Hull City Councillor Martin Mancey: Compensation payouts could have been spent fixing potholes
A SENIOR city councillor has hit out at what he calls a "spurious" claims culture after revealing £611,816 has been paid out in compensation to those injured on Hull's streets last year.
Councillor Martin Mancey says the amount the highways department paid out in 2012-13 – a 60 per cent increase on the previous financial year – could have been spent on improving the city's pothole-riddled roads.
In 2011-12, the local authority's Highways department paid out £381,295 in compensation claims.
Cllr Mancey, portfolio holder for transport, said: "We live in a claims culture – and we seem to be going down the same path as America.
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"I would put these 'no win, no fee' law firms in the same immoral category as payday loan companies.
"We are paying out £400,000, £500,000, £600,000-plus in claims each year – that's money we cannot spend on repairing roads."
Cllr Mancey says he believes law firms now actively encourage those involved in accidents to claim for compensation.
"I have experience of this," he said. "I was involved in a minor road accident and somehow a personal injury law firm found out about it and contacted me.
"The company attempted to persuade me to make a claim, which of course I didn't.
"Clearly, there are genuine cases, where people have become incapacitated as a result of a serious accident.
"But there are, in my opinion, an awful lot of spurious claims.
"People really need to take some responsibility for their own actions.
"Occasionally, accidents happen but, often, it seems someone has to be blamed."
In response to Cllr Mancey's claims, Hull firm Rapid Solicitors, says it believes Cllr Mancey is deflecting blame for a lack of investment in measures to safeguard the public.
In a statement, the law firm said: "As one of the largest personal injury firms in the country and based solely in Hull, we are surprised Councillor Mancey has not contacted us to see the lengths to which we go to eliminate spurious claims.
"We do not get paid if a case has no merits and is lost so it's in our interests to weed out bogus claims very early.
"We do not, and never have, 'cold-called' any client and I welcome the Government's forthcoming ban on referral fees paid to 'non-lawyer' introducers, which should eliminate this tactic.
"Once more, the lawyers seem to be an easy target to deflect attention from the issue of apparent under-investment in public safety.
"Maybe if he met some of our injured clients to see how their lives have been affected and the lengths to which we go to help them, his view of this industry might change.
"Broad-brush comments are an insult to genuine victims who deserve and need compensation to help them.
"It would be a very dangerous place to live if this legal right was denied."