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WHAT GOES UP?

As our   legal round-up confirms, the oft-repeated news that claims are going up while accident numbers go down stole headlines-a-plenty this month. However, Thompsons' Solicitors' partner Tom Jones gave this story the thumbs down. Meanwhile, the much anticipated Fenn report into how well the RTA Claims portal is doing was published to mixed reviews.

In his regular column for Post Magazine, Jones branded the actuary-inspired tale indicating a negative correlation between accidents and injuries "Old news". "The driving force for the increase in motor claims between 2007 and 2011 (Compensation Recovery Unit statistics) is the activities of claims management firms and insurance companies' third-party capture units," he said.

Elsewhere in the world of risk, Post also reported how lawyers at DAC Beachcroft have been working intensely to avoid the next big claims trend and on first reading, it seems a spot of vocalising could be in order for the country's chatty call centre workers. Apparently, new training could reduce the growing hazard of voice-loss in this sector, a problem   identified by the Institute for Occupational Safety and Health for one in four people back in April.

One of the biggest fraud cases of recent years has also taken up a lot of column inches within the insurance trade media this month after judgement was handed down by the Supreme Court in the case of Fairclough Homes ltd v Summers. Involving an exaggerated claim, but a genuine injury, the appellants - in this case Zurich Insurance - had sought to have the claimant's entire award disallowed as punishment for his fraudulent transgression. The insurer ultimately failed in its quest, but  defendant commentators appeared optimistic in their belief that the pendulum could have swung in their favour.

And finally, just as Premextra went to press, the Ministry of Justice-commissioned report into the effectiveness so far of its RTA claims portal was published. Written by Professor Paul Fenn of Nottingham University Business School, the report assesses whether mean general damages, mean costs and mean speed of settlement differed before and after the RTA process was introduced in May 2010, through a comparison of pre- and post-Portal data.

Professor Fenn's research drew data from three claimant insurers and two defendant insurers finding that "Small but statistically significant reductions in mean general damages, mean costs and mean speed of settlement in low-value RTA claims.

"The evidence suggests around a 6% reduction in mean general damages, a fall of around 3-4% in average costs, and a reduction of around 5-7% in the average delay to settlement."

However, there was a caveat: Prof Fenn added "Due to the limitations of this study, including the small number of data providers and the limited time period in which claims could be settled, the results should be treated with caution. Moreover, any extrapolation of the results of this study to an extended process would depend critically on the number of claims which remained within the process rather than opting out to be dealt with under standard rules."

As Peter Watson of Simpson Millar tweeted, the insurance trade media appeared to give this entire story a wide berth,   despite having made strong calls for more data into the efficacy of the portal before. With   spokespeople from the Justice Ministry confirming that plans to march on with portal expansion remain undimmed, one can understand why those of the defendant persuasion saw no news there.