The number of whiplash claims has fallen by 29% in only four years, John Spencer, president of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL), has revealed.
The figures, which APIL obtained by a freedom of information request to the Compensation Recovery Unit (CRU), show that there were just under 567,000 claims in the financial year 2010-11 but only 401,584 in 2013-14.
Other freely available CRU figures show that the total number of registered motor claims fell from around 828,489 in 2011/12 to 772,843 in 2013/14, a drop of 6.7%.
Speaking to the Motor Accident Solicitors Society (MASS) conference in Manchester last week, Mr Spencer said that, according to government figures, there had been an overall decline of 3% in personal injury claims during the last three years.
He said this was despite an increase of 16% in clinical negligence and employer’s liability cases.
Mr Spencer said the reduction in whiplash claims predated implementation of LASPO in April 2013. “Two areas where you can see genuine claims being turned away are access to justice for vulnerable people, including children, and those with complex, riskier and high-value cases.”
Mr Spencer said the 25% cap on success fees as a percentage of damages prevented some “very worthy claims by these groups from proceeding”.
Further, the 60% cut in fixed fees was also to blame. “You cannot reduce fees on that sort of scale without dramatically affecting the market,” Mr Spencer said. “There has been a huge reduction in whiplash claims.
“There are some people with low value cases which can and ought to be brought, but no longer will be.”
Speaking at the same conference, Derek McCann, head of motor claims at Zurich Insurance, said some claimant law firms were not taking any of their clients’ damages.
“If some don’t need to do this, is it because they are effective, well-run organisations?” he asked. “If they do, is it because they are ineffective?”
Mr McCann said the number of portal RTA claims was “heading back to 800,000 and pre-reform levels” and the “emergence of legal supermarkets” suggested there was growth in the personal injury market.
As for the future, he said a lot depended on the result of the general election. “If Labour get in will they go back on some of the reforms? Or if the Conservatives get in, will we have a higher small claims limit?”