Not-for-profit Law
Legal help for community organisations

Negligence, accidents and incidents

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Your community organisation will need to consider your duty of care, and the standard of care you need to meet, when providing services to your clients or the public.

A community organisation may be liable (legally responsible) for a breach of a duty of care, which results in damage (eg. injury, property damage or financial loss) to person to whom the duty is owed. There are a number of legal tests that must be satisfied before your organisation will be held liable for negligence.

While negligence claims against community organisations are rare, your organisation should look to operate in a way that reduces the risk of injury or loss to your clients and the public. You should also look at getting appropriate insurance coverage to protect you from liability in the event of any unforeseen incidents and unavoidable risks.

If you think your organisation has been negligent, you should seek legal advice about its potential liability.

The following fact sheet provides an overview of negligence, including:

  • how a duty of care arises
  • liability for acts or omissions 
  • risk management, and
  • sources of negligence law.

Accidents and incidents

Accidents and incidents are sometimes unavoidable (but sometimes they could have been avoided if a proper risk assessment had been done, discussed in the Risk Management and Insurance Guide).

It is important for your organisation to take appropriate steps when accidents and incidents occur.  These steps can include:

  • properly investigating and documenting the incident
  • taking appropriate steps to minimise the chance of the incident happening again
  • keeping a register of incidents, and considering reporting on accidents or incidents to the board
  • responding to any complaints or allegations of liability or negligence appropriately (you may need to get legal advice)
  • notifying insurers if necessary
  • meeting any workplace health and safety requirements
  • notifying any other people who are required to be notified (this may be in a contract), and
  • implementing and reviewing policies and procedures around incidents and accidents.

For some information about how to respond to incident and accidents, see the OHS page. Also review the checklist below, and take any relevant steps:

Extra resources

Australian Human Rights Commission Vicarious Liability Fact Sheet

This fact sheet contains guidance and resources for employers to prevent discrimination and harassment in the workplace.

Volunteering Australia’s Risk Management Guide

This guide provides a step by step outline of the risk management planning process and includes a number of tools (risk register, risk treatment schedule and risk action plan).

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