One of the biggest impacts COVID-19 is having on people who are injured are procedural and logistical in nature. Court and law firm employees, like workers in most industries, are being forced to telecommute or have been furloughed.
The slowdown in the justice system has been reported in several major ways, especially in criminal justice system. Defendants are having to wait far longer than normal to get a hearing, trials are being delayed and the backlog of cases in already stressed districts are growing.
Similar issues have been occurring in personal injury courts. That delay does not mean the normal rules don’t apply. The two-year statute of limitations still stands, so if you have been injured you should proceed as if the pandemic isn’t slowing everything down, otherwise you risk damaging your case.
Yes – some cases can still be negotiated and settled with the insurance company during the COVID-19 judicial slowdown. Insurance companies are still operating, with some even now returning to work more normally than they were in late March and April 2020.
If your case is still pretrial and negotiations with the insurance company are ongoing you may be able to settle out of court without judicial closures or procedural slowdowns influencing your case.
As we’ve written about in many previous blogs – it is vital for people injured in accidents to receive medical care as soon as possible. Your doctor’s notes, hospital receipts and your medical records may be key evidence when proving the extent of your injuries and the costs of treatment.
Many injury victims are understandably concerned about getting infected with the coronavirus while visiting the emergency room for treatment. Unfortunately, going to the doctor is something you need to do if you’ve been injured.
Make sure to wear a mask and maintain social distancing while you’re in any health care setting, but keep in mind that medical facilities are taking drastic safety precautions to reduce the spread of the virus.
Patients who may have COVID-19 are being isolated and separated from patients with other medical needs, so you will hopefully be protected from coronavirus exposure while you’re receiving treatment.
The closure of physical rehabilitation facilities and the state-wide freezes on treatments considered “elective” by local governments are having a significant impact on personal injury victims nationwide. For example, many orthopedic surgeries have been delayed because they are not considered life saving in nature.
These restrictions may delay your recovery, but as long as your injuries are properly diagnosed and documented, the outcome of your case shouldn’t be affected. However, the length of your case could be negatively impacted by the delay. It could end up taking longer to determine exactly how much all your treatments will ultimately cost, which means it will take longer to determine a fair settlement amount.
Whether or not you can still have regular communications with your personal injury lawyer during the coronavirus pandemic will have an impact on your case. Does your lawyer offer virtual appointments? Is the law firm handling your auto accident or slip and fall case still responding to email? At Kanner & Pintaluga, we are striving to maintain business as usual and will continue providing the personal injury representation our clients need.
Problems with representation are likely more common in states like New York or Michigan where the virus has hit cities particularly hard. In those environments, clients are more likely to have trouble getting in touch with their attorney to move their case forward. However, most personal injury lawyers have been proactive when it comes to taking appointments virtually and making themselves available to injured clients.
Personal injury trials are, unfortunately, being heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. At this point, the only procedural steps in personal injury cases that can proceed as usual are depositions, mediations, arbitrations, negotiations and some hearings with judges. These steps can be performed over a phone or through virtual conferences.
For the time being jury trials are likely going to be delayed. Most recently the state of Florida extended its jury trial freeze through June, with jury trials not expected to resume until July at the earliest.
If your personal injury case will likely proceed to trial, you will have to wait until at least July, and maybe longer since all the other trials have been pushed back as well.
Just because your case may take longer to get to the courtroom doesn’t mean you should settle for less than what your personal injury claim deserves.
Many people who have suffered an injury are already struggling to stay afloat financially, and the coronavirus pandemic has not improved their situation. You may be tempted to accept a low insurance company settlement offer because you need money as soon as possible just to pay your bills and feed your family.
Before deciding, you should discuss other potential financing options with your personal injury lawyer.