Claims in a post-pandemic world: A long way from recovery?

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Andy Cullwick is head of marketing at First4Lawyers

There may well be a lot of guesswork over the next 12 months as the claims sector watches and waits to see which way the market goes

The Covid rules and regulations we have all learnt to live with over the last two years may soon be coming to an end—a clear message from the government that it’s back to business as usual.

But while social distancing and self-isolation may be a thing of the past, for those working in the claims sector it’s not quite time to throw a party (or ‘work event’) just yet. 

The claims market has flatlined and at this moment in time it’s still unclear how long it might take to recover.

Declining numbers

Data from the Compensation Recovery Unit (CRU) shows a significant year-on-year decline, with total claims for medical negligence and personal injury falling by 27% in 2020 and a further 16% in 2021.

Personal injury has been hardest hit and employers’ liability claims, in particular, have also almost halved, a 49% drop compared to pre-pandemic figures from 2019.

Overall, the personal injury market was 39% smaller in 2021 compared to 2019. Within this, employers’ liability and public liability claims fell by 32% and road traffic accidents were 22% lower than pre-pandemic.

There are various theories as to why all this may be: fewer people going to work, fewer vehicles on the roads, and the impact of the Civil Liability Act (CLA) reforms.

However, close analysis of the data reveals the downward trend started well before Covid. Did the pandemic just exacerbate and accelerate the curve?

Medical negligence is the only area to have bounced back to anywhere near pre-pandemic levels, perhaps surprisingly given the outpouring of public support that our NHS staff quite rightly received. I suspect this is one area that will also see growth over the next 12 months as cases emerge involving Covid-related delays in diagnosis and treatment.

Pandemic panic

The pandemic caused a certain amount of panic amongst some in the claims sector and particularly at the start.

At a time when the TV audience was growing, we saw competitors pulling their ads and instead ploughing the money into paid-for search at a time when the number of searches had reduced.

We know from our own marketing activity that on-screen advertising does still work, but it must be maintained and requires significant investment that is often beyond the remit of smaller firms. Few have the budget for traditional TV advertising now, which could well be contributing to the drop in claims—fewer victims of personal injury are aware of their options for recourse.

Paid search is no longer the silver bullet it was once thought to be. An increasingly saturated area, it’s no longer as cost-effective with the average cost per click having risen by around 20%. Alternative platforms such as Facebook may be cheaper, but the quality tends not to be as good.

Unfortunately, in many cases, pandemic panic led to cuts in marketing spend, which is often perceived as an easy saving but in reality is a false economy if you then have to rebuild your brand.

Where do we go from here?

One of the things we have found over the last 12 months is that, in order to succeed, you have to have a strong brand.

First4Lawyers has been independently recognised as one of the three legal brands that consumers are most aware of, which has helped us deliver increased market share. At the same time, we are constantly reviewing and refining our marketing strategies and, with fewer leads on offer, doubling down on those areas that deliver the best quality and mix of claims for our panel firms. It’s all about delivering the right messages to the right people at the right time.

Review your SEO but don’t throw everything at it—a good strong organic presence is difficult to achieve and it can require significant investment to develop a site that works well enough to push you up the search results to where you want to be.

If your tactics aren’t working, change them but give it a fair shot—two or three months rather than weeks—and use that time to analyse and understand the back-end data.

For many in our sector, there may well be a lot of guesswork over the next 12 months as they watch and wait to see which way the market goes, but the kinds of insights we use will be invaluable.

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