August Portal Data: A glimpse of the new normal?
As the transport usage statistics creep back to the pre-Covid baseline, the Portal data shows the number of new RTA claims in August has actually dropped from July's level. We also have the quarterly civil justice statistics to review for the period April to June which show the full extent of the decline in issued claims during Covid.
Local lockdowns, and increased limitations and curfews nationwide are now in place for a number of areas, due to rising infection rates, with the threat of a complete UK wide lockdown still hanging over us. The situation regarding the economy seems at best uncertain as well, with the ONS releasing figures which show that UK unemployment rose from 3.9% to 4.1% in the three months to July and a warning from the Institute of Employment Studies that employers are planning redundancies at a level double that seen in the 2008/9 recession.
The latest Department of Transport statistics show private vehicle usage fairly constant around 90% of pre-Covid levels even into September, after the return to school and the encouragement of the government for people to return to the office.
Illustrating the effect of the reduced number of vehicles on the road, the ABI have also produced their Quarter 2 motor claims data on claims numbers, covering the period April to June 2020. The data showed a record 48% fall on claims received compared to the previous quarter, but an increase in the average value of claims paid by 27% on the previous quarter to £4,600 – the largest quarter to quarter rise on record, say the ABI. An overview of the ABI's data, can be reviewed here.
A report from Motoring Research from 21 September however suggests that the morning rush hour is back with traffic levels returning to a level last seen before the Covid pandemic.
Interestingly cycling seems to be on something of a decline, or at least not the further increase one might have expected in August:
The civil justice quarterly statistics show the stark effect of the Covid crisis on the court system. From April to June 2020, County Court claims were down 75% on the same period in 2019.
The number of personal injury claims issued in Q2 were down to 16,000, a 42% drop compared to the prior year:
Specified Money claims, which amongst other things would include subrogated recovery claims between insurers, bore the brunt of the crisis, dropping to 77,000 and a reduction of 79% year-on-year:
The accompanying commentary from the government statisticians stated that as society and the economy begins to recover from the impact of Covid, "it is expected that claims volumes will return to historic trend levels, and may even temporarily exceed the pre-Covid volumes as the backlog of claims is processed". We think that is probably unlikely for some time looking at the external trends mentioned elsewhere in this update and certainly the more up to date figures which include July, August and part of September do not seem to reflect a bouncing back:
Not surprisingly, according to the Quarterly Civil Justice stats the number of trials fell in Q2 2020, down 72% against the same period last year. In April to June 2020, it took an average of 41.8 weeks between a small claim being issued and the claim going to trial, 5.2 weeks longer than in the same period in 2019. For multi/fast track claims, it took on average 61.9 weeks to reach a trial, 2.9 weeks longer than in April to June 2019.
And whilst the trend of hearing adjournments has thankfully decreased, the number of hearings taking place remains well below the pre-Covid baseline:
New Casualty Claims
An analysis of the PL accident data for August 2020 saw 2,544 CNFs submitted onto the MOJ portal. In comparison to July 2020, this is a decline of 822 submissions. The percentage decrease between July 2020 and August 2020 is 24.4%. Whilst a reduction in August is expected due to holidays and reduced numbers of days in the month, when you compare these figures to July and August 2019 there was only a decrease of 5.8%.
Overall, significantly fewer CNFs have been submitted between April 2020 and August 2020 (13,957) compared to the same period in 2019 (22,825). A big part of the reason for this is fewer businesses have been able to trade at full capacity (or at all) which has limited the number of visitors and as a consequence will naturally result in fewer accidents.
EL accident data shows a similar pattern with 1,846 CNFs submitted, a 24.47% decrease between July 2020 and August 2020. In 2019, the same months saw a decrease in submissions of 1.4%. This follows two months of increases – July 2020 saw 2,444 submissions up 19.8% on June 2020, which in turn had seen an increase in submissions of 21% from May.
Overall, as with PL, fewer CNFs have been submitted between April 2020 and August 2020 (10,222) when compared to the same months in 2019 where submissions were 18,548.
When combined, the reduction in new casualty claims through the Portal over the last 5 years since the early 2015 peak is stark, although how much of that is due to fewer claims, as opposed to fewer claims through the Portal, is open to debate:
The 12 month rolling average shows the decline as well:
Portal Data for August 2020
New RTA Claims
Somewhat surprisingly, the August portal data for new RTA claims presented saw a reduction to 33,922 new CNFs, a reduction of 15.5% on the prior month and down 38.2% against the same month in 2019. We know that in June and July a higher proportion of older claims were being submitted through the Portal and that activity may have artificially bolstered the number of claims in those months. Either way, the recovery in June and July was short-lived:
August is traditionally a quieter month for CNFs due to holidays and a shorter number of working days, however weighting the month to take into account the number of days still shows a reduction, albeit not as significant:
As a result, the rolling 12-month figures continue their slide, now trending below 550,000 claims per annum:
Court Packs and PSLA
The number of RTA claims proceeding to a court proceedings pack has taken a hit in August dropping to 3,679, a low not seen since the beginning of 2015. Perhaps this is less surprising as the number of new claims since March inevitably means the available number of claims to take to stage 3 is not there:
The percentage of court packs compared to stage 2 settlements has however stayed the same, which would seem to bear out that theory:
PSLA numbers in RTA had been steadily rising during lockdown but have seen quite a sharp correction in August falling from £2,909 to £2,861, a reduction of 1.7% in a month. It is hard from one month to see a trend or an explanation, and we shall see if that continues.
For PL claims, the average figure for PSLA in August 2020 is £4,843, an increase of 1.8% from July 2020. The figure for EL is £4,395, which is a decrease of 6.6% compared to July 2020. The smaller volumes mean the average for both can fluctuate considerably each month, but by any standards that is a significant fall and the lowest since December 2019.
The retention rates in all types of claims have stabilised since the massive reductions of April, May and June. The longer trend line for the 12-month cumulative total shows the impact of those months on the rolling average. The reality is it is more due to the way the retention rate is calculated here taking into account the much lower number of CNFs sent, rather than any particular changes in behaviours:
It will be interesting to see if the September portal data reflects an increase in claims with more vehicles on the road and a return to the school run. However, with the prospect of further lockdowns, at least locally if not nationally, and working from home being encouraged once more, even if September shows a resurgence, it is likely only to be temporary...
Partner, Head of Motor & Fraud
M +44 7752 709114
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.