Accidents in public places occur on a regular basis and are sometimes referred to as public liability accidents. This refers directly to public liability insurance which ensures that insurance cover is in place in the event that due to some degree of negligence an accident occurred in a public place which resulted in injury to one or more individuals. While generally accidents in public places tend to involve various public bodies, they are just as likely to involve companies or other third parties.
The owner/manager of a public place has a legal obligation to ensure that areas which are accessible by the public are safe with all potential risk of injury minimised. This can include business premises, public parks, railway stations, bus stations and many other everyday locations. So, if you have had an accident in a public place and been injured because of the recklessness or negligence by one or more third parties you may well have a claim for compensation.
Lodging A Public Place Accident Claim
In order to lodge a public place compensation claim the accident must have:
- Occurred within the last three years.
- Been a consequence of negligence by a responsible third-party.
- Directly caused the injuries in question.
While the vast majority of accidents in public places involve the general public there will be instances where company employees are injured in these areas. In this scenario it may be more appropriate to make a claim for compensation against an employer although the individual circumstances of each claim will dictate the route taken.
While there is a three-year time limit from the date of the accident to claim compensation for any injuries, it is highly advisable to lodge a public place accident claim sooner rather than later. We have seen many instances where relatively strong compensation claims have been weakened because time can fade memories of the day and the circumstances surrounding the incident. Any degree of doubt will impact the chances of success of even the strongest cases.
There will be instances where injuries/medical conditions received as a consequence of an accident in a public place are not diagnosed until further down the line. While relatively uncommon, in this instance the three-year time limit will begin on the date the diagnosis was received.
Proving Negligence For An Accident In A Public Place
Before we look at the process of gathering evidence and lodging a compensation claim it is worth reminding ourselves that central to any claim is proof of negligence. Evidence must be presented to the courts to prove that a third party (or third parties) responsible for the public area in which the accident occurred was negligent.
There may be some instances where the claimant was partially negligent in which case the courts would likely rule on split liability which would reduce any compensation award. In some circumstances there may be more than one party potentially negligent. In this scenario it appears that many people are reluctant to step forward to lodge a public place accident claim because they are unsure of who should be named in their compensation claim. This misconception has probably led to many strong compensation claims not being pursued. In reality, the claimant only needs to name potentially liable parties in their claim and it will be up to the courts, or an out-of-court settlement, to agree various levels of liability for each party.
Gathering Evidence To Claim Compensation
In the event that you receive an injury in an accident in a public place you must first get the injury taken care of. This may just be a cautionary examination or in some circumstances immediate treatment may be required to avoid complications. The details of any medical examination and treatment required will be noted on a person’s medical records and this information may prove very useful if the injured party does proceed with a compensation claim. Once you’re able to do so it is highly advisable to:
- Report any accident to the owner of the property or the area in question immediately
- If not able to report the incident immediately, it should be reported as soon as possible.
- Where the accident occurred on commercial premises ensure that it is noted in the company’s accident book.
- Take details of any witnesses to the incident.
- If possible obtain photographic evidence showing the scene in question.
Officially lodging details of any accident on commercial premises or in public areas is extremely important. It is also very helpful to write down a timeline of events pre and post the public place accident so that you’re able to provide the courts details of the wider picture. Collating evidence and putting together a timeline of events should be addressed as soon as possible after the accident because time can blur memories.
Acquiring Legal Advice
As accidents in public places are quite a common occurrence the large majority of personal injury solicitors would have significant experience in public place injury claims. There are plenty of solicitors that provide free legal advice and generally a brief chat will be enough for them to decide whether you should proceed with a public place accident claim.
Should they conclude there is a decent chance of a successful claim it is likely that they will offer you a No Win No Fee arrangement. This effectively removes the claimant’s liability to cover the legal expenses when pursuing their case. As a consequence, the solicitor will charge what is known as a “success fee” which is at most 25% of the compensation received, although it should be emphasized to always make certain you know exactly what fee/s you’ll be charged.
It is also worth remembering, without such arrangements the vast majority of negligent parties would not be held to account. Historically, for many companies and public bodies it can take a financial hit to make them reconsider and review their safety procedures.
Once you have reached agreement with your solicitor you should look to lodge your claim as soon as possible and some can do this the same day as your initial enquiry.
Public Accident Compensation Claims Process
The public accident compensation claims process is fairly straightforward. The evidence that’s been gathered together is collated into one report and details of the claim are presented to the courts; with a copy to the defendant. Where liability is fairly obvious, the vast majority of defendants will look towards an out of court settlement. Settling out of court not only reduces their potential legal costs but also the claimant should get their due compensation sooner rather than later. The fact that court cases can on occasion drag on for months or even years, with claimants often forced to fund their own expenses in the meantime, does encourage all parties to come to an agreement sooner rather than later.
If a claim is disputed or there’s more than one negligent party involved the claim will likely go to court and the judge will issue a ruling based upon the evidence provided by all parties.
General Damages And Special Damages
Many people will not be aware but there are two specific types of compensation open to those pursuing a public place injury claim. These are commonly referred to as general damages and special damages and relate to specific elements of the impact an injury has on an individual’s life. For example, general damages are in effect financial compensation for the impact of injuries received and include issues such as:
- Pain and suffering
- Severity of the injury
- Mental impact
- Life changing injuries
Special damages are simply recompense for costs incurred as a consequence of the accident/injuries and future funding requirements. These can take in an array of different issues such as:
- Lost income/earnings
- Future lost income/earnings
- Cost of medical treatment
- Future cost of medical treatment
- Adaptions/alterations to the home
- Additional transport expenses
When it comes to estimating future funding requirements, the courts, insurance companies and law firms will take advice from appropriately experienced parties.
Common Accidents In Public Place Compensation Claims
The fact that a public place covers anything from the local park to a railway station, school grounds to supermarkets and many more scenarios, means it is impossible to list all areas in which injuries may occur. However, some of the more common public place compensation claims involve:
- Shops such as supermarkets and DIY stores
- Bus stations, railway stations and car parks
- Petrol stations
- Taxi ranks
- Gyms and other fitness facilities
- Roads and pathways involving ill maintained surfaces
- Amusement parks, theme parks and fairgrounds
- Building sites
- Schools, colleges and universities
- Bars and pubs
This list is by no means inclusive but it does give you an idea of some of the more common locations from which public place injury compensation claims emerge. When pursuing a claim this could involve an array of different parties including:
- Local councils/local authorities
- National government
- Public bodies
- Transport operators
Whether you are in a public park or a local shop, there is a legal liability to ensure the safety of visitors to the location under your control. It is also worth noting that there have been many instances in years gone by where accidents have occurred on private property or in a private dwelling. While the individual circumstances of each claim would dictate the chances of success, in general those maintaining private property or a private dwelling also have a legal obligation to ensure the well-being of visitors. In some circumstances these parties have been held responsible for injuries received by those not invited onto their property.
If you’ve had an accident in a public place due to negligence and suffered an injury as a result please contact us today and we can advise on how you can lodge a public place accident claim.