Fresh statistics from the Court Service this month reveal the amount of litigation has bounced back to the levels before the Woolf reforms to the legal system were introduced last April.

The news has prompted fears that claimant solicitors have been stockpliling cases awaiting the outcome of three separate issues that have only recently been resolved.

Defendant lawyers group, the Forum of Insurance Lawyers (FOIL) point out that about 40,000 cases have been on hold since last October because of the credit hire test case, Dimond versus Lovell. It was finally settled by the House of Lords two weeks ago.

FOIL add that the Court Of Appeal has also recently hiked general damages awards for personal injury, by up to a third for the top payment.

More importantly, FOIL says claimant solicitors were waiting for the resolution of how much success fee they can charge for winning a case. It has been left at a maximum of 100% uplift of the solicitors costs, which is paid for by the losing party rather than out of the damages of the winner.

"There is definite evidence of some stockpiling of cases, and with the courts still not having an effective IT system, it is feared that the Court Service will not have the capacity to cope," said FOIL spokesperson Andrew Parker.

The Court Service revealed this week that litigation levels for March 2000 are only 5% below the amount in March 1999.

It has marred the first anniversary of the Woolf reforms, which appeared to cause a dramatic 40% drop in litigation volumes in the first six months.

This week, the Vice Chancellor Sir Richard Scott warned that although the Woolf reforms had successfully tackled the three aims of reducing complexity, delay and expense, many problems remained such as the ineffective IT system.

Parker warned insurers they should brace themselves for a flood of claims.

"The initial success of the Woolf reforms in cutting litigation might about to be overcome by a fresh wave of cases," he said.

But claimant solcitors group, the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, agreed there were two reasons why solicitors were holding back cases: firstly they would have been negligent to act before the Court of Appeal ruled on general damages, secondly, the Government solicitors to embrace the new conditional fee system, but as yet, the rules have still not been published.