210 new insurance claims were made against Clare County Council from the beginning of 2016 until December 5th 2018 which has cost €3.6 million.
At Monday’s meeting of the local authority, a joint motion from councillors, Christy Curtin, Gerry Flynn, Mike McKee, Johnny Flynn, Ian Lynch and PJ Kelly sought an update on the claims made and for the executive to “implement a policy including appropriate protocols to reduce and ultimately eliminate the number of such claims and the resulting financial burden on the Councils annual budget”.
Footpath slipping and tripping (71), potholes (50) and roads (41) are the top three causes relating to claims. €1,716,493 was paid out in 2016, it decreased to €845,134 last year while so far in December the fee is €1,089,625.
Administrative Officer for the roads and transport department of the Council, John Corry stated, “We are not in a position to provide a breakdown on legal fees for each claim, as some payments are made as “all in” combining award and legal fees, however IPB estimates the average cost for legal fees equates to 40% – 42% of the overall cost of claims paid. All claims and legal costs are managed through IPB”. The Public Liability insurance premiums payable to IPB in respect of the respective years have exceeded €1m for the last three years.
Corry added, “It is important to note that insurance premiums are based on the value of claims made in the period, rather than claims paid in the period, as some claims can take up to 3, 4 or 5 years to be fully processed. Please note that, as at today’s date, the total value of public liability claims made in the above period is estimated by IPB at €4,698,584. The value of these claims have already exceeded the premium paid to IPB. In addition the value of the 2017 and 2018 claims may increase or decrease as IPB complete the full investigation process. Clare Co Council are conscious of the need to try and reduce the no of insurance claims being submitted. Accordingly €1.6m was included in the Schedule of Municipal District Works for 2018 to facilitate the remediation of an extensive schedule of defective footpaths throughout the county”.
An annoyed Cllr Christy Curtin declared, “Statistics tell the tale on this motion”. “In three years the premium for Clare County Council increased by 30%, it deprives other sources of necessary funding, if that €1.5m was available we’d have 41 extra community schemes and there would be no cut to the GMA”. Fellow Independent, Cllr Gerry Flynn maintained, “It is a tremendous amount of money that this Council have to pay out. We couldn’t do enough as a Council to mitigate against why this is happening”.
“Clare County Council is operating in a very difficult environment in trying to operate against personal injury claims. The capacity for abuse of our system is very real and there is a huge amount of work being done to deal with the trips and slips. I’m delighted the Council is taking on cases and bringing them to court,” Cllr Johnny Flynn said.
Pat Dowling, Council CEO told elected officials he shared their concerns. “ We work very closely with our insurers and this year we commenced process of footpath reinstatement. We must always defend ourselves as a county and a council, we have a difficult cultural tradition, this is a recurring battle for us”. He added, “It is difficult to swallow but it is something we must do. If we fix every pothole and footpath in all of Clare, I can assure you it still won’t remove the cultural scenario that exists”.
In response, Cllr Curtin stressed, “We share the same duty of care. You said we must defend ourselves, we defend ourselves at a cost, there is a duty on us to minimise these risks going forward. We have to get value for money”. Cllr Gerry Flynn added, “I can’t let Pat go with that comment on culture in Clare. As a proud Clare man, I can assure you a large part of the population are decent people who wouldn’t file a case but there are a minority of people in that culture”.