You might not be aware of it, but when you’re out and about in public you’re actually making use of a whole host of services provided by different organisations. 

Footpaths, roads and street lighting are maintained by local authorities; and offices, shopping centres and retail outlets are owned by private businesses and property owners. 

It’s important to understand that these organisations are responsible for ensuring that the public spaces and infrastructure they manage are safe for people to use. 

Accidents in public are often a result of negligence on behalf of the council or property owner and may be considered personal injury

If you have been involved in an accident in public and it was not your fault, Valerie Kearins Personal Injury Solicitors are here to help with your claim. 

What is a public liability claim

Legal actions pursued by individuals who have suffered injuries or property damage due to the negligence of a third party who owns or maintains a public space are known as public liability claims.

These claims fall under the umbrella of personal injury law and are designed to ensure that those responsible for maintaining safe environments are held accountable for their actions, or lack thereof. 

Whether it’s a slip and fall accident in a supermarket, a dog bite in a park, or a faulty equipment incident at a construction site, public liability claims aim to provide fair compensation to victims for their physical injuries, emotional distress, medical expenses, and other related losses.

To pursue a public liability claim, the injured party must demonstrate that the accident was caused by the negligence or breach of duty of the responsible party. This means proving that the property owner, occupier, or relevant authority failed to take reasonable steps to prevent the accident or failed to warn visitors about potential hazards.

Public liability claims can be complex, requiring gathering evidence, interviewing witnesses, and assessing the extent of the injuries and damages suffered. 

Seeking the assistance of an experienced solicitor who specialises in personal injury law is crucial to navigate the legal process, negotiate with insurance companies, and ensure fair compensation is received.

Common claims for public liability

Due to the varying nature of public and private property, no two public liability claims will ever be exactly the same. Let’s explore some common scenarios and examples of organisations that could be at fault in public liability claims:

  • Drain and manhole cover accident claims
  • Wet floor accident claims
  • Inadequate lighting claims
  • Spillage accident claims
  • Broken handrail accident claims
  • Nut allergy claims

Drain and Manhole Cover Accident Claims

Underneath our pavements and roads are sewers and utility spaces that need to be covered to prevent pedestrians falling in or injuring themselves. 

Drain and manhole covers are the responsibility of councils and local authorities in Ireland, and a broken or defective cover will need to be replaced immediately.

If a manhole or drain cover is damaged or missing, and the area is unmarked, there is a high chance of a serious accident occurring. 

Likewise, a poorly fitted or unsuitable cover can pose a trip hazard, which is why many public liability claims involve drain and manhole accidents.

Wet Floor Accident Claims

Certain floor surfaces become extremely slippery when wet, causing a potential hazard for unsuspecting passersby. 

Spillage or cleaning can lead to a floor becoming dangerously slippy, and an important part of safety protocol in any premises is to properly notify people about this risk, which doesn’t always happen.

The classic example of this is when cleaning is carried out in a public space like a supermarket, but no sign warning people about the wet floor has been left out. 

Without adequate warning, people are very likely to slip when passing through this area, potentially suffering anything from a sprained ankle to something more serious like a brain injury.

Inadequate Lighting Claims

If you live in an urban area you might take it for granted that you can see where you’re going when you’re walking after sundown. Street lights are intended to guide the way and keep visibility levels as high as possible without being intrusive, and it is the job of councils and local authorities to ensure that they continue to work for our benefit.

Likewise, dark areas of an indoor or outdoor public space should be adequately lit, and if they aren’t, a resulting accident due to poor visibility can be judged to be caused by the property owner’s negligence.

Spillage Accident Claims

Accidents happen, but they can unfortunately cause a chain reaction of accidents as a result. Spillages, whether indoor or outdoor, have the potential to make surfaces extremely dangerous, and a large amount of public liability claims involve spillage accidents. Oil spills can occur on roads, causing devastating accidents between vehicles.

Places where liquids are commonly handled, like supermarkets and factories, are prime locations too for spillage accident claims. Proper signage is required to notify people in the area about the potential slip hazard, and if this isn’t taken care of then there is always a case for personal injury compensation.

Broken Handrail Accident Claims

It might not seem like an obvious public liability claim, but in fact broken handrails are the cause of numerous personal injury cases that result in successful payouts. When ascending stairs or travelling through an unsafe area, a handrail or guardrail can be the difference between a non-eventful day and a trip to A&E.

Handrails and guardrails are installed for a reason, to help people navigate a specific route, and it’s vitally important that they be maintained to avoid accidents. A loose or ill-fitted handrail can cause you to lose your balance, and resulting injuries can range from minor to severe depending on the space the accident occurs in.

Nut Allergy Claims

Hypersensitivity to food is on the rise, and each year, an estimated 1,200 Irish children develop a peanut allergy. That’s just one nut, which goes to show how many people suffer from nut allergies in the country today. 

If any substance that is served in a public place has come into contact with nuts, it should be clearly labelled on the packaging or advised to the consumer.

A person with a nut allergy who ingests a nut is at risk of anything from minor skin reactions to more severe reactions like anaphylaxis, so it’s vitally important that proper safety protocols are followed. A public liability claim involving a nut allergy will seek to allege that this wasn’t the case.

Contact Valerie Kearins Solicitors Today

If you feel you have been the victim of personal injury and you are considering filing a claim for compensation, feel free to get in touch with Valerie Kearins Solicitors for an assessment of your case.

Compensation for a public liability claim

In a public liability claim involving an accident suffered on a private property or public premises, the eligibility for compensation typically depends on the specific circumstances and the applicable laws in your jurisdiction. 

Generally, the following individuals may be eligible for compensation:

  • Visitors or customers: If you were lawfully present on the premises as a visitor or customer, and you suffered an injury due to the negligence of the property owner, occupier, or their employees, you may be eligible for compensation.

  • Employees: If you were an employee working on the premises and the accident occurred due to the negligence of the property owner, occupier, or a third party, you may have grounds for a public liability claim against the responsible party.

  • Contractors or subcontractors: Contractors or subcontractors who suffer an injury on private or public premises due to the negligence of the property owner or occupier may also be eligible for compensation.

The nature of the damages awarded will depend on the experience of the individual, but in general they will seek to recompense any financial losses or suffering caused by the accident. 

This could include medical expenses such as hospital stays, surgeries or medication; rehabilitation costs like physical therapy or counselling; loss of earnings caused by time off work; property damage and any future costs related to the accident that you may incur.

Who can be liable for a Public liability claim

Determining liability in a public liability claim involves identifying the party or parties responsible for the accident and subsequent injuries or damages. 

The liable party is typically the individual, organisation, or entity that owed a duty of care to the injured person and failed to fulfil that duty, resulting in the accident. If a successful claim is brought against the liable party, they, or their insurance company, will pay a compensation amount agreed in negotiations or in court.

Understanding who may be held liable is crucial when pursuing a public liability claim, as it helps establish the basis for seeking compensation. 

It is important to note that each public liability claim is unique and liability can vary based on the specific circumstances. Examples of potentially liable parties could include restaurants, entertainment venues, landlords, public transportation operators, and healthcare facilities. 

Public liability insurance

A public insurance policy usually covers accidental personal injury or illness suffered, damage to property, and any costs and expenses that arise from necessary recovery or repair. 

The purpose of public liability insurance is to protect against the risk of a claim being made against a business, local authority or other organisation that trades or operates in the public sphere. 

It is not mandatory for businesses to take out public liability insurance in Ireland, unlike motor insurance, which is required by law. However, the benefit of having a public liability policy is that an organisation will have the means to be able to defend against any claim made against them. 

If claimant is able to prove that they suffered an injury, illness or property damage in a public space as a result of negligence, it will fall on the insurance company to foot the bill regarding compensation.

Evidence to support a public liability claim

Like with any compensation claim, a successful case will require you to provide supporting evidence as to the nature of your accident and how it can be deemed a consequence of third party negligence. The specific requirements and evidence needed can vary depending on the jurisdiction and the circumstances of the incident, but here are some guidelines:

  • Document the scene of the accident: If you experienced a trip accident due to torn or bulging carpet, or broken ground, or slipped as a result of an unmarked wet area make sure to photograph the dangerous spot. The same goes for if you fell due to an object that someone had left or placed on the floor, or if there was unsuitable lighting.. Whatever the cause of the accident, it’s a good idea to have photographic evidence.

  • Check if the owner has been keeping up their property: The owner of the premises may have a regular procedure for maintaining or repairing the surfaces in their property, but you might be able to prove that this wasn’t being followed. For example, cleaning rotas in public bathrooms are often left in docket sheets, and it may be that the schedule was not properly followed.

  • Gather information from witnesses: Having an accident in public can be embarrassing, but the upshot of having people around is that it is highly likely that somebody saw what happened to you. If there were any witnesses to the incident, try to obtain their contact information. Witness statements can be crucial in supporting your version of events and establishing liability.

  • Collect medical records: If you’ve been unfortunate enough to sustain an injury as a result of your accident, then it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible after the incident, even if your injuries seem minor. Aside from providing you with the immediate care that you need, having medical records to document your injuries and treatment provides important evidence to demonstrate the extent of your injuries and the associated costs.

How to make a claim for personal injury

The vast majority of personal injury cases in Ireland, with the exception of cases involving medical negligence, are brought before the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB). You can submit an application to the PIAB directly yourself if you so wish, but it can be complex if you lack experience in legal procedures. 

It is common practice to seek the help of a personal injuries solicitor ahead of your application to the Injuries Board. A good personal injury solicitor will know how to construct a solid claim and ensure the process goes smoothly. If the negligent party does not want the claim to be submitted to the PIAB, you can also take your case to court. 

Usually, the PIAB will assess your claim within nine months of your application being submitted, and they will decide on an appropriate amount for compensation. If you are satisfied with the figure decided upon by the PIAB, you can accept the compensation and the negligent party will be ordered to pay.

A personal injuries solicitor can help you decide on whether the PIAB’s decision represents fair compensation, and if you choose not to accept their ruling, you can proceed with a legal case.

How long do you have to make a claim

The statute of limitations in Ireland is two years, meaning, if you suffer a personal injury as a result of someone else’s negligence, you will have a two-year window in which you can make a legal claim for compensation. That period begins on the ‘date of knowledge’ – that is, the date on which you become aware of the injury you have suffered. 

For example, you may suffer a long term shoulder injury as a result of a road traffic collision, and the extent of the damage may not be revealed to you until you receive medical guidance six months on from the event. In this case, your two-year window begins after that appointment, although any personal injury claim is aided by proceedings starting as soon as possible.

Make a claim today

At Valerie Kearins PErsonal Injury Solicitors, we understand the distress and challenges that can arise from an accident on a public premises. Our dedicated team of legal professionals is here to offer you the support and guidance you need during this difficult time. 

If you or a loved one have experienced a slip, trip, or any other accident in a public place, we encourage you to consider making a public liability claim today. Taking this step can help you seek the justice and compensation you deserve. 

Don’t let your pain and suffering go unnoticed—you have the right to hold those responsible accountable for their negligence. Remember, time is of the essence, so reach out to our experienced and supportive team today, and together, we can navigate the legal process to ensure a fair outcome for you.

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