The number of new personal injury claims has fallen to its lowest in almost seven years, the Ministry of Justice has confirmed. According to civil justice statistics published today, 30,513 personal injury claims were issued in the county and magistrates’ courts in the third quarter of 2018.
That was the smallest number recorded since the final quarter of 2011, and represented a 20% fall on the same period in 2017.
Over the whole of 2018 up to September, the MoJ recorded a drop of more than 11,000 claims compared with the same period last year.
In a brief explanation to go with the figures, the MoJ says the decrease can be attributed to a change in civil procedure rules on holiday package gastric illness claims as well as whiplash reform.
The figures are in line with a growing body of evidence suggesting personal injury claims are in decline – even before new reforms are implemented through the Civil Liability Bill. That legislation, which is awaiting royal assent, will bring about a significant reduction in whiplash compensation and increase the small claims limit to £5,000 for RTA claims and to £2,000 for other types of personal injury claim.
The government has consistently pointed to the level of claims as reason for reforming the system.
In March, justice secretary David Gauke said he wanted to stop whiplash claims being seen as an ‘easy payday’, adding: ‘The number of whiplash claims has been too high for too long, and is symptomatic of a wider compensation culture.’
Today’s figures suggest existing measures are already achieving the aim of driving down claim numbers. In April, the government introduced fixed recoverable costs for holiday sickness claims, to bring this sector into line with other personal injury claims.
In recent years, the government has also banned referral fees and inducements, significantly reduced fixed costs for whiplash claims, and abolished the recoverability of success fees and after the event insurance.
Association of Personal Injury Lawyers president Brett Dixon said today: 'If this reduction is because fraudulent claims have been tackled then that’s great of course, but if it is because genuinely injured people are denied justice then we have a serious problem.'
Elsewhere in today’s civil justice statistics bulletin, the MoJ confirmed that of the claims defended, 56% had legal representation for both parties, 22% had representation for the claimant only, and 4% had representation for the defendant only. In 18% of cases, neither party was represented. These proportions were unchanged from the previous quarter.
Mortgage and landlord possession claims fell 6% to 36,600 from July to September, compared with the same period last year. Claims for return of goods increase by 46% to 3,500.