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August's Claims Portal data release shows increasing claims numbers though trends remain negative, while 14th Judicial College Guidelines point to further damages inflation ahead

The release by Claims Portal of their MI for August allows an updated assessment to take place of latest claims trends.

Summary

In August there were increased new monthly claims volumes into all 4 portals when compared to July, ranging from 1.4% in RTA to 7.4% in PL and 12.9% with EL. Nevertheless, in the case of all 4 portals the monthly level was lower than in the corresponding month in all 3 preceding years.

Longer term trends remain negative in all 4 portals. Looking ahead to the conclusion of the 2017/18 accounting period, the RTA new claims level may end up at a substantial number demonstrating a continuing compensation culture but one which is 100,000 lower than in 2016/17.

The 14th edition of the Judicial College Guidelines is proposing increases in PSLA of around 4.8% based on RPI changes, at least prior to the Government's proposed tariff system for minor whiplash claims has an impact. This is likely to start affecting the data from November onwards.

Inflationary PSLA increases due primarily to the 13th edition of the guidelines published 2 years ago have to date ranged from 3.8% in EL, to 4.8% in RTA through to 7.9% in the case of PL.

New RTA claims in August

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In the month of August 2017 there were 59,565 new RTA claims submitted to the portal. That is a small month on month increase of 1.4% when compared to the revised total for July which now stands at 58,749.

Last month we saw a pattern of relatively stable volumes over the preceding 3 months: that trend continues with August's figure. The situation now is that over each of the last 4 months, May to August, the level of new RTA claims has been close to 60,000. Taking into account the adjusted figure for July, each monthly figure for the past 4 months has been within 1,300 of that 60,000 level.

Looking further back in time however, another continuing trend continues to hold good. The volume of new claims in August 2017 was the lowest August number since August 2010 when the RTA portal was only 4 months old, with the exception of August 2013 when numbers had not recovered from the immediate pre-LASPO peak seen in March 2013.

For every month this year we have broadly seen the same pattern, while what we saw in August in terms of comparison with the same month in previous years including 2010 and 2013 precisely replicates May and June.

New RTA claims numbers in August this year are lower than in the 3 previous Augusts: lower than in August 2016 by 13.4%, less than in August 2015 by 12.2%, and lower than August 2014 by 8.9%.

Department for Transport data

The seasonally adjusted DfT data of vehicle miles travelled per quarter has increased from Q1's level of 81.3 billion to 81.5 billion in Q2 as part of a continuing increasing trend over the last 4 years. This data is shown in a black line on the preceding graph at a point in time where that data might impact on portal volumes allowing for time lag between those miles being travelled and RTA claims arising out of some of those journeys.

What continues to be apparent is the lack of any demonstrable correlation between DfT data and the RTA Claims Portal MI.

New RTA claims in August – time weighted

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The holiday month of August impacts on this analysis with fewer working days for many as a result so that we should be cautious in drawing conclusions from what appears from the graph to be a downward month-on-month trend.

There were nominally 23 working days in August, that's a 9.5% increase in working days from the 21 in July. But the reality is that the staff of claimant operations tending to take more holidays in August is likely to balance out any potential effect of more working days on increasing numbers of new claims.

In fact August was the 6th consecutive month where the level of new RTA claims per working day stood at less than 3,000 when adjusted for the number of working days. When compared to July, the daily average of new RTA claims for each working day fell 7.4% from 2,798 to 2,590.The last time that this sort of level as reached was in 2013 in the aftermath of the pre-LASPO peak.

New RTA claims over the longer term

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On a 12 month cumulative basis the trend continues downwards. This has been the case now for 22 out of the last 24 months.

This month the annual total fell 1.2% over the month from 754,336 to 745,268. This is in line with the average monthly fall of 1.1% during 2017.

The rate of decrease is increasing. Between August 2015 and August 2016 it was 4.7%, while between August 2016 and last month it was 11.2%.

The previous low point was 771,709 seen in April 2014, around a year after the LASPO-induced peak. We are now at a level 3.4% lower than in April 2014.

Comparison with annual RTA data

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We continue to ask where are we likely to end up at the end of the DWP's accounting year when we reach the end of March 2018 in terms of updating the graph above.

The average monthly total for 2017/18 now stands at 58,144, as opposed to 68,080 after the same period in 2016/17. If new RTA claims continued to be submitted at the same rate for the rest of 2017/18 then the annual total would be 697,728, which would be 12.5% or around 100,000 lower than the total of 797,067 which was encountered last year.

The currently predicted total of 697,728 would be the lowest annual total since the portal's inaugural year of 2010/11 when 11 months of data only was collected.

New casualty claims in August

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When carrying out the same analysis last month, we saw month-on-month decreasing volumes of new casualty claims in all 3 of the portals when July was compared to June. This time the reverse is true, and the August levels are higher than those seen in July in all 3 cases. Indeed in the case of PL and EL, new claims volumes in August were higher too than in June.

When we look back over the previous 3 years as we did with RTA claims we get a similar picture: August 2017's levels are less than previous years, usually by some distance.

New PL claims

In the PL portal there were 5,258 new claims in August, a rise of 7.4% from the 4,897 seen in July. This is the highest level since March.

If we look back to the previous 3 Augusts as we did with RTA claims then August 2017 is lower than August 2016 by 3.9%, less than August 2015 by 12.1%, and lower than August 2014 by 14.9%.

New EL claims

August saw 3,992 new EL claims, that's a rise of 12.9% over the 3,537 seen in July. It's the highest level since May.

Comparing backwards to the previous 3 years, then August 2017 is lower than August 2016 by 8.6%, less than August 2015 by 7.4%, and lower than August 2014 by 1.6%.

New EL disease claims

There were 761 new EL disease claims submitted to the portal last month, that's an increase of 5.0% over the 725 which there were in July.

Again, looking back 3 years, August 2017 is lower than August 2016 by 14.3%, less than August 2015 by as much as 53.3%, and lower than August 2014 by 41.6%.

New casualty claims over the longer term

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Longer term casualty trends are downwards both over 12 and 24 months. Our graph above continues the previously seen trends.

PL claims

Over the 12 months up to and including August 2017, there were 60,265 new casualty claims, a decrease of 0.4% over the comparative position seen a month ago. The average monthly decrease on this method of measurement during 2017 to date has been 0.8%.

We have now seen monthly decreases over 25 of the last 26 months which was when the downward trend began.

Between August 2015 and August 2016 the fall was 12.8%: between August 2016 and August 2017 it was lower at 9.6%. So the rate of decrease has slowed.

EL claims

Over the same 12 month period to August 2017, there were 47,491 new EL claims, which was a fall of 0.8% over the level seen a month ago. Over 2017 to date the average monthly fall has been 0.6%.

Over 16 of the last 20 months there have been falls in the case of EL. The downward trend for EL started later than for PL and there have been more months when in fact increases occurred.

Between August 2015 and August 2016 the fall was 7.2%: between August 2016 and August 2017 it was lower at 6.7%. The rate of decrease has marginally slowed.

EL disease claims

Over 12 months up to the end of August the total stood at 9,675 EL disease claims, which is a decrease of 1.3% over the position one month ago. The average decrease when assessed monthly over 2017 has been 1.6%.

This is the 20th consecutive monthly fall, so that the decreasing pattern for EL disease started at the same time as with EL accident, though in the case of EL disease it has been steeper.

Between August 2015 and August 2016 the drop was 32.8%, while between August 2016 and last month it was 35.6%.

The Civil Justice Council Working Party has very recently had published its final report on both fixed costs and a new claims process for noise induced hearing loss claims, but this potential reform does not directly impact on EL disease claims inside the portal which stand outside that new process.

Retention rates

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During August there were improved retention rates for all 3 casualty portals, but a falling rate for RTA.

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Over a cumulative period of 12 months, all 3 casualty portals show gradual improved retention rates over the last 12 months or so.

For RTA claims the retention rate is essentially static and nudges just over 50%.

Both retention rate graphs include cases proceeding to stage 3 as "retained" within the portal process.

Judicial College Guidelines – 14th edition

We should consider the impact of these which have very recently been published in the context of portal claims.

RPI continues to be the matrix used by the guidelines in this edition, and so with that index showing inflation running at 4.8% over the 2 years up until June 2015; it is that figure which is used as the benchmark. It will be recalled that the corresponding figure in the 13th edition was 3.4%.

It follows from this that increases of between 4.8% and 5.0% are used for minor neck and similar injuries lasting between 28 days and 2 years. It will be recalled that in the 13th edition increases of as much as 20% were proposed for some of these types of injury.

For minor injuries of up to 7 or 28 days the increase is a smaller 3.4% after larger increases proposed in the previous edition of 5%.

It is said that it had been considered delaying publication of the 14th edition pending the proposed legislative reform introducing a tariff for minor whiplash cases, but clearly publication has proceeded, though the need to be aware of a potential new scheme is noted without further comment.

Finally, critical note is made in the guidelines as an issue raised by district judges that claimants have been arguing that continuation of any symptoms was key to deciding within which bracket a claim should fall.

In response the guidelines say that "too casual a focus on the length of time for which it is said the injury was suffered" should be avoided, and that what is need is "intelligent application" of the guidelines. Put another way, the continuance of symptoms at a minor level only may be insufficient when it comes to deciding into which bracket a case should fall.

RTA claims – stage 3 usage and PSLA levels

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Stage 3

In August, 6,428 RTA claims went to the stage of preparing a court pack in anticipation of the stage 3 processes being used. That is a 3.5% increase over July and is the 4th highest level to date

The effect of the increase is shown on our comparative graph which follows and shows the use of stage 3 as opposed to claims which conclude at stage 2.

PSLA quantum levels

In August the average level reached £2,782, which is a 0.8% fall from July, but it should be recalled that July was the 2nd highest level to date.

Over the last 12 months PSLA in RTA claims has risen 3.9%, whereas in the preceding 12 months it was 4.7%.

Since November 2015 when the effects of the 13th edition of the Judicial College Guidelines started to be felt, there has been an increase of 8.4%. This is equivalent to an increase of 4.8% per annum.

This reflects both the average 3.4% increase seen in the 13th edition which was based on RPI inflation over the 2 years leading up to 30th April 2015 being the baseline then used, as well as increases advised of up to 20% in relation to the main injuries encountered in relation to minor whiplash claims as noted above.

Casualty claims – stage 3 usage and PSLA levels

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Stage 3

Stage 3 usage in the casualty portals was also high. The details are as follows:

In the case of PL, 72 court packs were prepared in August, the 6th highest level in that portal. It represents a 17.2% decrease over July, but then July was the highest month to date.

With EL, there were 79 courts packs, the 2nd highest ever, and a 68.1% month on month increase from July's reduced number.

There were 3 EL disease court packs, an increase from 1 the preceding month.

PSLA quantum levels

Across each of the casualty portals we see reducing PSLA levels in August.

In the case of PL, the August average was £4,110, a 4.6% monthly drop though from a July level which was the highest to date.

Over the last 12 months there has been an increase of 1.5%, and over the preceding 12 months the rise was 8.0%. From November 2015 when the JCG 13th edition started to have effect, the current level suggests an increase of 7.9%.

With EL, In August we saw a monthly decrease of 4.2% to £3,998.

Over the 12 months leading through to last month there was a decrease of 7.3%, whereas over the preceding 12 months there had been an increase of 19.8%. Since the 13th edition the rise for EL was 3.8%.

As to EL disease, in August the level stood at £3,455, a monthly fall of 17.6%, but it has to be granted that this was from the highest level for 2 years.

As before, with its low volumes the EL disease picture is not a clear one. Over the past 12 months we have seen a decrease of 11.3%, whereas over the preceding 12 months there had been a rise of 3.0%. Since the 13th edition the data in fact suggested a decrease of 13.5%.

Comparative use of stages 2 and 3

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The RTA upwards trajectory of stage 3 usage is clear: we are again at the level where 1 in 3 claims of that type go to stage 3.

The upward though more haphazard growth in the use of stage 3 is also apparent still for PL and for EL, and while both have been higher, each currently stands at around 1in 10 claims using stage 3.

Regards

Contact

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

By Simon Denyer

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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.

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