Market analysts believe the personal injury sector has just a year to go before the market starts to hit trouble. The annual legal market briefing from consultancy IRN Research this week said the PI market continues to grow modestly in value terms and is worth almost £4bn a year.
The sector has been boosted by a rise in the value of clinical negligence claims and the rising average value of claims related to motoring accidents, employer liability and public liability.
But the positive signs are not set to last: researchers say the market will suffer in 2019 as government reforms begin to take effect.
An IRN spokesman added: ‘Once the new rules have bedded down, the market is likely to see renewed, modest value growth. Underlying volumes, however, will continue to fall.’
A survey of a panel of practitioners confirmed the nervousness in the sector with only 35% of those surveyed expecting increases in workload in the next 12 months (compared to 48% in 2016).
Meanwhile, the 14th edition of the Judicial College Guidelines, published earlier this month, confirms all brackets of personal injury damages are increased to reflect inflation (an increase of 4.8% compared to two years ago).
A whiplash injury lasting 3 months will now be awarded between £1,200 and £2,150 (up from £1,160 to £2,050).
It is reported that the chair of the guidelines committee, Mr Justice Langstaff, makes reference in his introduction to the weight to be given to the duration of any symptoms in minor injuries. Legal representatives, he notes, should not just consider the length of time the injury was suffered for but other factors which affect quantum.
This would appear at odds with government proposals to fix damages based on the length of the injury.
The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers today urged the government to involve experts who know the system when considering damages levels.
‘It’s vital that compensation is calculated by experienced and independent judges, and not civil servants following political instructions,’ said the organisation.
‘Tariffs are more appropriate for mobile phone contracts and taxi fares, not injured people.’