Public Liability Claims

Strata Property and Apartment Buildings

Strata Property and Apartment Buildings

An owners corporation for a strata scheme of an apartment block must properly maintain and keep in state of good and serviceable repair the common property and any personal property vested in the owners corporation. Therefore, if you have been injured on the common or personal property of a strata scheme you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries and losses.

What should I do after an injury on the common or personal property of a strata scheme?

It is important that you do following at the time or as soon as possible after you are injured on the common or personal property of an owners corporation or strata scheme: 

  • focus on your injury

Seek first aid if necessary. Even a minor injury can become a lifelong condition without proper initial medical treatment.

Request for an ambulance to be called or attend an emergency department, if necessary. 

At this stage, it is best to forget about any potential compensation claim you may have as a result your incident and concentrate on your health.

  • get the names and contact details of any witnesses to your incident

If anyone witnessed your incident, you should speak to them and get their name and contact details.

An independent and unbiased version of events from a person or persons who witnessed your incident and how it occurred but have no interest in your compensation claim will be of great assistance to your claim and collaborating your evidence and version of events.

  • report your incident

You must tell the representatives of the owners corporation [i.e., committee members] where your incident occurred and what caused your incident and your injuries. It is best to report your incident in writing so that there is a paper trail.

Some strata schemes are managed by strata managers, and, also, engage “caretakers” to take care of and maintain the common or personal property vested in the owners corporation. It is best to, also, report your incident to these persons.

Request that an “incident report” be completed and request a copy for your records.

The question of who is to blame for your injuries is best avoided at this stage. Even if you blame yourself, or if the person you report the incident to blames you for the incident, this does not mean that you do not have a claim for compensation.

  • take photos and video of the area of your incident and of what caused your incident

Contemporaneous evidence of the site of the incident location and circumstances that led to your injuries provide invaluable assistance to the preparation of a public liability compensation claim. You can never have too much evidence, and if ever in doubt it is better to take a photo or make a record of it.

 – Example

If you slipped going down the steps of the entry/exit to your apartment building because the surface of the steps was slippery and the step did not have an appropriate nosings, you should take photographs or video of the step where you slipped as well as the surrounding area and your injuries.

  • locate any prior complaints made to the owners corporation or strata manager or caretaker

If you made prior complaints to the committee members of the owners corporation or strata manager or caretaker, locate these complaints and put them into a chronological order [i.e., a timeline]. This will be invaluable evidence in demonstrating that the owners corporation or strata manger or caretaker had the requisite knowledge of the hazard prior to your incident but failed act in response to it and take appropriate precautions to eliminate it.

You may, also, want to make enquires with your neighbours as to whether any of them made any relevant prior complaints to the owners corporation or strata manager or caretake, and, if they have, request a copy of their complaints [i.e., emails or letters or text messages].

  • make your own record of the circumstances of your incident as well as of all your symptoms

It is important that you keep an up-to-date list of your all your symptoms, whether on paper, computer or your smartphone.

Treatment providers do not often record all your symptoms and complaints and often concentrate on what is serious at the time of the consultation. The passage of time can make what seemed like a minor injury in the initial post incident period a long-term debilitating condition. If there is no record of such injury or associated symptoms in your treating clinical notes, it will be difficult to attribute this injury to the incident. In the alternative, you can record video footage of you discussing your symptoms.

  • go to your general practitioner or hospital or other treatment providers

You may have already been to see your general practitioner or received hospital treatment, however, you need to listen to your body and attend on your general practitioner or hospital or psychologist or other treatment providers as many times as you think fit. This is important, as if, for example, you only sought medical treatment once, the defendant or insurer to your claim will argue that you do not suffer from any ongoing problems or disabilities, because if you did you would have sought frequent medical treatment.

What duty is owed by the owners corporation and when will he ownerscorporation of a strata scheme be negligent?

The owners of the strata scheme and/or the strata manager and/or the caretaker [depending on the contractual arrangements between them] will usually be liable for an incident resulting in injuries which arise out of known or suspected defects of the common or personal property vested in the owners corporation.

The question of whether an owners corporation has discharged its duties of maintenance and repair is judged by whether an ordinary person in its position:

  • would or should have known that there was any risk of injury [i.e., a risk of injury to you],
  • whether that person, in the position of the owners corporation would or should have known of steps or precautions that could be taken in response to that risk [i.e., what could be done to avoid or minimise the risk], and
  • the reasonableness of taking such steps or precautions to avoid the risk of injury.

There is also a statutory duty imposed on the owners corporation to:

  • maintain and keep in a state of good and serviceable repair the common property and any personal property vested in the owners corporation,
  •  renew or replace any fixtures or fittings, and
  • prepare and maintain a maintenance schedule, which must contain maintenance and inspection schedules for a thing that is on common property if the maintenance and inspection is reasonably required to avoid damage to the thing or prevent it from failing to function properly [i.e., replacement of light bulbs to ensure adequate illumination].

What are examples of preventable incidents involving common or personal property of a strata scheme for which I can claim compensation?

Examples of preventable causes of incidents involving the common or personal property of a strata scheme include:

  • improperly positioned or missing floor mats in the common property at location such as entrance and exits or those that are prone to become slippery from time to time.
  • slippery floors from leaks and spills, such leaking roofs, or other causes.
  • faulty entrance and exit doors and elevators.
  • stairway or walkway obstructions from things left by other tenants which can act as tripping hazards.
  • cracked and uneven floor surfaces or pavements.
  • defective or improperly constructed premises, such as steps or stairwells not containing handrails or stair nosings.
  • inherently slippery floor surfaces due to wear and tear and lack of maintenance or installation of an inappropriate floor surface.
  • unidentified or not highlighted tripping or slipping hazards, such as parking stoppers or other height differentials.
  • inadequate illumination [i.e., lighting].
  • unclear and not well-placed signage to highlight any problem areas or hazards.

Contact us today, and start with a free consultation by “Make a Booking” to receive our preliminary expert advice.  

Key Contact .

Jonathan Coyle
Founding Partner
Laura Green
Special Counsel