Local authorities inundated by expensive injury claims

Personal injury news roundup: 7 days ended 4th Sept 2012:

Personal injury solicitors have been working overtime lately when it comes to bringing injury claims against local authorities for hundreds of thousands of pounds in compensation – but some councils have had quite enough of that, thank you.

The big news this week was how much Northamptonshire County Council has had to pay out to injured council staff members over the past five years. Believe it or not, a recent Freedom of Information request has revealed that the total bill has been around £514,000 in compensation payments – more than £100,000 a year in personal injury compensation payments alone!

From 2006 to 2011, there were more than 50 injury claims made against the local authority, the figures indicate. Injuries paid out varied wildly – and some of these injuries seem a bit mad, such as the £5,500 paid out to a council employee that claimed they had developed spinal injuries after they wore an ill-fitting uniform and the £32,000 compensation payment made to a staff member who suffered a slip-and-trip in a dining hall after encountering some spilled food. Of course, the winner in the ‘largest award’ department was the council employee who was struck with a bit of wood on the knee by a pupil, causing enough serious damage to net the employee a massive £100,000 compensation award.

Local taxpayers were understandably up in arms after the massive payouts were revealed. However, a council spokesperson did his best to quell their rage by pointing out that the local authority took employee safety very seriously – and that only around 50 claims is a reasonable number, considering the council employs en excess of 15,000 staff.

However, not all councils are as magnanimous when it comes to dealing with injury claims. When it comes to road accident claims made against Barnet Council over the past few years, the local authority has not only gotten four of them dropped before going after the claimants on the grounds that the four accidents were staged in order to defraud the council’s insurer.

With a combined worth of around £120,000, the four claims had been made against the council after cars loaded with passengers inexplicably braked suddenly whilst in front of a council HGV. The vehicle of course ended up causing a rear-end shunt with the fraudsters, who would then claim for vehicle damage costs and the ‘personal injury’ sustained in the incidents.

Insurance officers for the council first found their suspicions aroused once investigating the claims, noticing how each one of these incidents bore a striking resemblance to ‘crash for cash’ insurance scams. A bit more digging uncovered connections between all the claimants, such as their details and the claims management firms representing them; the claimants tried to turn tail and run by dropping their claims, but the local authority had already put wheels in motion to prosecute them for insurance fraud.

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