Essex: County council counting the �1.5m cost of payouts for falls

COSTS linked to compensation claims for trips, falls and other injuries at Essex County Council have hit more than �1.5million in just three years, new figures reveal.

But the authority has made significant progress in getting a grip on such spending – it paid out nearly �1.2m in 2009 alone, compared with just �45,766 in 2011.

There are, however, still more than 700 unsettled claims for the 2009-11 period according to figures obtained following a Freedom of Information request by the EADT. The authority has successfully defended more than 1,000 claims over the same period.

The payouts include �57,000 after a fridge door fell on someone’s head; �53,000 for a spine injury after a trip on an icy path; and �8,800 after a pupil trapped their fingers in a chair.

The vast majority were for pavement or pothole trips but others included �15,000 for a claimant losing control of a vehicle partially due to excess standing water on the road; �4,610 for a finger injury “due to a needle in a waste sack”; and �13,000 because a cupboard fell on a claimant’s head.

Essex County Council’s counterparts in Suffolk spent �1m on compensation claims over the same period.

An Essex County Council spokesman said: “Our performance in dealing with claims compares very favourably with other local authorities according to benchmarking results.

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“We have successfully repudiated a greater number of claims compared with the other councils.

“Essex County Council is one of the largest local authorities in England, providing a large range of services and maintaining a significant local infrastructure. Taking this into account the compensation paid is proportionally very small.”

Essex added that its costs did not just include the payouts to claimants. It also comprises solicitors’ costs and hospital charges.

Meanwhile Suffolk County Council paid out �644,186 on 194 cases in 2009; �283,340 on 152 the following year; and �78,670 on 75 in 2011.

The authority has more than 250 outstanding claims; it has successfully defended 918 claims between 2009 and 2011.

A Suffolk County Council spokeswoman said: “The substantial decrease in payments made over the past three years is testament to the regular inspections and improvements carried out by the county council, and the positive contribution from members of the public who alert us to any surfaces they think may be dangerous.

“Protecting the public remains our highest priority and the highways team continue to do all they can to ensure pavements and roads across the county are safe.”

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