The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) have now published the quarterly civil justice statistics covering July to September 2020.
These latest stats show us that Civil Justice actions continue to remain below pre-Covid levels and in particular, County Court claims were down 47% on the same period in 2019 however this was driven by a 50% reduction in Specified Money Claims (Money Claims account for around 90% of all claims issued). Unspecified money claims were in fact up by 19% to 38,000, driven by a 13% increase in personal injury claims to 32,000 compared to the same quarter in 2019. The levels for personal injury claims from Q1 and Q2 were however very low at 27,000 and 16,000 respectively.
However, claim volumes issued have been impacted by social-distancing restrictions which notably reduced capacity in locations where unspecified claims are processed, leading to longer processing times. The MOJ state that over the last quarter, an increase in resource and added resilience in these locations, has increased the processing of this backlog and resulted in a spike in issued claims this quarter. Therefore, the sharp drop in unspecified money claims last quarter, followed by a peak this quarter is not indicative of a trend in claims being made.
Turning to Trial hearings, there was a 37% reduction in claims reaching trial between June and September 2020. The mean time taken for small claims and multi/fast track claims to go to trial was 48.8 weeks and 62.0 weeks, 10.7 weeks longer and 2.6 weeks longer than the same period in 2019 respectively.
It should be noted however that the volume of claims reaching trial this quarter (11,000) was over double that of last quarter (4,300) and thus signifying the recovery that is in progress.
In narrating the latest statistics, the MOJ have advised that as society and the economy continue to recover from the impact of Covid-19, it is expected that claims volumes will eventually return to historic trend levels and may even temporarily exceed the pre-Covid-19 volumes as the backlog of claims is processed. However, volumes are likely to be somewhat suppressed for as long as Covid-19 restrictions remain in place.
Commenting upon the latest statistics, John Cuss, Corporate Services Solicitor at Hudgell Solicitors stated “I am not surprised to see the large increase in personal injury claims for the last quarter as the HMCTS recovery operation gets underway, as more law firms are able to increase productivity from the initial stages of the pandemic and as more law firms sign up to the County Court Online Pilot.”
“It is reassuring to see the number of claims reaching trial more than double the figure from the last quarter, however work needs to be done to ensure that the numbers return to the 2019 levels as soon as possible so that access to justice is not impacted by significant delay in the final judicial determinations of claims.”
Hudgell Solicitors legal teams continue to work hard to progress all claims and are also taking part in the County Court Online Pilot to have the ability to issue claims online on behalf of clients.