Vehicle damage claims against Lancashire County Council rocketed by 273 per cent in a year, according to new figures.
The cash-strapped authority, which has shelled out almost £17m on highways compensation claims in the past five years, said severe winter weather causing potholes had an impact.
For the insurance year June 1, 2012, to May 31, 2013, there were a total of 1,833 highways defect claims against the authority.
This was an increase of 35 per cent on the previous year and included a 273 per cent increase in claims related to wheel and tyre damage caused by the county’s roads.
As well as bad weather, council officials said changes to legislation around claims, limiting the amount a claimants’ solicitor could make, also led to more people coming forward before the April 2013 deadline.
County Coun John Fillis, cabinet member for highways and transport, attacked ‘compensation culture’, but said the authority was committed to repairs and increasing road safety.
Earlier this year, he announced a £56m spend in the next 12 months on road maintenance to “keep the heart of Lancashire pumping”, and has also committed more money for safety schemes.
He said: “In spite of unprecedented Government funding cuts to services across Lancashire, we will continue to maintain our roads, cycleways and footpaths to the highest standards within the funding we have available.
“We have worked with the police to fine tune our understanding of accidents and have established a £1m fund to improve road safety.”
Coun Fillis added: “The compensation industry adds to our costs and reduces the amount of money we have to spend on the services the people of Lancashire deserve.”
For the period 2012/2013, 52 per cent of all claims were as the result of personal injury, 43 per cent were as the result of vehicle damage, and five per cent were the result of property damage and loss of property.
Approximately 33 per cent of all public liability highway claims for the same period were paid out either because they were settled on legal advice or were lost after trial.
The amount of compensation paid out depends on the specific facts of the claim. However, of the claims paid out in 2012/13, 79 per cent were for £500 or less, 16 per cent were for £2,000 or less, with the remainder for £5,000 or less.