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What is a public liability claim?

Here at The Compensation Experts, we aim to get you the compensation you deserve. If you’ve suffered an accident in a public space, you might be eligible to make a public liability claim.

We are a claims management company and receive payment from our partnered law firms. If your free claim assessment is successful, you will be connected to a specialist law firm.

What is public liability?

When an accident occurs in a public space, it falls under public liability and public space injuries.

What is a public space? It’s a space that a public entity like a local authority is responsible for. So, if you have an accident on the street, the roads or in a park, you may be able to make a public liability claim. 

However, it’s important to note that personal injuries caused by accidents in shops and supermarkets do not fall under public liability. Instead, they fall under private space liability claims as they are privately owned, placing responsibility on the owner.

What is a public liability claim injury?

The most common type of public liability claims are accidents relating to trips, slips, and falls. These accidents usually happen when you’re walking on the pavement, the road or down public footpaths in parks. They’re often caused by potholes or defects in the ground that lead to a fall.

There are certain rules that apply if you want to make a claim for tripping on a pothole or a defect in a pavement or road. On a pavement, a pothole or defect must be at least an inch deep or raised. Whereas on the road, this is increased to at least 2 inches deep and at least 12 inches wide.

But public liability claims aren’t just limited to trips, slips, and falls. Falling objects are also a contributing factor to the number of public liability claims made each year. If public works are being carried out and you’re injured by a falling object, the responsibility will lie with the council unless it occurred on private property.

Other things that might lead to a public liability claim could include obstructions in the road or pavement, as well as negligence on the part of the council in relation to maintaining any public space.

Public liability claim examples

A variety of things can happen that might lead to someone making a public liability claim, but when it comes to public liability claim examples, a common occurrence is the following:

If an individual is walking along a high street with uneven pavement and suffers a trip, slip or fall, they could suffer a leg or ankle injury. As the high street is a public space, they could then make a public liability claim against the council.

Further public liability claim examples could include trips, slips and falls in other areas or being hit by a falling object while work is taking place in a public space. Whatever the case, if you suffer an injury in a public space due to the negligence of others you can make a public liability claim.

Here are examples of some of the claims lawyers within our network have recently won:

  • £1,000’s for a cyclist who collided with a pothole and was thrown over the handlebars.
  • £7,500 for a retiree using crutches who slipped on a ramp at night when the automatic light failed to come on.
  • £15,500 for an 83-year-old client who fell to the floor when the chair she was a bot to sit on moved suddenly. 
  • £3,637 for a client who tripped over a pothole while crossing the road.
  • £4,469 for a client who, when stepping out of his van, twisted his ankle causing soft tissue damage in a large pothole.

What is the public liability of local authorities?

The Highways Act 1980 states that local authorities are responsible for keeping all roads and footpaths safe for pedestrian use. If someone tells your council that there is damage to a road, pavement or footpath, they must repair it within six months of being notified.

While keeping all roads and pavements marble-smooth at all times is both unnecessary and impractical, a council has a legal duty to repair any damage that occurs to their surfaces, and they must do this by making repairs within six months of being notified of any risk.

If a local council does not do this and someone has an accident, then you can make a public liability claim against the council.

How we determine an at-fault party

To secure the compensation you deserve for your accident, your solicitor needs to determine who’s to blame.

This is how they do that:

  • Gather evidence: Your solicitor gathers as much detail as possible about your accident to use as evidence. This includes your own account of what happened, any photographs you took as well as witness statements. Read more about the type of evidence required later on this page.
  • Investigate the accident site: If appropriate, your solicitor or a professional they engage with will investigate the scene to better understand the conditions at the time of your accident. 
  • Establish duty of care responsibility: We then check on who owns the land you had your accident on. From that, we can then establish who was responsible for maintaining it.
  • Review legal precedent: It’s important to review past cases, too, as the legal systems in the UK use “precedence” as a guidepost to determining who is responsible for an accident and how much should be awarded in compensation.
  • Seek expert opinions: Your solicitor may also seek our expert opinions on your accident, its circumstances and where it happened if it will strengthen your case further.

When your public liability claim lawyer has concluded who is legally at fault, then they begin to build your legal case for compensation.

What if your accident did not happen on public property?

It may be that, after your solicitor has investigated your accident, they may conclude that it did not happen on public property.

If that’s the case, there are other legal avenues you can pursue including:

  • Private liability claim: If you had a trip, fall or accident in a supermarket or a shop, you may be able to make a private liability compensation claim.
  • Landlord negligence: Landlords have a duty of care to protect tenants. If you’ve reported a defect in your property and they’ve done nothing about it and it later caused an accident, you may be able to claim compensation.
  • Workplace accident: Your employer could be liable to pay workplace accident compensation to you if you slip, fall or injure yourself when performing your job.
  • Product liability: You could pursue a product liability claim if you were injured in your home by a faulty product like a pair of ladders.

Get in touch with The Compensation Experts and our panel of solicitors will determine whether you have a case.

What we consider as part of your public liability claim

When the solicitors in our network contact the council or other public sector body about your accident on your behalf, they’ll begin an assessment of liability and calculate compensation that may be owed.

The level of compensation they secure is based on a number of factors including:

  • Loss of income: If your accident prevents you from going to work, this needs to be reflected in your award. This includes loss of future income, particularly if you can’t return to your previous job.
  • Care and rehabilitation costs: Although the NHS will be able to help you with much of your care and rehabilitation, you may require specialist care that the NHS doesn’t offer like physiotherapy and psychological support. In some cases, compensation will also pay for any modifications you need to make to your home.
  • Pain and suffering: An important part of your claim, this is payment for damage related to physical discomfort and emotional distress that the accident caused you.
  • Related expenses: This can include costs related to getting to and from healthcare appointments and support provided by friends, family and professional caregivers.

You are unique and so is your accident. The solicitors on our panel take every possible step to make sure you receive a fair and just settlement that reflects the severity for the injuries you’ve suffered.  

Evidence you’ll need to make a public liability claim?

Like all personal injury claims, your solicitor will need evidence that another party was responsible for your injury in order to prove and win your public liability claim.

Evidence you can collect to strengthen your public liability claim includes:

  • Reporting the accident to the authorities as soon as you can.
  • Making a note of your accident in an accident book if one is available.
  • Taking down the names and addresses of witnesses to the accident.
  • Photographing the area in which the accident happened.
  • Measuring the height and width of a pothole responsible for your injury.

When you have an accident due to a defect in the road or pavement, it’s particularly important that you take photos of the defect. This will help with your case, as it can be proof of the defect in a claim.

If possible, you should gather information on how long the defect has been there, how often the local council repairs defects and if other people have had accidents in the same place. If the accident was previously reported, how long did it take the council to fix the defect and did they actually fix it?

It’s important that you report the defect to the council so that they are aware of the defect. However, if you wish to make a personal injury claim, you should not try and claim directly with the council. This is because if you have already tried to claim from the council, and they deny liability, then it is unlikely that they will accept liability if you start a personal injury claim.

What to do if you think you’re eligible to claim

If you’ve suffered an accident in a public space that wasn’t your fault, there’s a good chance that you can make a public liability claim.

And the first step is to get in touch with our team here at The Compensation Experts. We work closely with solicitors who have years of experience with winning public liability claims.

Once you’re paired with a solicitor that most meets your needs, they’ll walk you through the claims process, help you to gather evidence, and give you an indication of how much you could claim for. You might even be able to make a no win, no fee claim*.

Get in touch with our team when you’re ready and see how we can help you.


*Conditions may apply


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