The COVID-19 pandemic has upended nearly every aspect of life as we know it. Schools, businesses, factories—nearly all types of enterprises—have needed to either close or adapt significantly to comply with current recommendations to slow the spread of coronavirus.
Because one does not need it every day, one aspect of U.S. infrastructure that has been closed that many are not aware of is the court system. For the last several months, the courts have shut down or severely limited their activity to hearing cases involving the most pressing emergencies.
However, despite the current public health emergency, people are still incurring injuries in car and motorcycle accidents, on-property injuries such as slips and falls, and other events. Victims of these types of accidents can still pursue compensation for their injuries during the pandemic, but there are factors at play that may affect their claim.
While nearly all personal injury cases eventually settle “out of court”, many proceed through at least one court hearing before the parties are both sufficiently motivated to settle the claim. Without the usual availability of the court to promptly schedule that initial hearing, some accident victims may not be able to resolve their cases as efficiently as they might have been able to had the courts been operating at full capacity.
In addition to concerns about health and well-being, the COVID-19 outbreak has precipitated a wave of financial concerns. Many more people are out of work, furloughed, or facing reduced paychecks and compensation packages. Accident victims who are out of work or facing another type of financial stress may urgently need the money from their settlement—and are therefore more likely to settle their claim quickly.
In addition, some insurance companies may try to exploit the claimant’s circumstances by offering an unfairly low settlement. Victims who have suffered serious personal injury should carefully consider any offers—especially preliminary ones—from their insurance carrier to be sure that they adequately cover the extent of their losses resulting from the accident.
Should the case go to court, victims should anticipate more resistance than usual from the insurance carrier. As the insurance industry’s profits plummet in the face of the worsening economic climate, some companies may be more motivated than ever to protect their bottom line by minimizing the value of personal injury claims—causing more personal injury cases to proceed through litigation.
During the COVID-19 outbreak, many people are not seeking care at hospitals or their doctors’ offices because they are afraid that they will contract coronavirus. However, when an individual incurs a personal injury during COVID-19, it is crucial to obtain medical treatment promptly. Documentation from an ER or healthcare provider will be key to proving the severity and extent of the victim’s injuries and ensuring that the amount awarded is adequate to cover any cost incurred. It’s important to follow through with any medical appointments scheduled while following CDC recommendations and maintaining physical distancing.
If the treatment of COVID-19 patients delays an accident victim’s diagnosis and treatment, it may be advisable to wait to file or settle any personal injury case. They may not know the full extent of their injuries until all tests are completed, a full treatment plan is written, and the likelihood of their reaching “maximum medical improvement” is determined by professionals.
The economic fallout from the pandemic may cause some individuals to fall behind on paying their insurance premiums, resulting in loss of coverage. This could mean that a victim who is struck by an uninsured or underinsured driver may not be able to recover compensation from the driver’s personal assets. When the victim’s only option is seeking an award through the underinsured/uninsured clause in their own car insurance policy, compensation may prove difficult. Despite the fact you are pursuing benefits through your own policy, in this case, your insurance company is an adverse party who will probably not pay out without resistance. You may find the assistance of an attorney helpful in receiving the compensation that is due you.
Overall, some accident victims may find it more challenging to collect their compensation in this post-COVID world. Practical things like limited availability of the courts can play a role in resolving personal injury cases. Changes in claimant and defendant attitudes and circumstances can shift typical reimbursement patterns. Individuals who are unemployed may have fallen behind on their car insurance premiums, leaving them underinsured or uninsured. Businesses that have had to close may have let insurances lapse. And if a defendant—an individual or a business—files for bankruptcy, claims against them may be significantly delayed—and it is unlikely that the claimant will ever receive the full amount due.
Knowing what you don’t know is always important to reaching a favorable resolution to any issue or problem. In a post-COVID world, when it comes to the complicated world of personal injury claims and insurance benefits, a professional consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney is now more important than ever before.