Just when it had seemed that we had heard the last from the Portal Company before Christmas, the position has changed by them earlier yesterday afternoon issuing their claims data for November. It looks as though they plan to continue to release the MI earlier than they have done previously. Instead of reporting a month in arrears, we now already have the data for November. It's worth looking at those figures and comparing them to the previous month's as there may now be a new gloss on the trends which are appearing, though it is still early to be making definite conclusions. The RTA portal figures referred to below are the best indication of trends in new claims numbers of all types, as they represent the claims type producing the largest number of claims, and there is here a mature set of data which has been collected over the last three years.
In November, there were 67,000 new claims, a figure down 2,000 from the previous month. It's the first downward figure in three months, when data from September and October had suggested we were on an upward trend. The important question remains, at what level are new notifications going to end up once this year's reforms have settled down? We should continue to be wary of reaching any firm conclusions as yet, as the on-going changes on the claimant side are still happening, and even where they have taken place they are still only recent. Many developments in the claimant market still lie ahead and it will we think take a year or more for us to be able to see that market as having reached a level of stability.
One factor still outstanding is the number of law firms, 141 at the last count, who have not yet been able to obtain PI insurance. They are still in the "emergency insurance period" within which they are able to continue in business, but not to take on new instructions. They face closure if they have not been able to secure cover in place by 29 December. These unnamed firms will tend to be small, and many will be claimant injury law firms.
Against the background of all of that, this month's decrease in new portal RTA claims may or may not be significant. It is just too early to tell. Those expecting claims numbers to be at lower levels post Jackson now have for the first time some evidence in support as far as data from the Portal Company is concerned. It is though in our view too early to say on the basis of this evidence that going forward the number of new notifications is not going to reach the pre Jackson average figure of around 70,000 per month. Instead the latest figure could be due to the impact of short term factors such as the 141 firms without new PI cover. It remains the case that the same data for the early months of 2014 will remain important as to whether the current reduced figure is indicative of a new trend, or of only temporary relevance.
EL/PL and EL disease
Portal claims numbers remain in their infancy. Whereas last month's figures had shown increases in numbers of new claims standing at 80-97% across these 3 types, this month the increases are smaller, ranging from 11% in PL to 22% in EL accident to 30% in EL disease. Slower rates of increasing use of the portal in these cases should be expected looking ahead, but increases nevertheless.
Retention rates of new claims staying within the portal are down in all three types of claim, this month retention rates are 36% in EL disease, 38% in PL and 51% in EL accident. This is now a second month of falling retention rates, which we have attributed before to unfamiliarity with the new processes. Perhaps that factor is temporarily accentuated at the moment where smaller claimant firms may now be using the new process for the first time and making mistakes. We see it likely that retention rates will rise in the medium term.
As to settlements, there are now 48 from the EL portal and 51 from the PL portal, the majority of which were last month. Still no EL disease settlements so far. Average general damages figures are increasing, up now to £2,066 for EL and to £1,978 for PL. Still below the average RTA figure but both will rise further and will no doubt go above the RTA average settlement level, we expect.
We await, with interest, more of this type of evidence in 2014. Definite conclusions on these key issues will have to wait till then.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.