Most public building owners and sectional title bodies corporate have relatively inexpensive insurance policies protecting them from public liability claims. Thus, for example, should a visitor (as happened some time ago in Gauteng) slip and injure himself on newly polished stairs in a sectional title block, the body corporate could legitimately refer the injury and medical expense to their insurers.
It is vitally important that bodies corporate do have insurance policies of this kind, because it is only too easy for the infirm and elderly to be injured in a building and the absence of a handrail, the fact that stairs are steep or that a door closed quickly can be pointed to as the effective cause of the accident even when 98 out of 100 people have had no undue difficulties in negotiating that section of the building.
A case on public liability claims
A recent High Court case has also shown that it is important to register the accident and the possible claim as quickly as possible.
In this case, a shop assistant tripped over an electric cable and was hurt. His claim was referred by the shop owners to their cleaners whom they blamed for leaving the cable exposed. The cleaners then claimed on their public liability policy.
However, as this claim was made two years after the incident, the court took the view that the delay had invalidated it.
How to protect yourself from public liability claims
With this in mind, we advise that when an accident occurs in any building, you, the insured, must notify your insurers as quickly as possible. It may well happen that injuries which at first seemed fairly minor develop complications which, in time, can detract seriously from the injured person’s lifestyle. The chances of a public liability claim being successful will be greatly improved if the insurers have been kept informed all along the line of the symptoms and the treatment.
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