Can I claim for compensation against lifeguards?

Published 01 Jan 2018

Waterways in Australia can be extremely dangerous. The Royal Lifesaving Society (RLS) recorded 280 drowning deaths in 2015-16, nearly one-quarter of which occurred on beaches.

Lifeguards provide a valuable service in Queensland by protecting swimmers from hazards and saving lives when people become distressed in the water. But what happens if you believe a lifeguard or the organisation they represent has been negligent, leading to you sustaining injuries?

People may be hesitant to pursue compensation in these situations; however, everyone is entitled to damages when negligence has occurred. As such, claimants can make a public liability claim through the Personal Injuries Proceedings Act and the Civil Liability Act 2003.

Who is liable for my injury?

There are a number of lifeguarding associations that operate in the state. If you intend to make a claim, you must identify which entity was responsible for providing a duty of care in the area that the incident occurred.

Here is a list of lifeguarding services in Queensland, although it is by no means exhaustive:

The Australian Lifeguard Service (ALS): A national organisation that provides professional lifeguards to 65 local government authorities and land managers across the country. The ALS has a Queensland division.

Surf Life Saving Australia (SLSA): A non-profit community association that claims to be the country’s peak coastal water safety body. Surf Life Saving Queensland (SLSQ) is the SLSA’s dedicated branch in the state.

The RLS: An advocacy group that offers swimming safety courses and community-based education. The RLS also publishes the annual National Drowning Report and provides lifeguarding services in Queensland to aquatic centres, beaches, private swimming pools and other venues.

Lifeguard claims on the rise

Earlier this year, the Courier-Mail exclusively reported that SLSQ has seen a dramatic rise in the number of public liability claims made in Queensland.

The organisation has faced 32 accusations of negligence recently, with related settlements costing approximately $1 million. Ongoing cases are likely to see this figure increase to $1.5 million.

Queensland Law Society President Christine Smyth emphasised the importance of public liability claims, stating that people should be able to expect protection from injury.

“If there has been an increase in claims, SLSQ may need to consider reviewing its practices and venues to ensure they are safe and do not pose any unreasonable risk of injury,” she told the Mail.

Have you or a loved one hurt yourself while under a lifeguarding organisation’s duty of care? Contact Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers to see whether you are eligible for damages.

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