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Looking for key messages from latest portal data

17 June 2015

Sometimes the monthly data released by the Portal Company produces clear messages which lend themselves to a clear headline. On other occasions such as with yesterday’s release of the statistics for May, the available messages can be harder to find.

In broad terms, while each of the 4 portals showed reduced numbers of claims last month, of varying degree, the cumulative 12 month curve on numbers of new RTA claims is in fact still pointing upwards.

And the trend towards increased use by claimants of stage 3 has started to reverse.

New RTA claims

In May there were 69,300 new claims submitted to the RTA portal, a fall of 5% from the previous month’s figure for April. And, we should remember, April’s figure was in turn 10% down from the corresponding figure in March. See this graph:

SU 170615 1

But if we look at the 12 month cumulative data, which smooths out the bumps and which may in fact show a more accurate trend, the picture looks like the graph below:

SU 170615 2

Looking at the figures in this cumulative way, we have seen the 13th consecutive monthly increase in new RTA claims levels. Over the period spanned by this graph, we can see throughout 2012 an increasing trend in new claims levels even before the LASPO/Jackson changes were published in the autumn of that year. The pace of the increasing volumes then picks up after the government’s announcement of its intentions, reaching a peak in April 2013.

After April 2013 the number of new claims was clearly on a downward curve over the following 12 months till April 2014 by which time the cumulative total had effectively returned to January 2012 levels, some two and a half years earlier. But from then onwards the graph is clearly pointing in one direction – upwards, and we now have the 13th consecutive monthly increase from a cumulative perspective.

Department for Transport data

From the first graph we can see that the number of accidents causing injury is now broadly at a level where it was 3 years ago. On a cumulative basis this stability in that figure is emphasised further. On the other hand, the number of vehicle miles travelled is shown on both graphs as increasing, in part no doubt due to factors relating to the economy’s emergence from recession. The second graph shows vehicle miles increasing in line with the increase in the number of new RTA CNFs since March 2014, but the opposite trend was seen in 2013 when CNFs peaked but yet vehicle miles fell to its lowest level over the period being considered.

So it is possible that the number of vehicle miles travelled has some influence over the increasing number of RTA CNFs we are seeing now, but in spring 2013 it was equally clear that the need to pre-empt the incoming LASPO reforms had a much stronger effect, and was decisive on the increasing level of new RTA CNFs at that time.

RTA portal process changes

The fall in new CNFs of 10% which we saw between March and April this year was clearly affected by the fact that the March data was affected by an increased number of new claims that month as claimant lawyers rushed to beat the need to use the new MedCo processes for new soft tissue injury claims submitted to the RTA portal after 6 April (unless the medical expert had already been instructed before that date). April’s figure then straddled that incoming reform.

When we look at the new figure which we now have for May, we wanted to see to what extent it was affected by the fact that it was the last month before the next process change to affect these claims was introduced. This is the need to carry out a search for previous claims from askCUEPI for new soft tissue injury CNFs entering the RTA portal after 1 June.

The initial answer looking at the new CNF number of 69,300 for last month seems to be that there has not been a great effect. It seems that claimant lawyers did not really see this incoming reform as one they needed to pre-empt, as they have done with most if not all others.

This may be worthy of note by itself, as the need for the new search is after all designed in part to equip claimant lawyers with additional knowledge regarding their clients which will enable them to decide that claims from certain clients of theirs should not be pursued. Insurers will be hoping that this reform has some effect on reducing volumes, despite the fact that May’s new claims figure does not suggest that claimant lawyers saw the introduction of the reform as creating a need to pre-empt its introduction.

New casualty claims

New claims volumes into the portal are down this month across the piece. All 3 casualty portals show reductions for the 2nd successive month after 3 previous months of growth.

SU 170615 3

The reductions are:

  • EL – fall of up to 1%

  • PL – fall of 7%

  • EL disease – fall of 17%

Is there anything significant in these trends? It is too early to say but probably not. It is interesting that broadly the factors which do affect these numbers do so across all 3 types of claim. But these portals are still new and stability of data has yet to be reached. In any event, as the EL disease portal only receives a minority of that type of claims because of the wide variety of exempted types of disease claim, the number of them actually entering the portal needs to be treated with caution.

Retention rates and settlement figures

SU 170615 4

As before, the cumulative retention rate over the preceding 12 months for RTA is stable at near 50%, while the extent of the falling rates for EL and PL are reducing as they currently sit at around 30% and 20% respectively. The retention rate for disease continues to increase towards 30% but it will be remembered that this is based on relatively low levels of this type of claim within that portal, in a situation where the majority of EL disease claims are excluded from that process in the first place.

As to the number of settled casualty claims within the portal process, the position as between EL and PL is very similar. There have respectively been 7,814 and 7,800 claims which have settled at stage 2. There have been only 1,110 EL disease claims which have settled in the same way. As far as RTA claims are concerned, while it should be recognised that that portal is now over 5 years old, the number of stage 2 settlements is now over 1.1 million.

Court packs at stage 3

SU 170615 5

We had previously seen a clear trend over the last 2 years of increasing number of court packs being produced as a preliminary to RTA claims moving to stage 3. In fact the number of claims doing so doubled as between spring 2013 and spring 2014, and the doubled again as between spring 2014 and spring 2015. Last month we saw a fall of 1% in the volume of claims doing so, and in this month’s released data for May, we see another fall, this time of 3%. This is an interesting reversal of an established trend and may suggest an effective response to the challenge is being mounted.

EL court packs were 25, and levels remain stable within a 20-25 per month range. PL court packs were 29, the lowest number for 4 months. EL disease saw 5 court packs. While between last August and this May EL disease court packs were within a range of 10-20 per month, since then they have been running at a reduced level and are now within a range of 5-7 per month.

PSLA figures

In RTA, the average settlement figure for general damages was £2,575, so that the level of settlement in that type of claim has now been stable for the last 13 months.

EL and PL again show a similar trend, perhaps on the basis that those types of claim are essentially similar. In EL, the average general damages settlement figure was £3,458, the highest figure yet. In PL, the corresponding level was £3,446, a small reduction from last month, but the 2nd highest to date.

On the other hand, in the case of EL disease, at £3,997 we saw a 2nd successive monthly decrease, so that the figure now stands at 30% below the March 2014 peak, but the figure remains volatile because of the relatively low level of settlements.


For more information please contact Simon Denyer, Partner on +44 (0)161 604 1551 or email simon.denyer@dwf.co.uk

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.