Personal injury claims arise when one individual is harmed due to an injury or accident caused by another individual. The person responsible for the accident is bound by law to pay for the injured party’s medical bills, ongoing medication and medical expenses, and suffering and pain. This process requires a civil court proceeding and the expertise of personal injury attorneys.
Over the years, millions of Americans have filed for personal injury claims. Federal courts data reveal that of the 58,664 new civil case filings for June 2020, 63.9% (approximately 35,919) were for Torts-Personal Injury-Product Liability. These figures are higher than one year ago when claims for the same classification were ranked 8th. These numbers also mean that despite the COVID-19 pandemic and the quarantine implementation, accidents still abound.
As the country continues to deal with the changes brought by the pandemic, lawyers and law offices are also doing their part by adjusting their practice. So, if you’re thinking of filing a personal injury claim, be aware that some aspects of the process were affected by COVID-19. As such, there are several things you need to consider.
Processing your personal injury claim may take longer than before COVID-19, but this does not mean you should abandon any plans of working on it. There are changes in the statutes of limitations in each state, but there are still other aspects of the process you need to consider. Talk to your lawyer and map out how you can proceed with the claim while adjusting to the changes.
Even if the accident occurred when quarantine or stay-at-home order was in effect, claimants could still file and coordinate with their insurers and lawyers. Most offices continue to operate, albeit with a skeletal workforce or an alternative process for client meetings and court proceedings.
Do not finalize any deals with insurance companies without consulting your personal injury lawyer. Some insurers take advantage of the pandemic by offering to settle the case right away. In most cases, these settlements come with unfairly low rates, which may not be enough for the victim’s expenses and losses.
If your insurer approaches you with this offer, don’t think twice about refusing it. The insurance should cover all your losses. If the insurance company does not offer you the right deal, find another insurer.
The COVID-19 pandemic greatly affected the economy, forcing businesses to lay off workers. Although the unemployment rate dropped to 11.1% in June 2020 from the 13.3% May 2020 rate, there are still more or less 10 million unemployed. Insurance companies know this, which is why some now have stricter policies for personal injury claims. To ensure that their bottom line is safe, insurers may lower insurance claims.
If this happens, most claimants will prefer going to trial over settling the matter outside the court.
If the defendant lost his income due to the COVID-19 outbreak or declared bankruptcy, you and your lawyer might have to wait longer than usual before collecting the settlement award.
Many hospitals now focus on treating COVID-19 patients, so it may be difficult to get treatment for your injuries. Since medical treatment is one of the primary requirements of personal injury claims, you have to talk this out with your lawyer and determine your best option.
You can also inquire from the hospital or doctor’s clinic about their policies for personal injury claims patients, particularly for those living in areas under quarantine. It is also vital to find out if your chosen hospital is a central facility for COVID-19 patients. Some doctors and healthcare workers discourage non-COVID-19 patients from going to hospitals because these are considered high-risk areas.
Likewise, you may request your lawyer to ask for recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
In most cases, doctors will recommend medical consultation and treatment via video conferencing. However, if your hospital or doctor does not allow this, you should document your actions from the time of the accident until you tried to seek medical treatment. This record will serve as proof that you went through the required process.
The statute of limitations is the maximum number of years you have to file your personal injury claim. It is one of the first things you should find out from your lawyer. The number of years varies from state-to-state, with some set at only two years while others go for as long as six years. Lawsuits filed against the government should be completed in 90 days or less from the time of the accident.
With the COVID-19 pandemic disrupting things, filing a lawsuit now takes longer. To help claimants and their lawyers adjust to the changes, most states pushed backcourt proceedings and lawsuit schedules. Also, some states extended the limitations, while others temporarily suspended it.
Law offices and courthouses continue to operate, but personal meetings with clients and legal proceedings are limited. All appointments and activities are now done virtually through various video conference tools. Likewise, court proceedings, depositions, and hearings now take place online.
Your personal injury lawyer should be legally well-versed, specifically with the changes in the process resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s also vital to choose someone capable of handling your case remotely, and someone willing to help you despite the limits presented by the global health crisis.
While COVID-19 has affected some aspects of filing a personal injury claim, there are several alternatives provided for you. Talk to your lawyer, so you know how to go about the new normal way of processing personal injury claims.
About the Author
Andrea Williams is the Community Manager at The Law Offices of Alcock & Associates P.C., a premier law group in Arizona that provides legal services to clients involved in Personal Injury, DUI, Immigration and Criminal cases. She enjoys cooking, reading books and playing minigolf with her friends and family in her spare time.
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