Latest portal claims data shows decreased volumes for April while MoJ demonstrate their analysis of the size of the whiplash issue
While the release of the annual CRU statistics has been delayed potentially due to the impending General Election, we are able to use the release by Claims Portal of their monthly data to review current claims trends in the RTA and casualty arenas.
The April data shows a reduction in the number of new claims into all portals that month. This in part is associated with a significantly shorter working month, but in the case of the casualty portals also reflects a reduction from peak levels seen in the previous month of March.
As to longer term trends of the number of new claims, these continue downwards in the case of RTA, and have resumed a downward path in the case of casualty. Future volumes will be significantly affected by the result of the General Election, the identity of any new team at the MoJ, and most specifically the decision taken as a result in relation to the future of the Prisons and Courts Bill. The view of the existing MoJ team regarding the consistency of the high volumes of RTA whiplash claims and the size of the task to be tacked as a result is clear from their written response to the Justice Committee.
The use of stage 3 in RTA claims has increased again, and now for the first time accounts for more than 30% of settlements.
New RTA claims in April
There were 52,629 new claims submitted to the RTA portal in April. This is a reduction of 22.7% from the level seen in March.
In March we saw that the level then reached of 68,397 new RTA claims was the lowest number seen in that particular month of the year since March 2011 when the RTA portal was in its infancy. A similar comment can be made with April's data, namely that this is the lowest April for new RTA claims on record.
In fact the graph above covering the period from January 2012 shows no other lower month for new RTA claims over that period. We need to go back further to December 2010 to find a lower monthly total when the number stood at 51,778.
One clearly relevant factor to explain the fall this year as between March and April is once again, the number of working days in the month. While there were 23 working days in March there were only 18 in April as Easter fell in April. This is equivalent to a reduction in working days of 21.7%, very close to the reduction in volumes of 22.7%. The closeness in the height of the two bars on the extreme right of the following graph makes the point. So we can see that both March and April have been relatively low months for the intake of new RTA claims.
The following graph showing volumes weighted for length of working month also makes clear that if you adjust the data in that way then there were in fact 4 lower months than April 2017 for new RTA claims over the period depicted, these were May 2013 (immediately post LASPO), August 2013, December 2013 and December 2016.
When Easter and its bank holidays fall in April we have seen before the phenomenon of a substantial reduction in volumes for April when compared to the preceding month of March. Compared to this year's reduction of 22.7% we saw a similar reduction of 19.9% in 2011, though it must also be accepted that in the other years involved, that is 2012, 2014 and 2015, the reductions were around half that level, all within a range of 9-11%.
New RTA claims assessed over longer term
Looking now at longer term trends and specifically at averages over the preceding 12 months, the data on the extreme right of the graph above shows that there was an obvious fall last month, of 2.4% as the number fell from 796,599 to 777,708.
As a comparison, we saw a decrease as between February and March of 0.3% when we reviewed the data last month, while as between January and February there was a drop off of 1.3%. There have now been decreases in 18 of the last 20 months.
Over the last 12 months we have seen a decrease for RTA claims of 9.2% as measured by reference to the preceding 12 months. As we will see below this is a larger drop off than for EL (7.2%), but it's smaller than the decreases in PL (11.7%) and EL disease (46.1%).
At 777,708, the current level on this form of measurement is above the post-LASPO low point seen in April 2014 of 771,709 by only 0.8%. We have said before that we expect this measurement to fall to that post-LASPO level later this year and that belief remains. We will in fact reach it next month if there is a fall of similar extent to last month.
New RTA claims annually
When reviewing last month's data we were able to complete the analysis of the portal data over the financial year to the end of March, and saw that there were 797,067 new RTA claims notified to the portal in 2016/17 as represented in this graph:
We also included the following graph setting out the CRU data showing new RTA claims as it stood as at the end of March 2016, saying that we awaited imminently the release of the CRU data for 2016/17. While last year it was released on 14 April, we are now one month further on and it has still not been released by the DWP.
The reason for the delay can only be speculated upon, but is there any reason to think that it may be associated with the government's ongoing reform agenda which has been brought to a temporary halt by the announcement of the forthcoming General Election and the ongoing purdah?
While we wait the release of the CRU data we do now have the written evidence of the MoJ to the House of Commons Justice Committee who were considering Part 5 of the Prisons and Courts Bill before parliament was dissolved. This includes the table below showing what percentage of the RTA claims involving injury notified to the CRU are for whiplash related injuries, whether described as whiplash, or as injuries affecting the neck or back.
Based on that data the MoJ comment:
"Many respondents from the claimant lawyer community have indicated their belief that the numbers of whiplash claims registered with the DWP's CRU are decreasing. However, further study of the CRU statistics suggests that this is not the case and that differences in claims labelling may be behind this belief. When soft tissue injuries labelled as 'neck' and 'back' are considered together with those labelled as 'whiplash' the figure increases significantly. The number of such claims has remained steady over the last three years at around 690,000 claims, which is around 90% of all RTA related personal injury claims made."
New casualty claims in April
The casualty portals new claims intake numbers are going through a period of volatility. Last month we saw high levels of new claims entering each of the 3 casualty portals, the highest for quite some time. In each case it was the highest level for 9-18 months.
This month in all three portals the number has fallen back more than would be accounted for by the reduction in the number of working days (worth 21.7%) in April, and (with the exception of December 2016) to levels not seen for 3 years or more.
New PL claims
In April there were 4,187 new PL claims, a reduction of 28.8% from March, which in turn had seen the highest level for 16 months.
This is the lowest number of new PL claims in any April since the portal opened. Apart from December 2016 this is the lowest level seen since December 2013.
New EL claims
There were 3,403 new EL claims in April, which is 25.4% lower than March, which itself was the highest level reached in 18 months.
This is the lowest number of new EL claims in any April since the portal opened, and again with the exception of December 2016 is the lowest monthly total since February 2014.
New EL disease claims
April saw 719 new EL disease claims enter the portal, which is 24.6% below March, which in turn was the highest level reached for 9 months.
Again, this is the lowest monthly number of new EL disease claims since the portal opened, and leaving to one side the month of December 2016 is the lowest level reached since October 2013.
New casualty claims assessed over longer term
Looking as we have with RTA claims over a longer period, and involving a 12 month cumulative analysis, we had in last month's analysis seen a variation in the previously existing longer term trend towards lower volumes with small increases for both PL and EL accident claims. This month the original longer term trends return, indeed markedly so.
As assessed over the preceding 12 months the level now stands at 61,681, a month on month fall of 2.1%. We have now seen decreases in 21 of the last 22 months, the exception being March 2017.
Over the last 12 months on this measurement new PL volumes are down 11.7%. The RTA reduction as we saw above was 9.2%.
Over the last 12 months the total now stands at 48,702, a decrease when compared to last month of 1.8%. There have now been falls in 13 out of the last 16 months.
The reduction over the last 12 months has been 7.2%.
EL disease claims
The level over the last 12 months is now 10,083, a monthly decrease of 2.5%. This is the 16thconsecutive monthly fall.
Over the last 12 months the reduction now stands at 46.1%.
There was a mixed monthly picture last month. We saw an improving rate on RTA and EL disease, but a falling rate on PL. EL accident remained steady. The graph above shows this.
Longer term trends on this second graph continue to show improving rates in all 3 casualty portals and a stable rate at just over 50% in the case of RTA claims. These percentages include cases moving to stage 3 within the definition of claims retained within the portal.
RTA stage 3 usage and quantum levels
5,908 RTA claims went through to stage 3 last month, which was an 11.5% decrease from the previous month, but reference should be made here both to the reduction of 21.7% in working time, and the fact that the March 2017 number was the highest ever. In reality we are still on an increasing trend with RTA stage 3 usage.
PSLA quantum levels
Last month the average level reached rose to £2,796, that was a £24 increase over the preceding month, so a continuing upward trend where only October 2016 has ever reached a higher level.
The current annual increase in RTA PSLA levels is now running at 5.8%. Over the period since the 13th edition of the Judicial College Guidelines were issued in November 2015 we have seen an increase of 8.1%.
Casualty stage 3 usage and quantum levels
As with RTA claims, we have also seen a reducing use of stage 3 this month in the casualty portals. This may well be a blip against the high levels seen last month, as on the face of it the graph above suggests usage is returning almost to where it was 12 months ago. In fact the shorter working month will be part of the explanation, as is the fact that in March the number reached the highest level yet.
With PL the number fell from 78 to 44 over the month, to reach the lowest level since January 2016, while in EL it decreased from 69 to 54.
In the case of EL disease no claims at all went to stage 3. The last time this phenomenon was seen was in February 2014.
PSLA quantum levels
These average levels rose for both PL and EL.
We had seen PL reaching its highest ever level last month but it rose again in April to £4,271. There has now been an increase of 11.3% over the last 12 months and an increase of 12.1% since November 2015 when the effects of the publication of the 13th edition of the JCG were first experienced.
For EL the average rose to £4,083, the 5th highest level. This reflects a rise of 2.2% over the last 12 months and 6.1% since the JCG 13th edition were published.
In the case of EL disease the existing downward strategy continued as the number fell again to £3,306. This now leads to a reduction of 15.7% over 12 months and a fall of 17.3% since the JSG 13th edition.
Showing stage 3 increased usage
The graph above shows the continued upward march of the data in relation to RTA, now over 30% for the first time. On this rate of progress, the position where one-third of RTA claims which settle need stage 3 to do so is on the cusp of being reached.
Last month's downward trend as to use of stage 3 for casualty claims is clear on the graph above. There continues to be no sign yet that the consistent and significant growth of stage 3 activity seen in RTA claims handling will be mirrored to the same extent in the case of casualty claims.
How claims conclude
The 4 graphs above show month-on-month not only the different ways in which claims within the 4 portals resolve, but also the trends as to how those claims are dealt with within the portals are changing.
In the case of RTA, the increasing use of stage 3 and the decreasing settlements at stage 2 stand out. In the casualty portals, the high proportion of claims exiting the process at stage 1 or elsewhere is dominant, though the settlements at stage 2 and now also at stage 3 can be seen, at least for PL and EL accident. In the case of EL disease the data continues to suggest that the current portal processes are unsuitable for that type of claim.
This information is intended as a general discussion surrounding the topics covered and is for guidance purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. DWF is not responsible for any activity undertaken based on this information.