Industrial deafness claims have fallen significantly as the “pool of eligible claimants appears to be shrinking” and lawyers focus on better cases, it was claimed today.
Figures published yesterday by the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries’ UK Deafness Working Party showed that the number of claims received by insurers fell throughout 2015, from 22,079 in the first quarter to 14,274 in the last – respectively 20% higher and 7% lower than the same periods the year before.
The insurance industry has been targeting deafness cases as the “new whiplash”. The imposition of a fixed costs regime for industrial deafness cases is still on the agenda, although there has been no official word since the Civil Justice Council was asked to review the issue last July.
Gregory Overton, actuarial services director at PwC, said: “The spike in claims experienced during early 2015 was not widely foreseen by the market and many questioned whether volumes at or around the peak 2013 levels were sustainable.
“The latest figures would seem to support the view that these claims have reached the point where the pool of eligible claimants is shrinking, meaning claims volumes could continue to decrease.
“At the same time it appears that the proportion of claims resolved by insurers at nil value has also been increasing. For claims reported in 2010 and prior it looks as though around 50% of claims will be for nil values whereas for 2014 and 2015, it’s closer to 60%.
“Given the timeframe to settlement, on average now over two years, it is still going to be a while before we know if these claims are truly tailing off. However, from discussing recent experience with those in the market anecdotally, claim numbers have continued to fall in the first half of 2016.”
John Baker, senior manager within PwC’s liability restructuring team, added that many claimant firms have “reengineered their processes and notifications strategies recently”.
He said: “In particular a number appear to have scaled back on the volume of claims notified to insurers and are instead focusing on the more meritorious claims.”
The number of deafness claims settled at no cost would then decline “significantly”, he predicted, but insurers would still make operational savings.