Injuries that are not sustained in the course of work or as a result of a motor vehicle accident may be actioned under a range of other laws. In some cases, the owner of the property where the personal injury occurs will be liable for compensation whether it is a private owner or a public authority. In other cases, a professional may be negligent in the course of providing a service to you.
However, just because you have suffered an injury doesn’t always mean you can sue someone for it. To receive compensation, you need to prove that another party was responsible for your injury by failing to take reasonable care for your safety.
In order to obtain compensation from another person for negligence, you need to prove to the court that:
- The person owed you a duty of care to take reasonable care not to expose you to a foreseeable risk of injury;
- The person breached that duty of care by exposing you to a foreseeable risk of injury (something a reasonable person would anticipate may occur in the circumstances) or failing to take precautions in response to a foreseeable risk; and
- You suffered an injury or other loss as a result of that breach.
In what circumstances might someone owe me a duty of care?
Occupier’s of private property must take reasonable steps to ensure that entrants are not exposed to a foreseeable risk of harm. This means that if a risk of injury exists, an occupier must take steps to rectify it or warn entrants of the danger. For example, where a wet floor surface would expose entrants to a risk of slipping over, an occupier may discharge their duty by erecting a highly visible warning sign alerting entrants to the risk.
Like occupiers of private property, public authorities must take reasonable precautions to not expose pedestrians and entrants on public property to risk of harm. Public liability may arise in a broad range of cases where a negligent act committed by any person in a public place causes damage or harm to another person.
Generally, any professional from whom you seek advice or services will owe you a duty to carry out their job in a competent manner. For this reason, professionals such as doctors, surgeons, lawyers, engineers, architects, accountants and real estate agents, are required to have professional indemnity insurance and may be sued for negligence if their careless action causes you injury or loss.
What to do if you are injured
If you are injured as a result of an incident occurring on private or public property, there are certain things you should do straight away. After an accident occurs, it is vital that evidence is recorded and preserved so that it is easier to establish your case for negligence down the track.
- Record details of where the incident occurred including a description of the specific aspect of the property or hazards that caused the incident and/or the injury.
- Where possible, obtain photographs of the area.
- Take contact details from any witnesses, so that their statement can be obtained.
Inform the owner or manager of the property where the incident occurred.
- See a doctor to diagnose and treat your injuries (this will serve as evidence of the date and time the injury was incurred and how it happened).
- Keep notes of any physical or emotional injuries or symptoms following the accident.
- Consult a lawyer to discuss your prospects of recovering compensation for your injuries.
Making a personal injury negligence claim
To make a negligence claim, you will ultimately need to file court proceedings. However, in Queensland, a special framework of pre-court procedures exist so that claims can be settled before going to court. Although this somewhat simplifies the process, it is still costly and stressful.
Before making a claim for compensation, you need to consider whether the outcome will justify the cost of pursuing the claim.