The coronavirus pandemic is an unprecedented event that has disrupted everyone’s lives and impacted every area of our society. The social distancing guidelines that have been put in place to stop the spread of the virus have forced millions of businesses throughout the United States to close, and those who still have a job are most likely working from home unless they are “essential” workers such as healthcare personnel and truck drivers.
While personal injury claims are still being filed and those that had been filed prior to COVID-19 are progressing, this situation is creating some challenges. That said, we at Peake & Fowler are still open, and we are well equipped to provide the strong personalized representation our clients have come to expect. We are taking all the precautions and following the social distancing guidelines, and we are doing most of our tasks remotely while the pandemic is ongoing. But rest assured, if you have suffered an injury that was caused by another person or party, we are ready and able to serve your legal needs even during this difficult time.
How the Coronavirus is Affecting Personal Injury Cases
Here are some of the ways in which the COVID-19 pandemic might affect a personal injury claim:
Medical Treatment Delays
When someone is injured in a car accident or suffers any other type personal injury, it is extremely important for them to get immediate medical attention. It is also very important to follow the recommendations of those who are treating you, which means keeping all of your follow-up appointments and going through with tests and procedures as directed by your doctor.
This is not only for the sake of your physical health – it is a legal issue as well. If you file a personal injury claim, you have a legal duty to mitigate your losses, which means doing everything the medical professionals recommend toward recovering or reaching maximum medical improvement. You will also need to have documentation showing the full extent of your injuries in order to recover the full and fair compensation you deserve.
The coronavirus outbreak has created a couple of challenges with regards to medical treatment for personal injury victims. First of all, people are understandably apprehensive about seeing a doctor with the threat of contracting COVID-19. This might cause them to miss important appointments and not receive the treatment they need to get on the road to recovery. Keep in mind, however, that the hospitals and clinics that are open are taking all of the necessary precautions to keep their patients safe, and the risk is very minimal compared to the cost of not following through on the treatment plan.
The other potential issue is the possibility that some appointments and/or treatments and procedures may be postponed for a while. Hopefully, this will not be much of an issue in South Carolina and most of the rest of the country, but you never know. If there is a major outbreak and more resources need to be directed toward treating COVID-19 patients, then personal injury victims may find that their treatment plan has to be delayed. There is not much you can do if this happens, but you must be diligent and follow the plan to the best of your ability.
Limited Court Access
In South Carolina, jury trials have been put on hold in all federal and state courts until the coronavirus pandemic subsides. Non-jury trials have been allowed to continue at the judge’s discretion with only the attorneys, their clients, and necessary witnesses being able to appear. Videoconferencing is also being used in some cases for pretrial conferences and other meetings. What all this adds up to is that, if you file a personal injury lawsuit, you can expect significant delays in the process.
Motivation/Pressure to Settle Quickly
Because of court delays and tighter finances, personal injury victims are likely to feel more pressure to settle their cases. With the prospect of waiting several months for a jury trial, many people may be motivated to take the money now. Insurance companies are also aware of this, and they are likely to take advantage of the situation. The goal of an insurer is to pay out as little as possible for an injury claim, and they may give a victim a lowball offer knowing that many people need the money right away.
Those hit the hardest will be claimants who do not have legal representation, because most are not familiar with the process or the common tactics that insurers use to minimize the value of a claim. Now, more than ever, it is extremely critical to have experienced attorneys in your corner who have the proven ability to secure maximum compensation on their clients’ behalf.