Injured on a public playground: can I make a claim for compensation?


Accidents can happen when you least expect it.

Catherine was at a local playground with her young daughter one afternoon. When her daughter refused to come down off a high platform, Catherine walked up some playground steps to collect her, only to have a step below her give way, her foot fall through and a subsequent fractured ankle and torn knee ligament.

After Catherine returned home from hospital that night, her partner went down to the park and took some photos of the broken step, while Catherine phoned the Council’s after-hours number to alert them of the dangerous and now broken step. When her husband arrived home, he told Catherine that he had noticed other parts of the playground that were also wobbly and dangerous. He phoned the Council the next day to inform them of what he had seen that night, but they dismissed the claim that the playground was posing a risk to users.

What is public property?

Public property is any property not owned by a private individual or a company. It includes premises owned by the government or council, such as:

  • Public parks
  • Public schools
  • Footpaths
  • Playgrounds
  • Ovals and sporting fields

If you have been injured on public property and your injury could have been prevented if safer measures had been taken to protect you, then you may have a public liability claim for personal injury compensation. Common claims for injuries sustained on public property include events such as slips and falls, and unsafe surfaces or structures resulting in injuries such as loose materials falling or causing preventable injuries in other ways.

What Catherine did next

In the weeks following the incident, Catherine’s ankle was recovering in a cast, but further scans on her knee revealed that surgery was required to repair the ligament tear, and months of rehabilitation were ahead of her. The Council had in the meantime organised for a replacement playground to be installed, but Catherine was still in pain and was out of pocket for a lot of costs.

She consulted a lawyer who requested for the council to provide documentation about the playground and its conformity with Australian Standards. When the council did not send through documentation, Catherine and her lawyer brought a claim against the Council for her pain and suffering, past and future medical expenses, and wage loss.               

Public liability essentially refers to a duty of care a person or organisation has over a public space or a space being used for a public event. Law requires councils and businesses to hold a current public liability insurance policy. Therefore, when Catherine brought her claim against the Council, she was actually bringing the claim against the Council’s insurance company

What to do if you injure yourself on public property:

  1. Ensure you seek medical treatment. Make sure you give your doctor the full details of the incident.
  2. Report the injury to local council as soon as you can.  If possible, report the injury in writing and keep a copy of the letter or email and any responses received. If the council fills in an incident report form, obtain a copy of this document if you can.
  3. Record details of the incident such as:
    • The time of day, the weather and any witnesses’ details that you have obtained.
    • The address of where the injury happened
    • Any details about the relevant council.
    • Photographs of the area, print a copy of them, date them and place an X at the exact location of the fall.
  4. Keep records of:
    • Emails, texts or postal mail with anyone involved with the incident.
    • Medical treatment, any time off work and receipts for any out-of-pocket expenses relating to the injury.

Please note that there are strict time limits applied to these types of compensation claims, known as a Public Liability Claim, and they vary depending upon the state or territory your claim is lodged within. It is important to seek professional legal advice as early as possible if you are at all unsure of how to proceed. This will ensure that your claim is lodged correctly and on time.

Talk to us

Gordon Legal are the team of legal experts specialising in compensation law and helping individuals to claim what they need to rest and recover from an injury they have sustained in a public place.

Our team have unrivalled experience in handling Public Liability matters, and we’ll always talk straight with you about how to handle your claim, and answer any questions you might have along the way.

If you want advice about whether you may have a claim, contact us on 1300 56 50 16 to talk to one of our expert lawyers today.


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