The number of personal injury claims made in England and Wales has fallen to its lowest level since 2011, new figures have confirmed.
Civil justice statistics published last week by the Ministry of Justice show that just under 27,000 PI claims were issued in the final three months of 2019 – down 5% on the previous quarter.
The MoJ said the fall can be attributed to the impact of part two of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act, which sought to tackle the costs of civil litigation.
The statistics appear to back up that analysis. In the quarter immediately following the implementation of LASPO, more than 39,000 PI claims were issued in the county court. This figure rose to almost 42,000 in the first quarter of 2013 as existing pre-LASPO cases worked their way through the system.
Barring spikes at the end of 2015 and mid-way through 2017, most quarterly round-ups have shown figures in steady decline.
Over the course of a year, the fall is even more stark. In total there were 113,654 PI claims issued in the county court in 2019. That represented an 8% annual decline and a decrease of almost 23% since 2013.
The numbers come as further measures that may reduce claims are in the pipeline, with the small claims limit set to rise to £5,000 for RTA claims and to £2,000 for employers liability and public liability claims. That may result in more people representing themselves in the civil court, which would represent a major change in how such cases are run. In October to December 2019, the MoJ statistics show around 97% of unspecified money claims (mostly personal injury) had representation for both claimant and defendant.
An increase in litigants in person would likely put greater strain on a court service already struggling to meet demand as it is.
In total, there were 17,000 trials in October to December 2019, an increase of 15% on the same period in the previous year. Of the claims that went to trial, 12,000 (75%) were small claims trials (up 23% compared to the same quarter in 2018) and 4,200 (25%) were fast and multitrack trials (down 5% from the same quarter of 2018).
In Q4 in 2019, it took an average of 37.1 weeks between a small claim being issued and the claim going to trial, 1.9 weeks longer than in the same period in the previous year. The MoJ said a sustained period of increasing receipts has increased the time taken to hear civil cases and caused delays to progress cases.