Limerick council crackdown on 'compo culture' as claims hit over €30m

Donal O'Regan

Reporter:

Donal O'Regan

Mayor Stephen Keary

Mayor Stephen Keary

THE COST of insurance to Limerick City and County Council has risen by €2 million in just one year, a Freedom of Information Request reveals.

IPB insurance was paid €6,077,009 in 2017 compared to €4,031,057 in 2016. It was €3,440,799 in 2014

IPB, who the council pay for “ground-up” cover, say there are currently 621 active claims with a gross value of over €30m. The vast majority, 232, are footpath related. Slipping / tripping accounts for 107, premises, 35, and potholes, 34.

The FOI request shows that over €2.7m has been paid out by IPB since the end of 2014 on footpath claims; €1.185m on slips / trips; €964,905 on ‘unknown circumstances’; €725,788 on roads and €461,140 on potholes.

Mayor Stephen Keary said the €6m figure the council pays for insurance is “huge”.

“It could be much better spent in other areas. This is not unique to Limerick. It is a countrywide issue where insurance companies have hiked up the premiums over the last 12 months or so.

“The figures are exorbitant. The extra premium could be much better used for utilities and repair of defective roads and potholes. It is money that is badly needed,” said Mayor Keary. He says €6m is a “huge figure” in terms of a council budget of €155m.

“We haven’t much choice only to pay out and that next year when the time comes for the renewal of the premium there may be a slightly different culture and the cost of insurance may hopefully take a downward tilt,” said Mayor Keary.

Sean Coughlan, acting director of support services, and Maura Murray, administrative officer, say the council is taking a “hard line” on claims.

“We’re certainly taking on claims and defending as many claims as we can. We are also putting in systems to be better prepared to defend these claims,” said Ms Murray, who urged people who are aware another person has made a fraudulent claim to contact Insurance Confidential.

“IPB has a special investigation unit (SIU). If someone submits more than one claim it would be referred to that unit. If there are multiple claims coming from the same household, or if you find that there are two or three incidents at the same locus it goes to SIU,” said Ms Murray.

She says, “A lot of claims can turn out to be the work of third parties but they just happened to be on a road or footpath.”

To combat this a technician was hired last month to travel around and ask third parties for a special licence they should have.

“If they don’t have it they will stop the work,” said Ms Murray. 

An engineer is also employed to investigate claims and report potential defects to the maintenance department.

Mr Coughlan said €1m was ringfenced to repair accident blackspots in 2017 and a further €1m will be spent this year.

“There are genuine cases which we have no problem with but there are ones we want to filter out,” he said.