Council injury compensation hits £75m

Council compensation payouts have hit £75m in the last five years. Some of the awards appear plain bizarre: the obese member of staff at Birmingham council who damaged a toilet yet was able to claim £1,750. Or the Gwynedd County Council staff member awarded £3,500 for a back injury sustained after carrying half a dozen cans of baked beans... Is our compensation culture getting worse, then?

Coughing up?

You might think so. Or what about this one: the Lancashire County Council worker who was awarded £5,500 after falling out of bed, injuring their back, following a call from work.

It's easy to laugh. But in fact, the actual figures for work-related accidents in the last five years have gone down says solicitor Jonathan Wheeler at Bolt Burdon Kemp in North London, from 98,478 in 2006/2007 compared to 81,470 for 2010/2011.

"Generally speaking, councils deal with cases in-house with their own legal team or their own loss adjusters. These are all very specialist people who know what the risks are with going to court."

More than meets the eye

"If these claims are ridiculous, why didn't they [the council] oppose the case? There's no way an insurance company should be paying out with a valid defence. You also don't get legal aid for personal injury cases anymore, meaning that most of the claims are taken on no-win-no fee basis."

Also, every council claim pursued has to be lodged with the government's own compensation recovery unit, part of the Department of Work and Pensions. So the government can claw back benefits that have been paid as a result of an accident.

It's worth pointing out that Lord Young, in a recent government report, accepted that the idea of a "compensation culture" was perception rather than reality.

Oops, I think I've just bruised my little finger while typing this out. Tut tut. And in work time. What are my chances, do you think?
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