£50,000 - the cost of tripping on the city’s streets

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SHEFFIELD Council paid out £50,000 in compensation for personal injuries over a 12-month period with most injuries caused by the condition of the city’s roads, footpaths and public open spaces.

Details of the claims were revealed to The Star following a request made under the Freedom of Information Act.

Successful claims during the year totalled £50,032.80 - with the biggest award of £11,250 to a claimant who slipped and fell on loose tarmac, fracturing their left hip and wrist.

In total, there were five fracture cases, for which payouts totalled £24,438.80.

Some £9,235 was given to 10 people for cuts, bruises and abrasions, while £8,959 was paid in five strain and soft tissue injury cases. Three multiple injury claimants received a total of £7,400.

The only case not relating to roads or footpaths was a claimant who received £250 after catching a foot under a defective garage door causing damage to a toenail.

One of the other small claims involved £370 paid to a disabled person who fell from their wheelchair when a wheel hit a pothole, causing bruising and grazing.

Among those receiving compensation was Keith Unwin, aged 62, who fell over a hidden open manhole cover while walking across council-maintained grassland near his home in Gleadless.

He suffered leg and shin injuries and it took a year to settle his claim.

Bob Andrew, senior claims officer at Sheffield Council’s insurance and risk team, said the council had a ‘robust and efficient system’ which meant spurious cases were thrown out and only strong cases were successful. He estimated 70 per cent of claims against the council were rejected.

Mr Andrew said: “The vast majority of personal injury compensation payments made during 2010/11 were claims settled out of court. There is a cost attached to defending a case in court and we have to be careful which cases we go to court with.

“However, claims are dealt with on a strict legal liability basis and the vast majority of claims are rejected due to appropriate legal reasons and a good defence of the council’s position.”

He said most of the rejected cases were for vehicle damage allegedly caused by potholes.

The 2010/11 claims were a ‘typical year’ for the council - but the authority has not made any payouts at all in the first three months of the current financial year, up to the end of June.

But Mr Andrew said more cases were coming through ‘all the time’.

He said: “All those have to be investigated and there is a time lag between when a claim is made and a decision to reject, make a settlement or go to court.”

Sheffield Council said it hoped the improved condition of footpaths and roads from the £1.2 billion Private Finance Initiative contract - to resurface rights of way to a high standard and keep them in good condition - will reduce the number of claims in future.

The 25-year contract is due to start next year.

Coun Leigh Bramall, Sheffield Council cabinet member for environment and transport, said: “We will be starting the Highways PFI next year which will see public pavements and footpaths improved and should lead to fewer accidents for pedestrians.

“We are aware many pavements and roads in the city are not up to standard at present, which is why we are determined to begin these improvements as quickly as possible.”

Top 10 personal injury compensation payments by Sheffield Council April 2010 - March 2011:

1: £11,250 Slip and fall due to loose tarmac causing a fracture to the left hip and left wrist.

2: £5,450 Trip due to uneven kerb edging causing fracture to elbow.

3: £4,500 Trip in open space causing grazing and bruising to face, knees and hand, two chipped teeth, possible nerve damage.

4: £4,500 Trip over wiring protruding into footpath causing injury to left knee.

5: £3,000 Fall through a damaged manhole cover causing bruising and grazing to right thigh, and a painful right wrist.

6: £2,853.80 Fall over temporary sewerage drainage cover causing fracture to hand and soft tissue damage to leg.

7: £2,785 Trip and fall due to uneven pavement causing a fractured wrist.

8: £2,740 Trip and fall due to raised kerb causing injury to ribs, bruising and swelling to knee and face.

9: £2,300 Fall due to pothole causing ligament injury to right ankle.

10: £2,150 Fall over pothole causing bruising and ligament damage to elbow and shoulder, and laceration to eye.

1: £11,250 - Slip and fall due to loose tarmac causing a fracture to the left hip and left wrist.

2: £5,450 - Trip due to uneven kerb edging causing fracture to elbow.

3: £4,500 - Trip in open space causing grazing and bruising to face, knees and hand, two chipped teeth, possible nerve damage.

4: £4,500 - Trip over wiring protruding into footpath causing injury to left knee.

5: £3,000 - Fall through a damaged manhole cover causing bruising and grazing to right thigh, and a painful right wrist.

6: £2,853.80 - Fall over temporary sewerage drainage cover causing fracture to hand and soft tissue damage to leg.

7: £2,785 - Trip and fall due to uneven pavement causing a fractured wrist.

8:£2,740 - Trip and fall due to raised kerb causing injury to ribs, bruising and swelling to knee and face.

9: £2,300 - Fall due to pothole causing ligament injury to right ankle.

10: £2,150 - Fall over pothole causing bruising and ligament damage to an elbow and shoulder, and laceration to an eye.