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January portal data shows monthly new claims numbers increasing though longer term trends remain generally stable as the picture for 2019 starts to be formed


We saw with the MI for December that there were record low levels of new claims entering all of the portals as a continuation of the trend of a reduction in claims activity on the part of claimant operations in the lead up to Christmas. We had expected significant increases in numbers this month and that is what we have, but they are not to prior levels.


The month on month increases in January were 33.2% for RTA, 36.4% in the case of PL, 37.8% with EL and 51.2% for EL disease. But on the other hand the January levels for RTA, PL and EL disease were the lowest for any January throughout the history of those portals, and with EL we saw the lowest number since that portal's inaugural year.


Comparing the first month of 2019 with monthly averages for 2018 produces a mixed picture: RTA starts the year up by 8.3% and EL disease by 3.6%, but PL opens 2019 with a reduction of 2.0% and EL is down 3.1%.


Moving to longer term trends to assess new claims volumes shows us that the picture is negative across the board. RTA falls 0.2%, PL by 0.8%, EL drops 0.9% and EL disease 4.2%. This reflects in part the fact that volumes last month were lower than in January 2018.


Nevertheless there remains clear consistency of RTA claims intake over the last 10 months when assessed on the longer term basis: variation has been within a margin of only 1.0%. While ultimately showing reducing volumes, there is also still relative consistency of volumes in the casualty portals for both PL and specifically EL.


Over the DWP's accounting year till the end of March, with us now being 10 months into that period, we are currently projecting the RTA figure for 2018/19 to be within 0.2% of the 2017/18 outcome: there will clearly be a close result when the final data is available.

Use of stage 3 to conclude issues of quantum remains relatively stable without evidence of earlier increasing trends, RTA at around 30% and PL and EL within a range of 10-15%.

New RTA claims in January

The calendar year 2019 began with January's data showing 63,089 new RTA claims, an increase of 33.2% over the record low figure of 47,358 seen in December.  The current level is the highest monthly intake since January 2018, with the exception of October 2018. 


We saw last month further evidence of a developing pattern over recent years of significantly reducing new claims volumes between the months of November and December, which had continued with December 2018's data.


As a corollary of that, we see an increasing trend of raised new claims volumes as between the months of December and January.  In 2016, the increase was 12.5%, in 2017 it rose to 13.9%, in 2018 it jumped to 31.5% and this time it is 33.2%.  The point of consistency seems to be the reduced activity in the month of December.


2019's figure is the lowest January level for the RTA portal since it was established.  January 2019 is lower than January 2018 by 1.9%, it is less than January 2017 by 3.1% and is below January 2016 by 10.4%. 


Over the calendar year 2018, we reached an end point where the average monthly RTA new claims intake was 58,244.  2019 has begun at a level 8.3% above 2018's average, but there is little significance in the figure after only one month.

New RTA claims in January – time weighted

There were 22 working days in January.  If when we are looking at December we exclude only the bank holiday days then we are left with 19 working days, so that January would represent an increase in working time of 15.8%, much less than the increase in volumes of 33.2%.


But if we also exclude from the reckoning 24th, 27th, 28th and 31st December when claimant operations may also not have been working, then the number of working days reduces to 15.  If we compare that to the 22 working days in January then this equates to an increase in working time of 46.7%.


The graph above shows that in January there were 2,868 claims per working day, at a similar level to that seen in October and November of last year, and at one of the highest levels over the last 18 months.  It remains to be seen whether a daily average in excess of 3,000 will be reached during 2019, and if it is, that will be the first occasion for around 2 years.


New RTA claims over the longer term

Looking at the new claims data on a 12 month cumulative basis in order to show longer term trends, as the graph above demonstrates, the data continues to appear stable over the 10 months since March 2018.  Throughout that period the 12 month cumulative figure has been within a range of 694,500 to 701,000, a difference of 6,500 or 1.0%.


The January data at 696,953 was in fact 0.2% lower than December's figure of 698,168.  Over the last 10 months there have been four monthly increases and six monthly decreases.  But the current picture remains one of stability.


The rate of decline again shows substantial slowing, and we expect this will continue throughout 2019.  Between January 2017 and January 2018 the decline was 12.1%, whereas between January 2018 and last month it had reduced to 2.2%.

Comparison with annual portal and CRU data

With the inclusion of January's figure we are now 10 months through the accounting year to the end of March used by the DWP in their annual CRU claims data.  We are now currently predicting an annual 2018/19 total of 697,312, which itself is an increase of 0.8% over the predicted figure of 691,684 seen with the inclusion of December's record low total.


Over the 10 months of 2018/19 to date, there have been 581,093 new RTA claims.  We would expect with the inclusion of the data for February and March, the final two months of the accounting period, that the ultimate 2018/19 figure would increase towards and may well exceed 700,000, or at least will end up at a similar level to 2017/18's finalised total of 698,765.  As matters currently stand after 10 months, the current projection is 0.2% below the 2017/18 level. 


When 2017/18 was compared to 2016/17, there was a clear decrease of 12.0%. It is now quite clear that there will be no such fall apparent when the final data is available in two months' time, and instead 2018/19 will end up very similar to 2017/18.


The CRU figure for 2017/18 was 650,019.  The current projected portal 2018/19 total is 7.3% above that level.

New casualty claims in January

PL claims


January saw 4,710 new PL claims, an increase of 36.4% over the 3,452 made in December.  January's level is 9.4% below that seen in November when there were 5,197 claims.


This is the lowest January intake of PL claims since the casualty portals were established.  January 2019 was lower than January 2018 by 8.8%, less than January 2017 by 8.0% and below January 2016's level by 10.1%

The substantial increase from December's level is unsurprising compared to the previous two years:  the 36.4% this time around compares to 42.9% between December 2017/January 2018, the 31.5% between December 2016/January 2017 and the 14.0% between December 2015/January 2016. 


The average monthly PL claims intake during the calendar year 2018 was 4,806.  The current level after one month of 2019 is 2.0% below that.


EL claims


January saw 3,833 new EL claims enter the process, an increase of 37.8% from the 2,782 in December.  However, January's total was 3.1% less than the 3,957 seen in November.

This is the lowest January EL claims intake since the first year of the casualty portals' operation.  The reduction between this year and January 2018 is 9.5%, the current level is less than in January 2017 by 4.0% and below January 2016 by 4.9%. 


As with PL claims, the increase between December and January this time around of 37.8% is broadly consistent with the prior picture over the previous two years: the increase between December 2017 and January 2015 was 54.2%, between December 2016 and January 2017 it was 25.7% while between December 2015 and January 2016 it was 16.8%.


The 2018 monthly average of new claims totalled 3,847.  We begin the year 2019 with a monthly total 0.4% below that level. 


EL disease claims


In January there were 455 new EL disease claims, an increase over the month of 51.2% from the 301 seem in December. January's level was also 3.6% higher than November's total of 439.


This is the lowest January EL disease intake since the casualty portals opened.  January 2019 is below January 2018's level by 36.5%, less than in January 2017 by 46.0% and below January 2016 by 66.9%.


The increase between December and January of 51.2% this time around is again comparable with the previous two years of data.  Between December 2017 and January 2018 the increase was 50.1%, between December 2016 and January 2017 it was an increase of 37.3% whereas between December 2015 and January 2016 there was in fact a reduction of 1.7%.


We begin 2019 at a level 12.1% below the monthly average for 2018 of 517 new claims.

New casualty claims over the longer term

PL claims


Looking at longer terms trends via the 12 month cumulative data, we see this month there to have been 57,157 new PL claims over that period, which is a reduction over the month of 0.8% from 57,610 when assessed at the end of December. Drawing a comparison with the position a year ago, the current level is 3.2% below 59,039 where the data then stood. 


Over the last 12 months there have been four monthly increases, but these have been subsumed within the effect of 8 monthly reductions. 


The monthly average decrease during the calendar year 2018 was 0.2%.  2019 begins four times higher at a 0.8% reduction.


EL claims


On the same 12 month cumulative basis there were 45,722 new EL claims including January's data, a reduction of 0.9% from the level of 46,124 seen a month ago.  The current level is 1.7% below that seen in January 2018 standing then at 46,491.  As with PL claims, over the last 12 months there have been four monthly increases but eight monthly decreases.


The 2018 average monthly reduction was a nominal 0.02%.  Though it is early days, we begin 2019 with a much larger reduction of 0.9%. 


EL disease claims


Including January's data, this 12 month cumulative measurement showed 5,934 claims, a reduction over the month of 4.2% from 6,197 where the data stood at the end of December. The current level is 34.2% below the 9,013 seen in January 2018.  Each of the last 12 months has shown a reduction on this data, indeed, the same reducing monthly trend has now been apparent for over three years.


The 2018 average monthly reduction was 2.7%: the first month of 2019 has increased further up to 4.2%.

Retention rates

While December had shown downward trends across all four portals, the position is reversed in January with every one of the portals showing a monthly increase as retention rates have improved.

Looked at on a 12 month cumulative basis for longer term trends, the RTA retention rate remains at 54%, EL and PL are each reduced by 1%: to 27% in the case of EL and 22% for PL, while EL disease is also unchanged at 4%. 

Both retention rate graphs assume cases proceeding to stage 3 to be included within the portal process.


RTA claims – stage 3 usage and PSLA levels

Stage 3


There were 6,201 RTA court packs prepared in January as a preliminary step to use of stage 3 in the portal process.  This represented an increase of 24.4% over the 4,868 seen in December.  Comparing a little further back to November, the current total is 1.7% lower than the level of 6,309 then seen.


The monthly average of new court packs for the year 2018 was 6,052, so we begin 2019 at a level 2.5% higher.  Though if we make a direct comparison with January 2018 when the level stood at 6,362 then the current number is precisely the same percentage, 2.5%, lower than then.


PSLA levels


The average PSLA level in January was £2,840, a reduction of 0.7% from the £2,861 which was the December result.  The current level is precisely the same as in August 2018 and therefore shows some relative regression.


The current level is 2.1% above November 2017, when the effects of the 14th edition of the Judicial College Guidelines can be expected to have started to impact.  When looking at December's data, the figure stood 2.8% higher than in November 2017. We are no nearer to the 4.8% average increase proposed in those guidelines.

Casualty claims – stage 3 usage and PSLA levels

Stage 3


In the case of PL, there were 82 court packs prepared in January, an increase of 70.8% over the 48 seen in December.  This is the fourth highest level to date and also the highest month since November 2017. The current level is also 39.0% over the 59 seen in November 2018.


The PL average for the calendar year 2018 was 67, so the current level as 2019 begins is 22.4% higher.  The current number is also 9.3% higher than the 75 seen 12 months ago in January 2018.


Turning to EL, there were 93 court packs in January, an increase of 27.4% over the 73 that were submitted in December.  This is the third highest level to date and the highest monthly figure since September 2017.  There were also 93 court packs prepared in November 2018.


The 2018 average number of EL court packs was 79, so the current level as 2019 begins is 17.7% higher.  The current level is also 8.1% higher than the 86 seen a year ago in January 2018.


Moving on to EL disease, there was one court pack created in January, a 50% reduction from the two seen in December.  There was also one court pack prepared in November.

The average monthly level for 2018 was two EL disease court packs, so the year 2019 begins on a 50% reduced level.  Comparing back to January 2018 when there were 5 EL disease court packs created, we note a reduction of 80%.


PSLA levels


None of the casualty portals show any increase in PSLA levels since the 14th edition of the Judicial College Guidelines began to impact.  The lower volumes of claims within these portals means that it is more difficult to show significant trends. 


Average PSLA in the PL portal rose by 8.7% to £4,256 from £3,917.  In the case of EL, levels fell 0.3% from £4,209 to £4,196, whilst EL disease claims on the smallest sample of settled cases since the casualty portals were in their infancy rose 3.2% from £3,617 to £3,734.

Comparative use of stages 2 and 3

We had seen before the prior trend of increasing use of stage 3 in the RTA portal having come to an end.  Nothing has changed this month as the proportion of Stage 3 usage sits at marginally under 30%.


As to the main casualty portals, use of stage 3 in PL claims rose to 13%, whilst in the case of EL, it reduced marginally to around 12%.  Over the last 18 months, use of stage 3 within these two casualty portals has generally been within the 10 – 15 % range and there is no sign of that position changing.




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.