What constitutes an 'obvious risk' in a QLD public liability claim?

Published 31 Aug 2017

Practice Area: Slip & Fall Public Liability Claims

If you have an accident in a public place or on a private property, you may me be entitled to damages. Public liability claims ensure that people who are injured due to the negligence of an individual or organisation can receive compensation to cover any economic or non-economic losses they suffer as a result.

Public liability legislation is complex, however, and plaintiffs must prove that the organisation or individual owed them a duty of care and this obligation was breached, resulting in harm to the claimant.

Moreover, a defendant can limit their liability if they show that an 'obvious risk' caused the plaintiff's injuries. While Section 13 of the Civil Liability Act 2003 outlines the meaning of an obvious risk, the matter is still often contended when a case reaches the courtroom.

What the law says about obvious risk

The Act reads that an obvious risk is one that "in the circumstances, would have been obvious to a reasonable person in the position of that person". The wording is open to interpretation and judges may differ on what they define as 'obvious' in accordance with the legislation.

Section 13 further claims that obvious risks are ones that are "patent" or a "matter of common knowledge". Risks can have a low probability of occurring and still be considered obvious, and they don't have to be physically observable or conspicuous.

Importantly, organisations or individuals do not owe a duty to plaintiffs to caution them of obvious risks. This means any claims that hinge on the defendant failing to provide adequate signage or other warnings may struggle to convince a judge if the risk is ruled to be obvious.

Fighting a public liability claim in court

Each case is unique and the courts will take into account various factors when deciding on issues of liability. The law may seem confusing, which is why plaintiffs should enlist the services of an experienced personal injury lawyer to help them untangle the complexities of their case.

Some accidents may involve obvious risks in conjunction with contributory negligence. In other words, claimants may have been partially at fault for their own injuries, such as slipping on a wet floor because they weren't looking where they were going or missed clear warning signs.

If you'd like to know more about Queensland public liability laws and personal injury claims, please contact Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers today.