Government figures published as parliament prepares to debate curbs on personal injury claims appear to show the number of such claims dropping to the lowest level for almost a decade. 

The Department for Work and Pensions’ Compensation Recovery Unit (CRU) reported yesterday that the total number of cases registered with it fell by 13% to 853,615 in 2017/28.

The biggest sources of cases, motor claims, fell year-on-year by 17% to around 650,000. Clinical negligence cases dropped 3% to 17,400 in 2017/18.

CRU figures are considered to be an important yardstick for measuring claims numbers, as the DWP must be notified of details of any claim by the organisation or person paying compensation.

They appear to douse cold water on the government’s rationale for sweeping changes affecting personal injury and clinical negligence claims.

Last month David Gauke introduced the Civil Liability Bill by saying the number of whiplash claims had been ‘too high for too long’, and was ‘symptomatic of a wider compensation culture’.

The legislation, due for second reading the House of Lords today, will introduce fixed tariffs for RTA claims and ban settlements being made without a medical examination. The government also intends to increase the small claims limit to £5,000 for RTA claims and is looking at increasing the scope of fixed recoverable costs following a review by Lord Justice Jackson.

The long-term CRU figures show that government intervention has often led to a spike or dramatic fall in cases registered.

Before the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act in 2013, motor claims exceeded 800,000 in the two previous years as lawyers seemed to capitalise on more favourable conditions. Conversely, when the reforms restricted motor claims, work migrated to other sectors: employer liability claims rose 15% while clinical negligence also increased 16%. Rises in both sectors stopped after 2013/14 and figures have dropped year-on-year ever since.

The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers said that the fall in the number of motor claims undermined the case for reform. ‘This discredits the principles behind the Civil Liability Bill,’ said APIL president Brett Dixon. ‘Injury claims are not behind rising premiums. The mischief clearly lies elsewhere.’