it means suing a family member, friend, or their favourite business. Although parties such as these may be at fault for a public injury, the party that is liable for damages is usually the defendant’s insurance company.

Businesses purchase public liability insurance to cover accidents and injuries that occur on the premises and in the course of business operations. Similarly, home and contents insurance and renters insurance policies cover public liability for homeowners and renters.

If you are injured in a public accident through no fault of your own, you do not have to worry about putting someone you know in financial jeopardy. Reducing personal risk is why people purchase insurance, and any compensation you are entitled to will ultimately be paid by the insurance company (provided, of course, that the defendant is insured).

What Makes Henry Carus + Associates Different?

Henry Carus + Associates are committed to one simple message: You Deserve More. Unlike many other personal injury law firms that treat each client like a file folder and not a person, we see each client as an individual.

You are more than an injury; you are someone’s parent, sibling, child, grandparent, and much, much more. Our team looks at the important legal aspects of your claim while striving to get to know you and your family. This personalised approach enables us to achieve truly optimal results.

Finally, Henry Carus + Associates bring a wealth of experience to public liability claims that is unmatched by other personal injury firms. Henry Carus has represented companies, government agencies, and insurance companies in public liability claims for most of his early legal career, including as a partner in an insurance defence firm. He understands what is truly needed to achieve the best possible outcome for those injured in a public liability accident.

Start getting 5-star service from a 5-star law firm. Call Henry Carus + Associates at 03 9001 1318 today for a free, no-obligation consultation. Our public liability lawyers serve clients in Melbourne and throughout Victoria.