Does being drunk affect a public liability claim?

Published 20 Mar 2018

Practice Area: Slip & Fall Public Liability Claims

Australians enjoy the occasional tipple and Queenslanders aren't the exception to the rule.

According to the Foundation for Alcohol Research & Education, Queenslanders may only be the fourth-largest consumers of alcohol in the country at 83.2 per cent of the population. But the state's residents ranked first in Australia for the proportion of people who drink mainly to get drunk (47 per cent).

Consuming alcohol can lead to injuries, and Queensland Health data shows there were 37,000 intoxication-related hospitalisations in 2013-14.

But what happens when someone has drunk alcohol and then sustained injuries due to someone else's negligence? Are they still entitled to compensation under public liability laws?

Let's examine the relevant legislation to see whether or not you can claim for accidents when alcohol is involved.

What is the relevant liability law?

The Civil Liability Act 2003 (QLD) provides the guidance that courts follow when personal injury claims go before a judge. Section 47 of the Act outlines the rules that should be applied if the claimant who suffered harm was found to be intoxicated.

Specifically, there is a presumption of contributory negligence on the plaintiff's behalf if they were drunk when the injury occurred. Contributory negligence means the individual is partly at fault for the injuries they sustained during an incident, resulting in a reduction in any awards of damage they may receive.

Alcohol-related contributory negligence has a minimum reduction of 25 per cent, but courts have the power to increase this on a case-by-case basis.

For car accident compensation claims, the minimum discount is 50 per cent in certain circumstances, such as when the driver was so inebriated they could not effectively control their vehicle.

Are there any exceptions for contributory negligence?

Plaintiffs can rebut the presumption of contributory negligence in alcohol-related claims if they can show:

  • Their intoxication was not a factor in the defendant's duty of care breach; or
  • The inebriation was not self-induced, such as when a drink is spiked.

However, most plaintiffs can expect at least a 25 per cent reduction in the amount of compensation they receive if alcohol was a key contributor to their accident.

This does not necessarily negate the value of making a public liability claim. Individuals may still be entitled to substantial damages if they have sustained serious injuries.

Talk to an expert personal injury lawyer at Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers to discuss your case and find out whether you could be eligible for a payout.