Trial delays continue to lengthen across civil courts

Courts: Justice delayed

Delays in cases going through the civil court continue to spiral upwards, with the whiplash reforms set to increase pressure on the small claims court even further in the coming months.

In October to December 2020, it took an average of 51.2 weeks between a small claim being issued and the claim going to trial, 14.1 weeks longer than the same period in 2019. In July to September 2020, it took an average of 48.8 weeks.

The way the Official Injury Claim system is set up means it is possible that a claimant could have to exit the portal, have a dispute resolved by the small claims court and then returned to the portal four times.

The Ministry of Justice’s (MoJ) quarterly civil justice statistics said the impact of Covid-19 “continues to be seen across all civil justice data”.

It said: “While the start of recovery has been noticeable, for example in claim and defence volumes, this increase has been gradual and volumes are still significantly below previous (pre-Covid) trends.

“This is evident in the volume of cases that have gone to trial this quarter, which is a further increase on the rise from the last quarter and now just over three-quarters of what it was in the same period last year.

“Volumes of claims defended are even closer to trend levels, just 5% lower than the same period in 2019. The mean time taken from claim to hearing has been significantly negatively impacted by Covid-19.”

The mean time taken for multi/fast track claims to go to trial was 73.9 weeks, 13 weeks longer than the same period in 2019 and nearly 12 weeks long than in July to September 2020.

County court claims were down 16% in the quarter, compared to the fourth quarter of 2019, to 400,000. Of these, 335,000 were specified money claims (down 13%).

The report said the only increase in volumes has been seen in unspecified money claims, up 4% to 31,000.

This was driven by a marked increase in ‘other’ unspecified money claims (up 115% on the same quarter in 2019), which the MoJ attributed to PPI-related claims that rely on a section of the Consumer Credit Act relating to unfair relationships and follows a series of court rulings on the issue.

It was offset in part by a 10% fall in personal Injury claims to 24,000.

The MoJ continued: “Due to the nature of civil claims and while Covid-19 restrictions remain in place, it may be some time until any improvements as a result of recovery measures taken begin to show in the data and claim volumes and timeliness return to historic trend levels.”

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