Each July, we begin the process of collecting and auditing data from the last year. Through August, September, and October the task continues. Slowly, the report begins to take shape, and usually by the middle of November we have it printed and in the mail. This year we were a little early, thanks to a great many OJCC team members providing proof-reading assistance.
What will the numbers show this year?
The e-JCC platform continues to perform strongly. The system saw 522,321 filings last fiscal year. When you consider that each of those would have cost at least $.49 to mail to us, that alone saved attorneys, adjusters, and carriers $255,937.30 last year.
Petition filing and new case filing were each up slightly last year. There are those who see this as a result of hopes pinned to Castellanos v. Next Door Company. Others contend that the economy is rebounding, and naturally there is more employment and perhaps that naturally means more injuries. We had 60,021 petitions for benefits filed in 2014-15 (the State is on fiscal years that run from July first through June 30th). That is up about 1.2% from 2014-14, when we had 59,292.
Notably, though, last years total was an increase also. However, the 2014-15 PFB filing volume was still lower than than 2011-12, and was less than half the volume in 2003-04.
New cases filed were up very slightly in 2014-15 at 29,870. That is about 100 more new cases than in 2013-14, which was 29,771. The filing rates for new cases have been virtually flat for the last five years.
The volume of pending cases which reflected no claimant's attorney as of June 30, 2015 was 10.22%. This is the lowest it has ever been in the thirteen years we have tracked that statistic. Pro-se case volume simply does not appear to be increasing.
Attorney fees is always a topic that draws questions. Defense and claimant fees each decreased in both 2013-14 and 2014-15. The total for all fees was $370,741,896 in 2014-15, about $8.5 million less than the year before. The distribution remained similar to prior years, with claimant's attorneys receiving about 37% of the fees and defense attorneys about 63%. The actual totals were $136,180,202 for claimant's and $234,592,581 for defense.
An interesting fact is that most of the fees paid to claimant's attorneys each year are related to dates of accident within the ten years prior to the year in which payment is made. For 2014-15 79% of claimant's fees related to accidents in the ten years prior. But most, more than 60%, is in the four years prior to the year of payment. Despite this, 7% of claimant fees paid in 2014-15 were for dates of accident more than 20 years prior. Back in 2005-06, that was only 2%.
We are proud that our mediators are all averaging less than 130 days to the first mediation in each case. Just as proud that our judges are averaging well below 210 days in getting cases to trial after filing of a motion or petition. Most, 87%, of our judges averaged less than 30 days to get their trial orders published last year. This is a great achievement. We continue to hope for a 100% year, and I am confident that the day is coming!
The report will be published on the OJCC website this week. Watch for it. I am always available for questions about the report and the OJCC generally, email@example.com.