herald

Friday 31 October 2014

Payouts over footpath falls rise by 120pc

PUBLIC liability bills in a Dublin region jumped by 90pc in one-year, including a 120pc rise in footpath payouts.

Fingal County Council has revealed €1,576,200 was paid out last year in respect of claims made by people who had been injured in public places.

The figure was nearly double the €836,000 paid in the previous year.

The main reason for the spike was a 120pc jump in payouts relating to footpath accidents, going from €314,400 to €697,600.

Fine Gael councillor Anthony Lavin, who sought the information, said he suspects budget cuts in other areas could have led to the rises.

"It's maybe down to a lack of repairs of damaged footpaths. "It's probably a consequence of saving in one area but losing in another," he told the Herald.

The report shows 2009 was the most expensive year of the last three years, with a total figure of €1,917,300 paid out.

A Fingal spokeswoman said it is council policy to thoroughly investigate all claims and to challenge spurious or exaggerated ones.

Roots

The majority of claims submitted are not paid.

In addition, the local authority has an ongoing risk management strategy to identify and correct potential hazards.

A number of the footpath accidents related to urban trees planted over the past 30 or 40 years that have now outgrown their root space, the spokeswoman said.

They cause a "trip hazard with lifting footpaths, which in turn causes serious problems for those with limited mobility or the elderly", she told the Herald.

Since 2010, Fingal has had a tree strategy to deal with the problem.

The spokeswoman said: "We have a rolling replacement programme for poorly located street trees over a 20 year period. A small number of legacy claims of significant cost were brought to a conclusion in 2009, leading to a high figure for payouts."

Of the 274 claims received that year, only 81 were paid out. The following year, 47 out of 190 led to financial settlements and, in 2011, the figure was 60 out of 228.

comurphy@herald.ie

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