Leicestershire councils fight off injury claim
It has emerged that a dog owner has failed to win a compensation claim, after he alleged that his pet was hurt after it fell down a hole.
The personal injury claim was denied because the judge said it would be impossible to hear evidence from the injured party – in this case it being an animal.
The claim may have been unsuccessful, but it is an example of the thousands of accident claims many councils hear each year.
Many of the claims were from people who had slipped, or tripped on paths and pavements and drivers who claimed their vehicles were damaged because of poorly maintained roads and potholes.
As a result, nearly £700,000 was paid out by Leicestershire city and its county councils, following claims of professional negligence in 2009.
The city council faced a hefty bill of £645,000 last year, whilst the county council was forced to shell out £52,000 in claimant cases.
Councils get tough
Both authorities however noted that whilst they were witnessing a growing rise in no win no fee claims , they were also having increasing success in defending cases and pointed to a drop in pay-outs over recent years.
City council claims manager Brian Brookes said: “If we get a claim where the council has been proved to be negligent, we hold our hand up and pay out as quickly as possible because people need the money, especially if they have been off work.
“Lots of people believe the council will be a soft touch. They are wrong about that. We get all sorts of claims. We had a woman who wanted £6 from us because she caught her blouse on a bus stop and tore it.”
He used the current compensation claim as an example of the cases they receive: “We had a man who wanted compensation because he said his dog had fallen down a hole and been hurt. That went to court and the judge threw it out because he needed evidence from the injured party.
“Some of the claims do make you smile, but it is a serious business because it involves public money. If we think a claim is a bad one we will contest it. We have a good record, too. In the past five years, we had 63 court cases and we've won 60.”
In an attempt to get tough on claims and reduce them, Brookes said that both councils have investigation teams charged with spotting the fraudulent cases from the genuine ones.
Mr Brookes stated a man recently took the council to court wanting £4,000 after tripping. He brought a witness to court and both said they did not know each other but the council was able to prove, by searching on a social networking site, that they did, prompting the judge to dismiss the case.
Mr Brookes added: “That was a good day's work which saved the council about £30,000. The man wanted £4,000. His solicitors' fees were £20,000 and our's were £7,500, which they now have to pay us back.”
In 2008, the city forked out £652,000, while the county paid out £293,000 and £153,000 in the same years. Councillor Brian Page, County Hall's cabinet member for resources, expressed his anger and frustration over the compensation culture.
He said: “If someone sees their friend is claiming against us they will do the same because they are told by lawyers it will not cost them anything if they lose.
“If we are found to be at fault, we have to cough up, but each year we are paying out less because our investigators are experienced professionals.”