Claims Portal released its data for the month of March late yesterday afternoon and it presents another opportunity to review claims handling trends in the context of low value injury claims entering the portal process.

The new data shows there was a decreasing number of new RTA claims in March when compared to February, but the longer term picture is more complex. On a 12 month cumulative analysis the RTA new claims trend continues to be downwards, but if at the end of 2015/16 we compare volumes with the preceding year the trend points to a marginal increase, as the recently released CRU data did.

In terms of the casualty portals, there were monthly increases in March into both the EL and PL portals (while in the EL disease portal new volumes fell significantly), but the 12 month cumulative trends have now pointed downwards for a number of months in all casualty portals.

New RTA claims month by month

In March there were 71,298 new claims, a fall of 1.6% over the level seen in February. And if we compare with the relatively stable level of new claims seen over the September to November period last year when the average volume was around 74,000 per month, last month’s level was 3.4% lower than that.

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New RTA claims 12 month cumulative

Looking back on this basis in order to identify longer term trends we see the picture available from the next graph. On this form of measurement there have now been falls in 6 of the last 7 months. This time round, the decrease is from 868,342 to 858,650 or nearly 10k (1.1%).

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The pre-LASPO peak in April 2013 saw this 12 month cumulative figure at a peak of 883,242. The current level is now 2.8% below that peak.

Last month we commented that a larger drop than had been seen in previous months should be expected this month. The pointer to this was that the March 2016 number of new claims was always going to be rather less than in March 2015 when claimant lawyers were busy submitting CNFs to the portal in advance of stage 2 of the MedCo reforms which were implemented for new claims submitted after 5 April 2015.

We await the April data next month to identify where this trend will go next. We expect a more stable picture to be seen then as far as the 12 month trend is concerned because of a stabilisation of the position seen a year ago which will form part of the comparison.

Comparison with other data

We saw the release by the DWP of the annual CRU new claims data for the 12 months up to the end of March 2016 earlier this month.

At the time the final portal new claims data was awaited for March and we needed to estimate that figure. Now that we have that data we can update the graph setting out the number of new claims into the portal against other sources of information and do so here:

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The green line for the portal data is in fact showing a small upturn, as is the brown line representing the CRU data.

In the 12 months to the end of March 2016 there were 858,650 new claims entering the RTA portal, as opposed to 856,261 the preceding 12 months. That is, the portal data shows a 0.3% increase if we take a year on year comparison.

And we saw when we looked at the CRU data earlier this month that too showed a small increase on a year on year comparison. The number of new RTA claims notified to CRU over the same period increased by 1.2% from 761,878 to 770,791.

Some confidence can therefore be taken from the similar results on this form of measurement each showing small increases. What cannot sensibly be done though is to compare a figure taken from one source with one which emerges from another. The difference between the portal data and the CRU data for 15/16 is that the portal figure is 88k higher, similar to the 90k we had anticipated.

The reasons for the difference and why more RTA claims enter the portal than are reported to CRU will be various even if we need to call on educated guesswork to work them out. As we have seen before, they are likely to include portal claims being duplicated, and claims which are submitted at stage 1 but do not advance (including £400 club claims) but which are not reported to CRU.

New casualty claims month by month

Both the EL and PL portals show increasing volumes of new claims last month, in fact their third consecutive monthly rises. However, the position is in fact mixed as in both cases the extent of the increase was the smallest seen between February and March since these portals opened.

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There were 4,521 new claims to the EL portal in March, a rise of 4.5%. There were also 5,833 new PL claims to that portal, a small increase of 0.6%. The overall number of new casualty claims shown on the graph above for March is similar to that for February due to the fall in the number of new EL disease claims.

But when we compare back to the average number of new claims as between September and November, we see that neither EL nor PL has yet returned to that level. At 4,521 new claims in March, EL is getting close to that average of 4,533. But in the case of PL, at 5,833 in March, the level seen is still 4.5% under the September to November average of 6,113.

In the case of EL disease, as usual the story is both different as well as difficult to predict. In March there were 1,112 new claims to that portal. This is the fifth consecutive monthly fall. The volume of new claims to that portal is now the lowest for 2 years, the last time there were that few new disease claims being submitted the portal was only 7 months old and was still picking up steam.

But of course the story is never a complete one with EL disease because of the clear potential for those claims to be advanced outside of the portal, such as where a claim is presented against more than one defendant. Any further increasing volume of new claims of this type though should be expected to impact on portal figures because at least a proportion of new claims will enter this process.

New casualty claims 12 month cumulative

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As with RTA, the trend is downwards if we look at cumulative trends over 12 months. PL has now shown a downward trend over each of the last 9 months, as has EL now over the last 6 months. EL disease has shown a clear downward trend for the second month running.

Retention rates

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All 4 portals showed a monthly decrease in retention rates. On the 12 month cumulative basis the graph shows the recent decreasing trend on RTA retention, now only marginally above 45%. Last month the RTA retention rate was barely above 40% and this has impacted on the 12 month figure. The EL trend is decreasing towards 20% while the PL trend may be increasing towards that level. The EL disease retention rate is now only a handful of per cent.

Settled RTA claims

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Last month’s data showed a second monthly increase in the number of settled RTA claims but the 12 month cumulative trend is still downwards. The historical data from 12 months ago suggests the 12 month cumulative trend should move towards levelling off over the next 2 months.

RTA claims still in the portal

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The graph above shows now that the 1 million figure has been reached. The Portal Company’s clean up exercise that is due to start at the end of the month is now awaited and this data will allow its effect to be measured.

Stage 3 usage

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The bars on the graph above show that in the RTA portal usage of stage 3 still remains increasingly popular. There were 5,630 stage 3 packs in the RTA portal last month. For the second consecutive month this is the highest number ever. The extent of the monthly increase is also worth noting at 4.5%.

If we compare the number of cases moving into stage 3 last month at 5,630 with the number of new claims entering the RTA portal at 71,298, then the stage 3 number is 7.9% of the new claims level. This is the highest proportion of cases moving to stage 3 ever.

The same trend is not though apparent in the casualty portals. There were fewer than 100 cases progressing that far in total across all 3 of those portals, each being less than 0.1% of the volumes of new claims into those portals. The practices which have been seen in increasingly moving RTA claims to stage 3 have yet to be seen in the other portals.

PSLA levels

We may be starting to see an effect of the 13th edition of the Judicial College Guidelines. The RTA level rose £28 or 1% to £2,614 in the most recent data. The November 2015 to February 2016 average was £2,580 and last month’s level was 1.3% above that.

Both EL and PL remained at their second highest level ever at £3,939 and £3,929 respectively, while EL disease at £4,047 was at its highest level for 7 months.