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County council hit by 'claim culture'
MORE than 3,300 people have claimed compensation from Worcestershire County Council over the last four years – costing taxpayers £1.7 million in payouts.
Incidents in schools, people falling over in council buildings or on pavements, and damage to motorists’ cars on county roads are just some examples of a growing compensation culture in the county.
Personal injuries – incidents where someone has hurt themselves – made up £1.5m of the total payout bill.
In one case, a young boy at a county primary school fell off the stage during a play, broke his back and hip and secured a “hefty” pay-out.
Your Worcester News can also reveal how the figure would have soared even higher, had the council not managed to successfully reject 73 per cent of the claims.
The findings have ignited concerns of a compensation culture gone mad, as so many claims were thrown out.
We can also reveal a staggering 500 claims dating back from 2009 to last month are still unsettled, meaning the bill could rise.
The county council says it will not give specific details on cases won or lost, partly due to concerns it could lead to copy-cat claims.
But of the 3,335 claims between 2009 to 2013, 903 were for personal injury, such as a teacher falling over in school or a driver suffering whiplash after swerving on a poorly maintained road.
The remaining 2,432 claims were for damage to vehicles or property, of which car damage makes up a significant proportion.
The average personal injury pay-out since 2009 was £11,000, while for vehicle or building damage it was around £750.
A spokesman for the Taxpayers Alliance said: “This is a huge bill and suggests a compensation culture that is getting out of hand at taxpayers’ expense.
“These claims not only involve wasting money on pay-outs but also exorbitant legal fees that are often far higher.
“The council must resist frivolous claims to ensure taxpayers are protected from chancers and their unscrupulous lawyers looking to take advantage.”
One those to lose a claim is Derek Jones, 54, of Norton, near Worcester who went over a pothole in nearby Church Lane last year, damaging his Kia Cee'd.
He said: “It cost me £165 to put right, and to this day I’ve no idea why I didn’t get my money.”
Councillor Philip Gretton, who chairs the county council’s watchdog-style audit committee, said: “All the claims are managed with due diligence and on a case-by-case basis.”
Councillor Adrian Hardman, the leader, said: “The fact the figures have fallen show we are getting on top of it, but I’m disappointed we still have so many coming in.
“In cases where we are liable of course we must pay but the odd people do try it on.”
The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers says there are “misconceptions” about people faking it.
Deborah Evans, the chief executive, said: “The fact is, not every bump and bruise results in compensation, despite some misconceptions.”
WORCESTERSHIRE’S TALE OF COMPENSATION Total claims settled defended ongoing* 2009/10 1,347 312 1,010 25 2010/11 830 152 651 27 2011/12 412 65 306 41 2012/13 746 76 459 211 * The ongoing claims include around 300 so far in 2013/14.
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