The consequences if someone is injured on your property

Whether you are a homeowner, landlord or renter you may be liable for damages and even legal costs if someone injures themselves while on your property.

 

What is occupier’s liability?

When someone enters your property it is reasonable for them to expect that they will not be hurt or injured. As the owner or occupier of a property you have a responsibility to maintain a safe environment for anyone who comes onto the property.

 

What am I liable for? 

Exactly what you are liable for may depend on a range of factors including but not limited to whom the visitor was, whether there was something inherently unsafe about the property and whether you are the owner of the property or were renting the property when the injury or accident occurred.

If someone is injured you may be found to be liable for their medical costs, lost wages or business earnings, damages to compensate them for their pain and suffering and even their legal costs.

Even claims for seemingly small injuries can add up to a large sum quickly so it pays to stay on top of both home and property maintenance and to take out appropriate and adequate insurance to protect yourself

 

A cautionary tale

If someone is injured on your property a Court may find that you are liable for their injuries and the damages that flow from that injury even if the person whom is injured was a tradesperson that you were paying to carry out work on your property.

Such was the case in the Queensland case of Annette Leith Hay Hancock v Michelle Francis & David Charles Johnson. In that matter, Mr Hancock, a 61 year old gardener, sustained a significant injury to his leg while pruning trees when he fell through a metal cover that was placed over a water tank on property owned by Mr and Mrs Johnson.

Initially Mr Hancock’s injuries did not seem too severe. However, he later developed a blood clot in his injured leg and that clot resulted in a pulmonary embolism that eventually caused his death. Mr Hancock’s widow bought a claim against Mr and Mrs Johnson.

The Court found that as owners and occupiers of the property, Mr and Mrs Johnson were liable for the injury that caused Mr Hancock’s death, and that it was reasonable for them to have expected that someone like Mr Hancock or another tradesperson would come onto the property from time to time, and that they had a responsibility to take reasonable steps to avoid exposing those entering the property to risk of injury. This decision was later upheld by the Queensland Court of Appeal.

 

What if the property is rented?

Even if you are only renting a property you (as well as the property owner) may be found liable if someone is injured whilst on the property. This is called occupiers liability.

Even if you are the tenant and the owner of a property responsible for the general maintenance of the property you still owe a general duty of care to people who come onto the property.

If you are renting a property it is important to check the terms of your lease (residential or commercial) to ensure you understand your obligations under the lease including any obligation to take out appropriate public and/or occupier’s liability cover.

 

Will my home and contents insurance policy cover me for accidents on the property?

Most public liability insurance policies provide a policy holder with cover for injuries sustained by a visitor on their property.

You may be pleasantly surprised by how wide your household insurance policy is and what will be covered under the public liability component of such policy.

As the extent of the cover provided will vary from policy to policy it is important to read the full product disclosure statement for any insurance policy carefully to ensure that you are aware of the extent of any coverage as well as the limits of your policy.

 

I was injured at a friend’s house what should I do?

If you have been injured at a friend’s house you may be reluctant to sue your friend even if your injuries are significant.

However, if they have a household insurance policy they may be covered for exactly the type of accident that has caused your injury. For example, if you were standing on their balcony and it collapsed it is likely that their home and contents insurance policy would have public liability cover that would cover your friend if you were to make a claim for damages.

As a first step ask your friend if they have any home insurance. If you are not comfortable asking your friend it would be a good idea to speak to a lawyer who will be able to make the enquiries on your behalf.

If you have any questions about the extent of any insurance cover you have or if you have been injured and think that the owner or occupier may have relevant insurance it is always sensible to consult a lawyer sooner rather than later as statutory time limits may apply to any claims.

It is also important to seek legal advice if you are the owner or occupier of a property as soon as possible as a delay in notifying your insurer could potentially lead to a claim on your policy being declined because of prejudice caused by the delay in notification.

If you or someone you know wants more information or needs help or advice, please contact us on 07 5538 2766 or email jeff@dwyerlaw.com.au today and please ask about our No Win No Fee policy.

 

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