Public Liability

Had an accident in public? Who should pay?

There are everyday risks all of us live with when out and about. Of course, the chances of us coming a cropper are low enough for us not to worry, but when misfortune strikes - whether it's a fall on the station steps, having hot coffee spilled on you or getting hit by a car - it's essential to know your rights, especially with regard to compensation.

Accidents can be sudden and life-changing, leading to time out of work, medical bills, physical ailments and even psychological distress. Do you have to foot the bill? Read on to find out.


Fault is the major consideration when considering a compensation claim. If you are in a car accident, under English law, you have to prove the other driver was at fault to successfully pursue compensation. To be at fault is, essentially, to cause an accident by acting in a manner that falls short of standard behaviour or regulation. So, for example, a driver who contravenes the Highway Code or electrician who fails to complete work to a suitable standard can be sued for compensation if they hit you at a roundabout or you get electrocuted when turning on a light.


If you are involved in an accident, it is often better if you are claiming from a business. They will almost certainly have insurance policies in place specifically to protect them in the event of accidents on their premises and in public.

While not compulsory, most businesses have public liability insurance to avoid having to make possibly ruinous pay outs to people who suffer injury or loss because of them. So whether you slip because a restaurant floor is wet or you are hurt by debris falling from a building site, you should be confident of getting compensated by a business.

But what if it isn't anyone else's fault?

Again, if you are in a car accident, or injured on holiday, you should be covered by your insurance policy though there are exceptions, and you should always check the wording. Look out especially for third party motor insurance, which only covers other people.

Making a claim

If you have insurance that covers you against an accident or the effects of it, it is usually the case that your insurer will pursue compensation on your behalf. If you aren't covered then you should speak to a reputable solicitors firm that deal with accidents and personal injury.

Steps to take

Witnesses and evidence

It can be hard to stay alert after an accident, so remembering the right things to do in the heat of the moment is tricky. That's why, if nothing else, you should get your phone out, take down any witness' numbers and take photos. The more the merrier.

The other party

The key details you need are those of the other party involved. For car accidents this is the driver, their driver's license, their registration number, their insurance details and, if applicable, their employer's name. In other instances it's people's names and addresses, while with businesses get the manager's name and the head office address.


If it's clearly the other party's fault, strike while the iron is hot. If you can, write down a brief statement and get them to sign it. In this world of smartphones, it's possible to get them to email you something similar or at least text it. This can be critical if they try to get out of things later on.


­You might not feel like you're affected by the accident but you should get a check-up. Things like whiplash can take some time to come one, while it can be days before you realise the full extent of your injuries.

Speak to experts

If you are serious about compensation then speak to people that know. Your insurer is a good place to start, while your doctor might also be able to help. If you need to go through legal channels then make sure the solicitors you speak to are reputable. Check the internet for reviews. Once you're speaking to the right people, they should give you a full run-down of what's what.

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