Schools face £45,000 in injury claims

Blackpool Town Hall and (below) council leader Simon Blackburn.
Blackpool Town Hall and (below) council leader Simon Blackburn.
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Slipping on a jigsaw, fractured ribs, broken fingers and being hit by a football are just some of the dozens of reasons cited in compensation claims made against Blackpool schools.

More than £45,000 is currently being sought from Blackpool Council in claims made by pupils, staff and visitors to the resort’s schools.

Coun Sarah Riding

Coun Sarah Riding

A Freedom of Information request submitted to the council found 36 claims for compensation have been filed regarding accidents or injuries sustained in the 
resort’s primary and secondary schools between September 2010 and May 2013.

The claims include “for being hit by a football”, “trip on a manhole”, “slip on ice” and a “fractured left knee”. Another was submitted claiming compensation for “being pushed and suffering injury”.

Of these the council has sought to defend 75 per cent – 27. But three have been handled by liability adjusters and in the case of three liability was admitted in the first instance. Another three remain under investigation.

The response provided to The Gazette has said it would be “inappropriate” to comment on whether any claims have been falsified or are misleading.

Fifteen of the claims came from employees, with a further 18 from pupils and three from visitors.

And a case has recently been won, with a teaching assistant awarded £4,800 damages after slipping on a jigsaw left on a classroom floor.

In total £46,540.72 has been paid out by Blackpool Council for seven claims, coming from a dedicated school grant.

The highest amount paid out was £15,500, and the smallest £522, but other amounts come in at £12,075, £9,371.32, £6,871.30, £1,174.50 and £1,026.60.

Blackpool Council said it works with schools in order to reduce the likelihood of incidents on school property and claims being lodged.

Coun Sarah Riding, cabinet member responsible for schools at Blackpool Council, said: “If someone has been injured in circumstances where something should have been done to avoid it then it’s only right that they receive compensation.

“However, the majority of these claims do not succeed for a variety of reasons. We work closely with schools to try to assist them in reducing the volume of claims.”

A leading union has said if workers are injured while working, through no fault of their own, they should be entitled to damages to compensate for loss of earnings or trouble caused.

Peter Marsden, whose Blackpool Unison branch has hundreds of members working in the resort’s schools, said: “The Government is trying to restrict a lot of the health and safety laws and they label this as red tape but it’s not red tape it’s there to protect pupils and protect staff in schools.

“We have health and safety officers who assist in trying to prevent accidents but unfortunately you’re dealing with humans so there will be some that take place.”

Solicitor cites change in attitudes to injury claims

Blackhurst Budd solicitor Neil Jones specialises in personal injury claims and has fought on behalf of claimants against Blackpool Council.

He said there has been a change in attitudes to claims against local authorities.

He said: “I do think there’s a sympathy in the courts for public sector austerity. I think people are considerate about getting what’s right, if they are injured they will fairly quickly see the impact it has.”

Compensation claims can be made on two bases – general damages, for pain and suffering, and special damages, for monetary loss.

The lawyer recently won a case for a Blackpool teaching assistant who had a fall in her workplace, resulting in £4,800 compensation.

He said: “She slipped on a child’s jigsaw that had been left on a floor, it was a nasty injury.”

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