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HITTING RESET IN 2021: LEGAL EXPENSES CLAIMS TRENDS

After the turbulence of 2020, last year saw Legal Expenses Insurance (LEI) claims stabilise in many areas.  For the first in a new series of quarterly claims trend updates, Rebecca Conway reviews the state of the legal claims landscape over the past year.

“It will come as no surprise that employment disputes spiked in 2020 as we began to understand the full implications of the Coronavirus pandemic and the impact lockdown and social restrictions would have on businesses.  Last year, we saw the volume of employment disputes reduce by 25% from the previous year; it’s likely that disputes relating to those early redundancy and furlough processes have now been wrapped up. With the imminent scrapping of restrictions announced this week, we expect to see employment claims return to pre-Covid levels.

Another area where we’ve seen a reduction in claims has been landlord and tenant disputes.  Again, as lockdown measures hit in 2020, we experienced a huge spike in claims from landlords and letting agents trying to recover lost income from non-payment of rent. The increased volume was compounded by emergency measures introduced by the Government to increase eviction notice periods for tenants.  In 2021 however, these types of claims reduced, returning closer to pre-Covid levels, as cases remained higher in 2021 than pre-pandemic, but not at the same volume during 2020. We expect them to return to pre-Covid levels, subject to any prospective legislation changes (such as the abolition of Section 21 notices), which we believe would lead to more landlords and letting agents seeking possession.

However…

Continuing a trend we observed in 2020, last year we saw a sustained activity around property claimsDisputes between neighbours over boundary walls, home improvements and nuisance complaints may have been slightly less frequent in 2021, but the claims are notably becoming more acrimonious. Could the combination of sustained periods indoors and more time to ponder on grievances be testing the patience of UK residents?

Staying home in 2020 and 2021 also led to an increase in home improvement projects as people chose to fund household projects rather than holidays.  An increase in contract disputes have perhaps been an inevitable side-effect, and certainly in 2021 we saw nearly 10% more contract disputes relating to home improvements. A global shortage of materials and supply chain disruptions in 2021 compounded the issue, causing extended delays in the completion of projects leading to disputes over contracted work.

As lockdown measures began to lift mid-2021, we began to see an increase in personal injury claims, up 27% compared to the previous year, whilst we were all homebound. Being allowed back out into the world has proven dangerous for many, and in particular cyclists – reports last year suggested that insurance claims from cyclists doubled last year, and this certainly aligns with what our solicitors are seeing.  We’re also beginning to see some Covid-related personal injury claims where customers have been being sent into infected properties without sufficient PPE.

Finally, we saw a rise in clinical negligence claims in 2022 and expect this to continue into 2022.  I’ve written before that a wave of goodwill towards the NHS was the likely reason for a reduction in this type of claim in 2020, but we saw an increase of notified claims last year. It’s impossible to tell at this stage how many of these claims can be directly linked to Covid, but we do expect to see claims for delayed diagnosis caused by the immense pressures on NHS resources in the previous year.  We’ll be keeping a close eye on this area in 2022.

All the above activity is underscored by continuing delays within the courts system. Hearings postponed in 2020 due to lockdown and social restrictions have created a backlog that the system is still trying to work through. 

Looking ahead, 2022 will be an interesting year, and we’re expecting to see some new trends emerging as restrictions ease and we begin to process life in an endemic, rather than pandemic situation.”

Rebecca Conway, Chief Legal Officer

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