Offaly County Council spends €2,000 a day dealing with personal injury claims
New research has revealed that Offaly County Council has had to spend an average of €2,000 every day dealing with personal injury claims against them over the last five years.
A six-month long investigation by the RTE Investigates team revealed that county council are counting the cost of a rising number of personal injury claims and awards.
From 2012 to 2017, county councils have spent €387 million on settling claims, but RTE claim these figures vastly underestimate the total figure as they haven't factored in council wage bills for processing such claims.
In information released under the freedom of information act, the RTE research found that Offaly County Council dealt with 333 claims between 2012 and 2017, an average of 67 per year.
Offaly County Council are in charge of the roads, footpaths, playgrounds and other amenities in the county, meaning they are liable to deal with claims from accidents arising in these areas. Dealing with such claims is a significant expense and over the last five years, Offaly County Council has forked out €3,652,769 to that end. That figure includes awards and compensation, as well as legal fees.
RTE Investigates worked out the cost through Claims Quarterly Reports by IPB Insurance, the insurer for nearly all of the local authorities, documents they obtained through freedom of information.
The research reveals that Offaly County Council spend €730,554 every year dealing with personal injury claims against them, working out at €2,000 per day.
Footpath issues, tripping and slipping, and potholes causing damage to cars, make up the majority of claims processed by Offaly County Council. It costs an average of just under €11,000 to process each claim made against the council between 2012 and 2017.
The cost of claims in Offaly is actually the least of any of the Midlands counties. Longford's figure comes in at €6.4 million, Laois County Council spent €3.8 million, while Westmeath County Council shelled out over €11 million processing claims against them over the same five-year period from 2012 to 2017.
The report suggests, however, that these costs are likely to increase for each council in the coming years. Local authorities have seen an increase in the number of claims received in recent years. In 2012, they received around 4,500 new claims, but as that jumped by over 20% in 2016, to 5,500 new claims, expenses will increase as this higher number of claims are processed.
On top of that, the figures revealed that Offaly has the highest rate of personal injury claims fraud in the country. The RTE research consulted with insurer Aviva who employ a dedicated data analytics team to combat fraud. Although the national average for fraud is 2.14% of claims, Offaly comes in at almost 4%.
According to Aviva, 3.97% of all claims in Offaly in 2016 and 2017 were detected as fraud, the highest rate in the country.
Limerick was next highest, at 3.68%, followed by Longford on 3.21%, and Galway on 3.10%.
These figures represent cases in which the insurer is satisfied that there was fraud and is prepared to fight in court, but experts at the insurer estimate that fraud around the country is actually closer to 10% of all claims, according to the investigations unit.
With these statistics showing an increase in the claims being made against both county councils and the personal injuries board, RTE Investigates concluded its report by asking, has 'compensation culture' gripped the country? Or is it, as the legal profession argues, "an insurance industry myth?"
These questions are perhaps most pertinent here in Offaly given the fact we have the unwelcome accolade of the highest level of personal injury claims fraud.
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