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More than 3,300 people badger council for compensation
MORE than 3,300 people have badgered Worcestershire County Council for compensation pay-outs over the last four years - costing taxpayers £1.7 million.
Accidents in schools, people falling over in council buildings or on pavements, and damage to motorists’ cars on county roads are just some examples of the county’s compensation culture.
Personal injuries - incidents where someone has hurt themselves - made up a shocking £1.5m of the total bill.
In one example a child fell of a stage during a school play and won a "considerable" pay-off after breaking his hip.
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 attempts to get pay-outs were thrown out.
It comes at a time when the county council is battling severe reductions in Government funding and needs to cut £98 million by 2017 to balance the books.
We can also reveal a staggering 500 claims dating back from 2009 to last month are still being negotiated on, meaning the bill is likely to 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 is £11,000, while for vehicle or building damage it is around £750.
A spokesman for the Taxpayers Alliance said: “The council has got to learn from these claims to make sure they don’t get repeated, because this is costing Worcestershire’s taxpayers a lot of money and it’s a real concern.
“It’s a staggering number of people after money, and shows just how keen people are to jump on the compensation culture.”
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 but others did.”
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.
“They are not automatically settled - a claims procedure has to be followed for each case and legal liability has to be proven by the claimant.
“Equally where the council does not have a defence claims are settled fairly and in accordance with the appropriate protocol.”
Councillor Adrian Hardman, the leader, said: "In cases where we are liable we've got to pay out.
"I'm glad to see we are keeping on top of it and defending so many, but it is a concern that the numbers remain quite high."
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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