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Experts

Latest Portal data reveals the enduring impact of the pandemic on EL and PL claims volumes

We consider the latest Portal statistics and examine the reasons why levels of new claims have not returned to pre-pandemic levels.

Introduction

Despite the lifting of many lockdown restrictions in April of this year in England and the reopening of society UK-wide, one enduring impact of the pandemic has been to depress volumes of new employers’ liability and public liability claims.

A snapshot of the data

Whilst the Portal statistics reflect only EL and PL claims of Fast Track value, we have seen from past comparisons a broad compatibility with wider CRU data of new personal injury claims registered. As such, the data is felt to be representative of the personal injury market.

Taken over the last six months (May to October 2021), new EL claims intimated averaged 2,476 a month with new PL claims having a monthly average of 3,250.

This contrasts with the six-month period prior to the first lockdown (October 2019 to March 2020), which saw EL monthly averages of 3,549 new claims and 4,383 new PL claims.

In broad terms, this reveals a reduction in claims frequency of 30 % for EL and 26 % for PL and claims data in keeping with that witnessed by the market during the first full year of lockdown (April 2020 to March 2021).

On the basis that this trend endures for Portal claims alone, the market will see over 13,000 fewer EL claims and 13,500 fewer PL claims over the course of a full year than seen prior to the emergence of COVID-19.

Reasons

The views of several commentators at the outset of the pandemic were that as soon as society opened up and returned to normal, levels of EL and PL claims would increase to pre-pandemic levels. Why has this not eventuated?

We feel that the causes are multi-factorial:

  • Although ONS data suggests one measure of activity — vehicular usage has returned and, in some instances, exceeded pre-pandemic levels — the evidence is that this has been at the expense of public transport. Taken overall, activity has not returned to pre-pandemic levels.
  • We are also aware that confidence and activity of the elderly have not fully returned — a factor cited recently in a financial presentation made by the UK’s largest chain of public houses.
  • A significant minority of adults (40%) continue to work from home during the week in full or in part, reducing activity and interaction.
  • Some lockdown restrictions remain in force in Scotland and Wales.
  • A “safety first” approach instilled by the risks of contracting COVID-19 remains embedded in the psyche of the population — the enduring impact of operant conditioning.
  • Whilst difficult to prove empirically, we suspect that potential claimants may have their attention/concentration on wider pandemic concerns rather than the narrow issue of pursuing compensation for low level and in some respects trivial injuries.
  • Volumes of both direct and indirect COVID-19 claims remain low.

Conclusions

For these reasons, we expect depressed claims volumes to continue for the foreseeable future. The volume of new claims seen pre-pandemic is likely to represent, in the future, the high water mark for the EL and PL casualty market.

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