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A Short Guide to Public Liability Claims

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Public liability claims pertain to injuries on public property, while other types of personal injury claims can arise from a wide range of situations, each with its own specific circumstances and insurance coverage. Here we look at some of the defining characteristics of this type of litigation.

What is a public liability claim?

A public liability claim arises when a governmental organisation, business, or property owner is held responsible for causing injury or damage to a member of the public. This typically occurs due to negligence or a failure to maintain a safe environment. For instance, if a member of the public falls and is injured by an uneven pavement, they might file a claim against the local council.

The process of a public liability claim involves the claimant proving that the defendant was negligent and that this negligence caused their injury or loss. If the claim is successful, compensation is awarded to cover medical expenses, loss of earnings, pain and suffering. However, if the defendant can prove they took all reasonable steps to prevent harm, they may successfully defend against the claim.

What are the most common types of public liability claims?

There are a broad range of incidents and accidents that fall under the umbrella of public liability claims. Some of the most common types include the following:

  • Slips, Trips, and Falls – One of the most common types of public liability claims. They can occur on wet floors, uneven pavements, or due to poorly maintained property.
  • Retail Accidents – Accidents occurring in shops or commercial spaces, often due to falling objects, spills, or unsafe displays.
  • Restaurant and Bar Injuries – Injuries sustained in restaurants and bars, such as burns from hot food or drinks, or slips due to spilled liquids.
  • Injuries at Public Events – Accidents at events like concerts, sports games, or festivals, often due to overcrowding, inadequate security, or poor venue maintenance.
  • Dog Bites and Animal Attacks – Claims arising from injuries caused by animals, typically in public spaces or on private property where the animal should have been restrained.
  • Injuries in Public Spaces – Accidents occurring in parks, on streets, or in other public areas, often due to poor maintenance or hazards like potholes or broken equipment.
  • School and Childcare Accidents – Injuries to children in schools or childcare settings, often due to inadequate supervision or unsafe premises.

What is Public Liability Insurance?

Public Liability Insurance is a type of insurance policy designed to protect governmental organisations, businesses, and property owners from financial losses due to legal claims made against them by third parties. Public Liability Insurance covers the organisation or individual’s legal costs and any compensation awarded, up to the policy limit. This insurance is essential for organisations and businesses that interact regularly with the public, such as local councils, retail stores, restaurants, and event organisers, as it helps safeguard against the potentially high costs associated with legal claims. It’s a crucial component of risk management, providing peace of mind and financial protection against unforeseen incidents.

Is it compulsory to have Public Liability Insurance in Ireland?

While it’s not mandatory, obtaining Public Liability Insurance is essential for anyone conducting business in Ireland as well as any organisations that are responsible for the upkeep of local services such as parks, swimming pools, and healthcare facilities. While the law does not mandate this insurance across the board, certain industries or professions might require it as part of their regulatory or licensing requirements. For instance, event organisers, venues, and certain contractors often need to have Public Liability Insurance in place. Additionally, landlords and owners of public spaces might require tenants or businesses operating within their premises to have such insurance. Not having Public Liability Insurance can expose organisations to significant financial risk in the event of a claim.

Can I bring a public liability claim if the defendant does not have Public Liability Insurance?

Yes, you can bring a public liability claim even if the defendant does not have this type of insurance. The claim is made against the defendant for their alleged negligence, regardless of their insurance status. However, the absence of insurance may affect the defendant’s ability to pay any compensation awarded, potentially complicating the process of receiving a settlement if the claim is successful.

Are there time limits for bringing a public liability claim in Ireland?

The time limit for bringing a public liability claim is two years from the date of the accident or the date when the injured party became aware of the injury. This time frame is stipulated under the Statute of Limitations. It’s important for potential claimants to be aware of this deadline, as failing to initiate legal proceedings within this period typically means the claim cannot be pursued.

I have sustained an injury in a public place. What do I need to bring a successful public liability claim?

To bring a successful claim, the claimant must generally establish several key elements:

  • Duty of Care – The claimant must prove that the defendant (the organisation or individual being sued) owed them a duty of care. This means the defendant had a legal obligation to ensure the claimant’s safety in the context of the incident.
  • Breach of Duty – The claimant needs to demonstrate that the defendant breached this duty of care. This involves showing that the defendant did not take reasonable steps to prevent foreseeable harm.
  • Causation – It must be established that the defendant’s breach of duty directly caused the claimant’s injury or loss. The claimant needs to prove that their injury or damage would not have occurred if it weren’t for the defendant’s negligence.
  • Damages – The claimant must have suffered actual harm, injury, or damage because of the defendant’s actions or inaction. This can include physical injuries, property damage, financial losses, or other forms of harm.
  • Evidence – Solid evidence supporting these elements is crucial. This can include witness statements, medical reports, photographs or videos of the incident, accident reports, and other relevant documentation.

A successful claim hinges on the claimant’s ability to convincingly argue and prove these points. Legal counsel is often essential in navigating the complexities of such claims.

Have you sustained an injury in a public place?

If you have sustained an injury in a public setting, and you believe negligence by a third party is the cause of your injury, you may have the grounds to bring a public liability claim. Call us on 1800 390 555 and an experienced member of staff will discuss your situation and potential next steps. You can also email info@mccarthy.ie and we will get back to you as soon as we can.

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is a seasoned solicitor with almost 20 years of experience, specialises in personal injury and medical negligence claims, focusing particularly on high-value compensation cases. His extensive litigation experience spans Circuit Court, High Court and Supreme Court levels. John's practice involves a diverse range of cases, from personal injury and wrongful death to property damage, defective products, professional negligence and judicial reviews.

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