The referral fee ban had little impact on the number of RTA claims, with the number of cases in the immediate aftermath increasing by 27% compared to the year before, the Gazette has learned.
Figures published by the RTA Portal Company show that 79,483 claims opened in April this year – the month the referral fee ban and other Jackson reforms came into force.
This was around 17,000 more claims than were opened in April 2012.
The figures also show a surge in claims in the weeks prior to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act coming into force, with 91,235 claims opened in March this year – a 25% increase on the previous month.
The news comes as all sides in the whiplash debate prepare to make their case to a House of Commons committee next week.
James Dalton, head of motor insurance for the Association of British Insurers, said April’s claims figure was always likely to be high as it was the last month before fixed costs were reduced.
He denied the figures showed that LASPO would have a negligible effect.
‘It’s no surprise for me that April’s figure is high as claimant lawyers knew the gravy train was about to hit the buffers,’ he said.
‘Although we had the Jackson framework you still had people making £1,200 for cases before 30 April. The reforms will take time to bed in and behaviour will change over time.
‘May is going to be the true test of what LASPO and the costs changes look like.’
A spokeswoman for the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers pointed out the number of claims registered in April was roughly the same as for October and November 2012 and January this year.
‘We would expect the level to go up and down in some months as firms adapt their practices to the various reforms, but the number of claims registered for the year as a whole should remain steady as there is no reason to suggest that the number of injuries sustained has changed.’
The spokeswoman added that the proposed increase in the small-claims court limit would make little difference to claim numbers as it would open the way for claims management companies.
‘The number of spam texts and cold calls will surge as claims management companies will be able to take on cases themselves.’
Meanwhile, the transport select committee has confirmed it will hold its next session as part of its whiplash inquiry on Monday from 4pm. From the insurers’ side, Dalton will appear alongside Dominic Claydon, director of claims for Aviva UK, David Fisher, catastrophic and injury claims technical manager for Axa Insurance, and Steve Maddock, director of claims for the Direct Line Group.
The legal community will be represented by: Desmond Hudson, chief executive of the Law Society, Matthew Stockwell, president of APIL, Nigel Teasdale, from the Forum of Insurance Lawyers, Craig Budsworth, chairman of the Motor Accident Solicitors Society and Andrew Ritchie QC.