December portal data shows impact of Christmas holidays causing lower claims intakes across the board though longer term stability in volumes remains
On a month by month basis there were significantly reduced new claims volumes in December. RTA decreased by 23.7% while across the casualty portals the decreases were PL 33.3%, EL 29.3% and EL disease 30.6%.
Various records were set on the monthly data. The RTA intake was the lowest for over 8 years, PL the lowest for 5 years, EL the lowest for 12 months and EL disease the lowest for over 5 years.
The explanation lies with an expansion of the pre-existing trend, clearly supported by the data, of year-on-year reductions in activity in December when the month is compared with November. This trend is perhaps linked in part to increasing taking of holiday time or otherwise spending time away from claims handling on the part of claimant operations during the month of December.
We should therefore appreciate that it is possible to read too much into the December data when it is clearly affected by those December-related factors and instead we should go on to consider the stats more broadly.
Looking at claims intakes for the calendar year of 2018 when compared to 2017 we see reductions across the board. RTA showed a reduction of 2.1% and PL of 2.2%, while EL was only marginally down at 0.2% and EL disease was markedly down at 32.1% as that portal drastically shrinks.
Most significantly perhaps we should look at the longer term trends based on the 12 month cumulative data which we can now compare between the start and the end of 2018. Here the trends continue to point to stable levels. RTA claims are marginally reduced over the last year at 0.2%, but have been very stable over the last 9 months and the current level is in fact identical to that reached in March 2018.
On the same basis the PL portal also shows a small reduction of 0.2%, but the EL indicates an increase of 0.1%. EL disease falls again, by 2.7%.
With this data for December we are now three quarters of the way though the accounting year which runs till 31 March. Looking at the RTA new claims data the low level of intake in December means we are now no longer projecting an increase as between 2017/18 and 2018/19, but a decrease of 1.2%. However we still consider it likely that the remaining months will see the 2018/19 RTA intake of the same order as the prior year.
New RTA claims in December
The last month of calendar year 2018 saw new RTA claims numbers for the month fall to 47,810, which represents a large reduction of 23.7% from the 62,656 which entered in November. This is the lowest number of new claims for over 8 years, in fact since June 2010 when the portal had been in operation for only 2 months.
As the graph above demonstrates, we had seen a developing pattern of significantly reducing volumes between November and December over recent years, and that has continued this year. In 2015 the reduction between those 2 months was 14.5%, in 2016 that reduction had increased in size to 18.1%, while in 2017 it had grown again to 20.4%.
The current differential of 23.7% could therefore have been anticipated, and may reflect the broader point of an increasing trend of lower levels of claims activity in the final month of the calendar year.
Making a direct comparison with previous Decembers, the current level is 2.2% below December 2017, 16.3% less than in December 2016 and 23.6% beneath December 2015.
The calendar year of 2018 now concluding with this data, we reach the position where there were 698,931 new RTA claims over the year. This compares to 712,797 during 2017. The monthly average between the 2 years fell by the same 2.1% from 59,521 to 58,244.
We have followed on a monthly basis during 2018 a comparison with the 2017 data in order to ascertain where the eventual end point might be when December's data was available. We had seen at the end of October and then November how the difference between the 2 years had fallen from a reduction of 2.4% to one of 0.5%. The low level of new claims seen in December 2018 is the explanation for the opening up of an eventual gap of a fall of 2.1% as the calendar year came to an end.
New RTA claims in December – time weighted
There were 22 working days in November and if we exclude only the 2 Bank Holiday days in December we are left with 19, which represents a reduction of 7.3% in working days over the month. This goes only part way to explaining the reduction in volumes of 23.7%.
If on the other hand we also exclude from the reckoning days when claimant operations may not have been open, so 24th, 27th, 28th and 31st December, the number of working days over the month falls to 15, which reflects a 31.8% reduction in working time, rather more than the falling off in claims volumes.
The actual amount of the reduction at 23.7% is nearer the second way of analysing the decrease in working time than the first, but in overall terms this may reflect that actual claimant working patterns more closely reflect that scenario than one which is based on downtime being restricted to Bank Holidays only.
On the first scenario, there were only 2,516 claims per working day, marginally the lowest daily level over the period spanned by the graph. But it is worth noting too to if the number of working days were taken to be only 15 then the daily average would be 3,187, so breaking the 3,000 barrier for the first time in nearly 2 years.This can be seen on the alternative version of the same graph below though caution would be advised when interpreting it:
New RTA claims over the longer term
Looking at new claims data on the 12 month cumulative basis in order to show longer term trends, an assessment continues to show strong signs of stabilised volumes. Over the month the level in fact fell marginally by 0.2% from 700,025 to 698,931.
The graph above clearly shows a consistent level of new claims over the last 10 months since March 2018. In fact the current level is only 1 single claim below the figure of 698,932 where the level stood back in March. Over the 9 months since March there have been 4 monthly increases alongside 5 decreases. Over the last 35 months there remain only 7 increases alongside 28 falls.
The rate of decline continues to substantially decrease: between December 2016 and December 2017 it was 12.5% while over the last 12 months it has been only 1.9%.
Comparison with annual portal and CRU data
With December's data we are now 9 months through the accounting year to the end of March used by the DWP in their CRU claims data. Over those 9 months to date the addition of the low level intake for December brings the total to date to 518,763 and reduces the anticipated annual output from 706,901 which we saw at the end of November to 691,684 now.
Whereas with November's number we were projecting an increase of 1.0% over the year, we now anticipate a drop of 1.2%. In reality, as the final 3 months of 2018/19 are added into the data, we expect the anticipated annual total to return to at least 2017/18's level.
When 2017/18 was compared to 2016/17 there was a clear decrease of 12.0%. It remains clear that there will be no fall of such an extent in 3 months' time.
The current projected portal end year figure for 2018/19 is 6.4% higher than the CRU figure for 2017/18 of 650,019.
New casualty claims in December
There were only 3,480 new PL claims in December. This is the lowest monthly figure for 5 years since December 2013 when the casualty portals had only been open 5 months. It represents a fall of 33.3% from November's level of 5,215.
As with RTA claims, we see evidence of a trend of increasing reductions between the final 2 months of the year. The difference between November and December was 26.5% in 2016, rose to 30.1% in 2017 and has now increased again to 33.3%.
December 2018 was lower than each of the previous 3 years: by 3.7% than in December 2017, by 10.6% than in December 2016 and by 24.3% when compared to December 2015.
With the data for the final month of 2018 now available, we see an annual total for the calendar year of 57,670. This represents a reduction of 2.2% from the comparable figure of 58,995 reached in 2017.
In December there were 2,808 new EL claims, a reduction over the month of 29.3% from November's level of 3,970. This was the lowest figure for 12 months, which is since December 2017.
Again there have been significant reductions from November to December in each of the last 3 years. In 2017 that drop was in fact larger at 33.8%, while in 2016 it was 26.0%.
Comparing to the 3 previous months of December, December 2018 was 2.2% higher than December 2017, but 11.6% below December 2016 and 18.6% less than in December 2015.
The total number of EL claims entering the portal in the calendar year 2018 reached 46,166. This represents a marginal reduction of 0.2% from the 46,250 which entered in 2017.
EL disease claims
In the case of EL disease claims December saw 308 entering the process, a reduction over the month of 30.6% from November's number of 444. This is the lowest monthly level for over 5 years, in fact since September 2013 which was the second month of operation of the casualty portals.
The trend continues too of significant reductions as between November and December in this portal too. In 2017 it was 30.9% so very similar to this year's level while in 2016 it had been 28.7%.
The current number of new EL disease claims is well below each of the 3 previous years: it is lower than in December 2017 by 35.4%, less than in December 2016 by 49.8%, and below December 2015's number by 78.0%.
The total for the calendar year 2018 reached 6,208. This is a reduction of 32.1% from the 9,140 which entered in 2017.
New casualty claims over the longer term
Looking at longer term trends on the 12 month cumulative basis shows this month a reduction of 0.2% from 57,802 to 57,670. Over the time now spanning 42 months since the prior increasing trend ended, there have now been 34 monthly falls alongside 8 increases of which 7 have been within the last 15 months.
Over the calendar year 2018 the average monthly rate of decline was 0.2%, a significantly slower decline than the average of 0.7% seen in year 2017. Fitting in with that is the slowing of the fall when seen annually, from 7.6% in 2017 to 2.2% in 2018.
In the case of EL, the data at the end of December shows 46,166 claims made over the preceding 12 months, an increase of 0.1% over the level of 46,105 the preceding month. Over the last 37 months we have seen 12 monthly increases alongside 25 reductions, but of the last 15 months 7 have seen increases.
Over the calendar year of 2018 the average monthly decline was nominal only at 0.02%, much smaller than the average of 0.6% in 2017. When looked at annually there was a 7.1% drop in year 2017 but only a decrease of 0.2% in 2018.
EL disease claims
With EL disease claims there were 6,208 new claims over the 12 months to the end of December, a reduction of 2.7% from 6,377 where the level had stood in November. This is the 36th consecutive monthly fall.
The rate of decline continues to increase. On a monthly basis it was an average of 2.7% in 2018 compared to 1.6% seen in 2017. Or looked at annually the fall in 2017 was 19.7% but in 2018 rose to 32.1%.
In December there were downward trends visible across the board. With their smaller sample sizes the data for the casualty portals are more susceptible to change and the rates for all 3 of them declined to a greater extent than for RTA claims.
Looked at on a 12 month cumulative basis, the rates were mainly unchanged: RTA at 54%, EL at 28% and PL at 23%. EL disease rose 2% to 4% but there remains more variance in the case of that portal where volumes are at their smallest.
RTA claims – stage 3 usage and PSLA levels
December saw the preparation of 4,868 RTA court packs as a preliminary step to use of stage 3. This was a fall of 22.8% from November's level of 6,309 and is the lowest monthly figure since August 2015, more than 3 years ago.
Over the calendar year 2018 there was a monthly average of 6,052 court packs prepared. This represents a 1.5% decrease from the 6,145 seen in 2017. The increasing use of stage 3 which formed part of claimant operations processes but which involves increasing use of time waiting for a stage 3 hearing which was seen over the period to mid-2016 appears to be over.
December saw average PSLA levels increase 0.4% to £2,861, the 2nd highest figure to date and beaten only by the £3,070 seen in May which continuous to appear anomalous.
The current level is 2.8% higher than November 2017 when the effects of the 14th edition of the Judicial College Guidelines can be expected to have started to impact. We continue to see increases moving towards the 4.8% average proposed in those guidelines.
Casualty claims – stage 3 usage and PSLA levels
In the case of PL there were 48 court packs in December, a fall of 18.6% over the month, and the lowest level since April 2017. The 2018 calendar year average was 67, a fall of 9.6% over the 2017 average of 74.
As to EL there were 73 court packs in December, the same number as the prior month. The calendar year monthly average for 2018 was 79, an increase of 11.3% over the 71 seen in 2017.
With EL disease the number of packs increased from 1 to 2 over the month. The 2018 monthly average was 2, the same as in 2017.
Casualty volumes are of course smaller and the data more volatile as a result. Nevertheless none of the 3 casualty portals is currently showing any increase over November 2017 when the JCG 14th edition began to impact.
Over the month PL fell 9.5% to £3,917, the lowest level since January 2017. EL rose 2.8% to £4,209 while EL disease fell 13.0% to £3,617.
Comparative use of stages 2 and 3
We have seen above that use of stage 3 in RTA claims has reduced when 2018 is contrasted with 2017. It is therefore unsurprising to see this graph confirm that the figures showing the proportion of cases needing to use stage 3 before settling remains unchanged at around the 30% level.
For the reason identified earlier the casualty data as to PL and EL claims shows more variation. Each currently show use of stage 3 in around 10% of settled claims, with EL showing an increase of around 2% over the month.
For more information please contact Simon Denyer, Legal Development Consultant Simon.Denyer@dwf.law
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.