Shorter working month in February brings lower claims volumes while longer term trends remain stable for RTA but reducing for EL/PL
The release by Claims Portal of the data for February allows an updated assessment of latest trends affecting lower value injury claims.
February saw reduced claims intakes into most portals, though an important factor was the shorter working month. The reductions of 8.2% in RTA, 0.4% with PL and 1.3% for EL were all smaller than the reduction in working time of 9.1% in view of February being a short month.
Certain milestones were hit this month: this was the lowest ever intake into the RTA portal with the sole exception of February 2018; while all the casualty portals this month produced either the lowest intake since these portals opened or the lowest since their first year of operation.
Comparing the first two months of 2019 with averages for the year 2018 we see that the current monthly average for RTA claims is higher than last year; though all casualty portals start lower.
As to longer term trends assessed over 12 months of data, there remains definite stability in the number of new RTA claims; now seen over the last 11 months. On the other hand while the longer term picture for PL and EL claims was largely stable during 2018, as we begin 2019 the data opens with two months of decline. EL disease numbers continue their long term decline.
We are now 11 months into the 2018/19 accounting year and in terms of headline RTA new claims numbers, at present a small shortfall of 0.4% is anticipated when compared to the previous year's reduction of 12.0%. To achieve parity an intake of 60,803 is needed in March but current expectations is that that level will not be reached in which case 2018/19 will show a nominal reduction from last year.
Use of stage 3 to settle has decreased this month across the board. Except for the months of December in each year RTA stage 3 usage in February was at its lowest level for 3 years. While down on the month, PL and EL stage 3 numbers are raised in 2019 so far when compared to last year.
On quantum, RTA shows a general damages fall to £2,821, the lowest level since last September as we await news on the publication of the 15th edition which if the pattern of 2-year releases continues will be due this autumn.
RTA settled claims at stage 2 fell in February to the lowest level since the first year of the portal's operation with the exception of the last 2 Decembers, but the longer term data shows stable stage 2 settlement levels over the last 6 months.
New RTA claims in February
The second month of 2019 shows 57,508 new RTA claims, a reduction of 8.2% over January's level of 62,640. It should be remembered that January's total was the highest since January 2018, with the sole exception of October 2018.
There is usually a reduction between January and February. In 2018 the reduction was 10.8%, in 2017 it was 5.6%, and while there was an increase in 2016 of 2.8% between the two months in question that year was a leap year.
Comparing to the number seen in other Februarys, February 2019 has marginally avoided being the lowest February intake since the RTA portal opened. It is just 0.3% above the level seen in February 2018. However, it is below February 2017's level by 6.4% and is 20.4% less than the intake in February 2016.
The average monthly new RTA claims number for 2019 after two months is now 60,074. This is 3.1% above 2018's monthly average of 58,244, but is 1.2% below the average for the first two months of last year which was 60,829.
New RTA claims in February – time weighted
In February there were 20 working days, a reduction of 9.1% from the 22 in January. This of course is a greater reduction than the decrease in the RTA claims intake between the two months. The height of the bar to the extreme right of the graph above is therefore marginally higher than the preceding month.
On this basis there were 2,875 new claims per working day in the month of February. With the exception of December 2018, affected as it was by the Christmas holidays, the period between October 2018 and February 2019 has shown an increase in the daily intake of new claims back towards the level seen at the start of 2018.
We continue to await the data for further months as 2019 progresses in order to see whether a daily average in excess of 3,000 claims per working day will be reached for the first time in two years.
New RTA claims over the longer term
When we move to looking at the new claims data on a 12 month cumulative basis in order to show longer term trends, there is now a lengthening of the picture of stability to cover the most recent 11 months which have elapsed since March 2018. That stability is demonstrated by the data throughout that period remaining between 694,500 and 701,000, which is a variation of 6,500 or 1%.
Over the month, the number in fact of claims registered on this longer term assessment measured over the preceding 12 months rose from 696,292 to 696,446, an increase of 0.02%. Over the last 11 months there have been five monthly increases set alongside six monthly decreases when looked at on this basis.
As would be anticipated from the stable position over the last 11 months, the rate of decline has substantially slowed when the last 12 months are compared to the preceding 12. Between February 2017 and February 2018 the decline was 11.4%, whereas over the last 12 months it was only 1.6%. If the data for March shows a comparative number to the preceding 11 months, then this reducing trend will continue even further.
Comparison with annual portal and CRU data
At the end of February we are 11 months into the accounting year running until the end of March which is used by the DWP in their annual CRU claims data. Extrapolating from where we stand at the end of February, we are currently anticipating a month 12 total for 2018/19 of 695,938. At the end of January we were anticipating a total of 697,312 so February's lower number has reduced expectations.
The 2017/18 total reached 698,754. The current projection would see a reduction of 0.4% between the two years.
If 2018/19 is to reach the same level as 2017/18, then the RTA portal claims intake in March 2019 will need to reach 60,803. March 2018's level was 58,503, so around 2,000 lower than that. This year there is one working day fewer in the month of March than there was in 2018, so as things currently stand it would appear more likely that there will be a nominal reduction in the portal data as between 2018/19 and 2017/18, but nothing like the 12.0% fall seen between 2016/17 and 2017/18.
The current projected RTA portal total for 2018/19 at 695,938 is 7.1% higher than the CRU figure for 2017/18 of 650,019. We expect the CRU total for 2018/19 to emerge from the DWP during April 2019.
New casualty claims in February
In February there were 4,656 new PL claims, a small reduction of 0.4% from the 4,675 seen in January. This reduction is of course far less than the 9.1% loss of working time.
The position when February is compared to January is similar to that which we saw with RTA claims: in 2018 there was a reduction of 4.0% between the two months, in 2017 there was a similar reduction of 4.1% though in the 2016 leap year there was an increase of 10.1%.
February 2019 is in fact the lowest PL new claims intake since the casualty portal was opened. It is at a level 6.1% lower than February 2018, 5.1% below February 2017 and 19.3% less than in February 2016.
The average monthly PL claims intake after the first two months of 2019 stands at 4,666. This is 2.9% below the 2018 monthly average of 4,806, and is also 7.8% lower than the 2018 average after the same two months which was 5,060.
There were 3,742 new EL claims in February, a reduction of 1.3% from January's level of 3,792, but again a much smaller reduction than the drop off in working time over the month.
With the exception of the first year of operation of the casualty portals, this is the lowest February total, in other words, it is the lowest since February 2014.
The position is mixed when we compare January to February in terms of new EL claims. In 2018 there was a reduction of 7.0%; in 2017 there was an increase of 2.7% whereas in the leap year of 2016 there was a larger increase of 7.1%.
When we compare February 2019 to previous Februarys we see a reduction of 5.0% from February 2018, a drop of 8.8% from February 2017 and a decrease of 13.3% from February 2016.
After the first two months of 2019 the average monthly intake stands at 3,767 new EL claims. This is 2.1% below 2018's average of 3,847 and is also 7.8% less than where the average stood after the first two months of 2018, which was 4,087.
EL disease claims
February saw 479 new EL disease claims, an increase over the month of 8.4% from January's level of 442. However, as with PL claims, this the lowest February intake since the casualty portal opened.
The position as between the months of January and February in previous years was a mixed one. In 2018 there was a reduction of 5.7%, in 2017 an increase of 1.4% but in the leap year of 2016 there was a larger increase of 11.0%.
There are sizeable reductions when the intake for February 2019 is compared to the three previous years. The drop offs were: 29.0% from 2018, 44.0% from 2017 and 60.8% from 2016.
After the first two months of calendar year 2019, the average EL disease monthly intake so far is 461. This is 10.8% below 2018's average of 517, and 33.7% below where the average for that year stood after two months which was 696.
New casualty claims over the longer term
When we look at longer term trends on the 12 month cumulative data, we see in February a monthly decrease of 0.5% as the number falls from 57,096 at the end of January to 56,795 now.
When we compare the current level to the number 12 months ago, we see a reduction of 3.9% from 59,084 where it then stood. Over the 12 months since there have been three monthly increases but these are dwarfed by the nine monthly decreases.
It was reasonable to say in 2018 that there was a position of relative stability on the longer term PL data. As 2019 opens we seem to be moving from there back to a position of further decline. The 2018 monthly average decrease was 0.2%, whereas after two months of 2019 it is now more than 3 times higher at 0.7%.
On the same cumulative basis, at the end of February the prior 12 month intake stood at 45,473, a reduction of 0.4% from where the figure had been at the end of the previous month; 45,669.
At the end of February 2018 the same level stood at 46,325, so since then we have moved 1.8% lower. Over the last 12 months, the position remains that there have been four monthly increases set alongside eight monthly decreases.
As with PL claims, we may be moving from a position of stability in 2018 when there was a nominal average monthly decrease of only 0.02%, to decline in 2019, as the year begins with an average monthly drop off of 0.7%, the same level as with PL.
EL disease claims
Over the prior 12 months we saw at the end of February an EL disease intake of 5,718, which represents a reduction of 3.3% over the month, as at the end of January the level had stood at 5,914.
12 months ago, in February 2018, the level stood at 8,833, so that we have seen a reduction of 35.3% since that time. Every one of those 12 months have shown a monthly decrease, indeed, that reducing trend has been in existence for over three years with monthly reductions over every single month of that time.
The position throughout 2018 was an average monthly drop off of 2.7%. After two months 2019 begins with a higher rate of decline, currently a monthly average fall of 3.8%.
January had seen monthly increases in retention rates across all four portals. The position in February is that trend has continued upwards in the case of all three casualty portals, whilst we have seen a decrease in the RTA portal.
If we move to the 12 months cumulative data for longer term trends, the RTA rate remains unchanged at around 54%, EL and PL are also unchanged at 27% and 22% respectively, while EL disease can also be said to be unchanged at around 5%.
Both retention rate graphs continue to assume that cases proceeding to stage three remain capable of being designated as included within the portal process.
RTA claims – stage 3 usage and PSLA levels
In February there were 5,324 RTA claims in which a court pack was prepared preliminary to use of stage 3, which is a decrease of 14.1% from January's level of 6,201. This is of course somewhat greater than the decrease in the working time of 9.1%.
The current level is the lowest monthly number proceeding to stage 3 for over three years, since January 2016, if all months of December over that period are excluded from the comparison.
The average monthly number proceeding to stage 3 for the year after two months of 2019 so far is 5,763. This is a decrease of 4.8% over the monthly average for 2018 of 6,052 and is a 6.3% drop from where the average stood after the first two months of 2018, which was 6,148.
In the month of February the average general damages level was £2,821, this being a reduction of 0.7% from the £2,840 seen in January. This is the lowest RTA monthly quantum level since September 2018.
Whereas January's level was 2.1% higher than that, the current level is only 1.4% above where PSLA stood in November 2017, when the effects of the 14th edition of the Judicial College Guidelines are believed to have started to impact. We remain some significant difference away from the 4.8% average increase proposed in the 14th edition of the Guidelines.
Casualty claims – stage 3 usage and PSLA levels
In the case of PL, there were 66 court packs prepared in February, which is a 19.5% reduction from the 82 in January. However, January was a high base and indeed was the fourth highest month to date in that portal.
Over the first two months of 2019 the average monthly number of PL court packs is 74, which is 10.4% higher than the monthly average for 2018 of 67, and is 8.8% above the average for the same first two months of that year.
In the case of EL claims, there were 75 court packs prepared in February, which is a reduction of 19.4% from the 93 prepared in January, though again January was a significant month, the third highest to date.
The average number of EL court packs per month for 2019 to date is 84. This is 6.3% higher than the 79 seen across the calendar year 2018, and is 1.2% above the average of 83 for the first two months of that year.
With EL disease, no court packs were prepared in February, as compared to the 1 seen in January. October 2018 was previously the last month when zero court packs was the outcome.
The average number of EL disease court packs for 2019 to date is 0.5. This is a 75% reduction from the monthly average for 2018 of 2, and is a 90% reduction from the monthly average of 5 seen for the first two months of that year.
Over the month PL general damages fell 6.7% from £4,256 to £3,970; EL increased 2.6% from £4,196 to £4,303, and EL disease also increased, by 9.1% from £3,734 to £4,075.
If we compare back to November 2017 and the likely impact of the 14th edition of the Judicial College Guidelines, then while PL shows no increase, EL is currently 5.3% higher and EL disease 15.5% above that level.
Comparative use of stages 2 and 3
The extent to which stage 3 is used to settle RTA claims continues to reduce marginally downward and is now at 29%. For almost two years now the RTA level has remained reasonably constant at around 30%: certainly there is no sign of the increasing trend observed up to that point.
Reasons for this are likely to be multifactorial, but will include a waiting list for stage 3 hearings, often claimant representatives' preferred means of concluding claims at stage 3. For example, Birkenhead County Court, a preferred venue for various claimant solicitors, reports a current waiting list for a stage 3 hearing of eight months.
Stage 3 usage in PL and EL claims is also shown as currently decreasing on the graph above, both currently sitting at around 11%. Again, there is no sign of a return to the increasing trend seen up until around two years ago, presumably for the same reasons as those applying to RTA claims.
RTA claims settling at stage 2 in February
In February, 12,917 RTA claims settled at stage 2, a decrease of 12.9% from the 14,831 which did so in January. February's number was the lowest for cases settling at stage 2 since the first year of the RTA portal's operation, with the exception only of both December 2017 and December 2018 when Christmas holidays intervened.
The number is a product not only of volumes currently entering the RTA portal, but progress within it including how the claims are disposed of.
RTA claims settling at stage 2 over the longer term
If we look at RTA stage 2 settled claims data over a 12 month cumulative basis to see longer term trends, then a clear decreasing experience is seen between late 2012 and the autumn of 2018. Since then, over the last six months, we have seen a position of stability.
As indicated, the explanation for the settled claims data is various, but one factor is the number of claims entering the portal, and the stability seen with RTA claims on this criterion on a cumulative basis over the last 11 months will partly explain the trend now visible with settled RTA claims.
For more information please contact Simon Denyer, Strategic 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.