Compensation claims against council and local authority bodies are relatively common especially when you bear in mind the breadth of services they cover. Many people fail to realise that council and local authorities still have a legal duty of care to their customers (and employees) and if they fail to maintain this duty of care they may be the subject of council compensation claims.
The array of services provided by your local council/local authority is extensive and includes:
- Sports and leisure facilities.
- Public parks.
- Waste disposal.
- Public pathways.
- Social care.
- Public highways.
In times of government financial prudence, funding for local councils often comes under pressure resulting in cost-cutting. This is one scenario under which council compensation claims are likely to increase in number because of issues such as understaffing, out of date equipment and lack of materials. The services provided by councils and local authorities are heavily regulated and need to abide by health and safety regulations as well as their duty of care to the general public.
The range of injuries reported on council premises as a consequence of substandard public services is extremely broad. If you believe you have been injured as a consequence of negligence by one of the councils or local authorities, whether a member of the public or as a council worker, it is worth investigating your council compensation claim in more detail.
Common Injuries In Council Compensation Claims
When we are looking at buildings, pathways, highways and other council and local authority administered facilities, it will be no surprise to learn there is an array of common injuries seen in council compensation claims. While negligence on behalf of the council has to be proven to achieve a compensation payment, some of the more common pay-outs relate to issues such as:
- Injuries on council premises as a consequence of poorly maintained equipment.
- Car related injuries as a result of potholes and badly maintained highways.
- Work-related accidents for council employees.
- Slips, trips and falls due to icy pathways.
This is just a small selection of the more common injuries related to council compensation claims. In simple terms, if it can be proven that the council/local authority breached their duty of care to the general public/employees then there is every chance of a successful compensation claim.
The Councils Duty Of Care
All council and local authority related services are heavily regulated via an array of health and safety obligations and the basic duty of care to the general public and employees. Proving that a council or local authority breached their duty of care is central to any claim of negligence and subsequent compensation. There are many ways in which this duty of care can be breached including:
- Inadequate funding for individual services.
- Outdated or ill maintained equipment.
- Poor reaction times to public concerns.
- Substandard staff training.
- Incorrect safety equipment for council workers.
- Inexperienced staff taking on inappropriate activities.
The reality for many councils and local authorities is that the appropriate levels of government funding are rarely available. Whether increasing local authority charges or cutting back on various council services these local bodies are continuously under pressure. There will be occasions where accidents occur but there is no negligence and no liability for compensation. As long as the council can show it took reasonable care and action to address an issue and maintain its duty of care this is a plausible defence.
What Can Be Claimed For In A Council Compensation Claim?
When it comes to claiming compensation from the local council there are two main areas to consider which are general damages and special damages. General damages relate to the injury and impact on the individual taking in such issues as:
- Pain and suffering caused by the council accident.
- Forced changes to the individuals lifestyle.
- Mental trauma.
In reality it is difficult to put a figure on general damages in council compensation claims but there are various guidelines which the courts and insurance companies often refer to. Each council compensation claim, assuming negligence has been proven, will be reviewed in isolation taking into account the injuries received and the impact on the individual’s life.
The calculation of special damages in council compensation claims is more straightforward as it basically refers to financial redress and any injury related costs going forward. These will include issues such as:
- Loss of earnings.
- The claimants future loss of earnings.
- Medical treatment.
- Future medical treatment.
- Transport expenses relating to injuries.
- Changes to the individuals living environment.
There will be some instances of shared liability in a council accident claim, where a mixture of the defendant, claimant and other third parties were deemed liable by the judge. In this situation the overall compensation award would be split along the lines of shared liability.
Tightening The Regulations
It is worth noting that councils and local authorities have historically paid out on issues such as car damage due to potholes without always contesting claims. This has changed over the last few years because pothole damage and other council/local authority obligations and services were targeted by fraudsters. This does not change the situation for valid council compensation claims but it does ensure as far as possible that scams and fraudulent activity is challenged. There will be issues which are challenged by the council/local authorities, which they lose in the courts, but this sends out a wider signal that they will no longer rollover on borderline compensation claims.
Lodging A Claim For Injuries Caused By The Negligence Of A Council/Local Authority
In the event of any injury caused by the negligence of the local council or local authority you should seek medical assistance as soon as possible and treatment where applicable. This will ensure that all injuries are addressed in a timely manner and details of your injuries and the circumstances in which they occurred will be recorded on your medical file. There will be some injuries which materialise after the event when the adrenaline rush has died down and you begin to feel the real impact. If this does occur then you must refer back to your doctor to update them, seek further examination and treatment if required.
While not always possible, photographic evidence of dangerous premises or ice laden pavements or public highways will further strengthen your case if it goes to court. It is also advisable to maintain a record of when the accident occurred, where it occurred, why it occurred and the extent of your injuries. There will be situations where witnesses will be able to give evidence and back up your council injury claim therefore you should take witness details for future reference. The more detailed information you have regarding the incident, assuming it is a valid claim, the more chance that if negligence is proven it will be settled out of court.
There will be instances where negligence is disputed and your council compensation claim will go before a judge. The judge may dismiss the case outright, approve the claim of negligence or rule split negligence and split liability, and award compensation based on the specifics of the incident. The chances are that a relatively straightforward case of negligence and deemed liability will be settled out of court to reduce legal costs and bring the matter to a timely close.
Lodging A Council Compensation Claim As An Employee
It is more commonplace to read about members of the public claiming compensation from the local council rather than employees. It is also easy to forget that council/local authorities have a duty of care not only to the general public but also to their employees. Where an council worker can prove an injury was sustained as a result of negligence they may be able to lodge a claim for personal injury compensation.
Legal Advice On Council Compensation Claims
If you believe that you have incurred injury as a result of negligence by the local council/local authorities you should approach a legal representative such as a personal injury solicitor with details of your case. They will see an array of similar cases on a regular basis and will relatively quickly be able to determine the strength of your case. The vast majority of personal inury solicitors who take on council compensation claims will operate on a No Win No Fee basis which will see any compensation award shared on a pre-arranged percentage basis.
It is worth remembering that while many people frown on those who pursue council compensation claims against the local council, if the authorities are not made aware of particular issues then similar accidents may occur in the future.