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The Impact of COVID-19 on Personal Injury Cases in 2021



Personal Injury

Since the beginning of the pandemic, wrongful death and workers’ compensation cases have seen astronomical growth. In response, legal forces like wh Law, a personal injury law firm, have adapted to deal with the aftershocks of clients who contracted COVID-19 while on the job as essential workers. Business owners are also dealing with the new potential liability associated with the virus. Beyond that, the global effects of the pandemic have dealt a blow to the entire judicial branch.

The novel coronavirus COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on people and organizations across the world. While many are aware of the virus’s effects on our health, the impact on other aspects of the world takes longer to appear.

The government has also seen its fair share of reductions. For example, the court system is coping with significant setbacks as in-person sessions are on the back burner. Personal injury cases are notorious for out-of-court settlements, but with law firms facing closures and delays, these cases aren’t running so smoothly anymore.

Delays combined with the fact that many people are refusing or delaying seeking medical treatment have had a negative and lasting impact on personal injury cases in the past couple of years.

Fewer people are seeking medical treatment

In a personal injury case, it’s crucial to establish the extent of the client’s injury and how much the medical treatments cost. Understanding these two factors allows law firms to begin the litigation process with a solid paper trail to support their claims.

For many personal injury cases, medical experts testify to the court concerning the client’s medical treatment. But for an expert to testify on the client’s behalf, the client must seek an in-person evaluation and testing.

This in-person treatment is where one of the main issues lies. During the pandemic, many people have been wary of venturing in public, especially in high-risk areas like hospitals and doctor’s offices. Many are afraid to leave their homes in fear of catching or spreading COVID-19. Add that to the number of elderly or immunocompromised people for whom COVID represents an augmented threat, and you have the perfect recipe for delayed medical attention.

Not to mention the fact that many US healthcare facilities are currently overrun with patients suffering from the coronavirus, meaning that proper medical treatment for any injury short of life-threatening is relegated to the back burner. Some doctors are so overwhelmed that they are even turning away patients entirely.

Widespread misinformation has caused many people to fear and distrust medical professionals and their expert opinions as well. This distrust is the main reason that many people refuse to seek medical treatment. Vaccine hesitancy is among the symptoms of the public’s growing mistrust of health organizations.

Without an evaluation and treatment from a medical expert, personal injury cases have no leg to stand on. Unfortunately, a lack of conclusive medical records proving injury or treatment is a non-starter for an injury claim.

Effects on current and future cases in court

The pandemic caused several offices and buildings to close their doors to in-person traffic. Courthouses and law offices are no exception to this cautious new standard.

Law offices across the country are at their limits with clients and delays. With fewer cases seeing resolution in court, law firms cannot take on more clients, resulting in a legal stalemate. Because of this stagnation, many new personal injury lawsuits find themselves at the back of the line. Individual injury cases have a statute of limitations like any other legal proceeding, so not filing within the allotted time frame might see some victims lose out on their just compensation.

Delaying a case can also result in a loss for the plaintiff, even if you had a decent amount of evidence. Delays in personal injury cases can result in degradation or retraction of evidence and witnesses, which is detrimental to the case.

Many non-urgent cases are currently put on hold or postponed for months in advance. Sadly, most civil and personal injury lawsuits fall into this less emergent category. If a client filed a case before the beginning of the pandemic, the court date is likely delayed indefinitely or will proceed in a virtual setting.

Concerns regarding court proceedings and unemployment claims

Virtual court proceedings through applications like Skype and Zoom are the current norm. In these proceedings, all court personnel and involved parties enter a video call to carry out the process in place of being in the courtroom.

However, there are several issues with this type of court proceeding. Internet connectivity isn’t a reliable resource for many. Even in the world we live in today, an overwhelming number of people don’t have access to the Internet and therefore are unable to attend a virtual court hearing.

Another issue is that cybersecurity is an ever-present concern, so these video conferences are vulnerable to intrusion by outside parties, also called “Zoom bombers.” Much like a sudden interruption of an in-person proceeding would be disruptive, these cybersecurity concerns diminish the trustworthiness of the legal system.

In recent personal injury cases, plaintiffs have to wait for indefinite periods without settling. This long wait means that that person is potentially unable to work and without any income, leaving them thoroughly at the mercy of the scales.

Mass layoffs and business closures because of COVID-19 have led to an overwhelming and unprecedented number of unemployment claims. Unemployment, disability, and social security claims are all taking longer to process because of this increase, causing the plaintiffs involved in personal injury cases to go even longer without income.

Without income, clients can’t pay their lawyers, and with a significant delay in cases, fewer lawyers are offering pro-bono work, resulting in fewer personal injury cases than ever before.

Lapses in insurance

COVID-19 has resulted in an unprecedented number of layoffs and closures. In addition to the detrimental impact on income, people’s insurance policies are lapsing as well. Insurance lapses result in fewer people having the ability to seek medical treatment, which makes filing a personal injury case impossible to do.

Not only that, but the reduction in income is causing people to default on their bills, including car insurance. Lapses in car insurance mean that the driver has no personal injury protection in the case of a car accident, meaning that whoever is injured by an uninsured driver will be responsible for paying all expenses out of pocket.

The injured party would have a difficult time filing a lawsuit against the at-fault driver or personal insurance company because of all of the delays in individual injury cases at this time.

Final thoughts

COVID-19 has changed the climate surrounding court proceedings and medical treatment forever. The medical field and the legal field go hand-in-hand in personal injury cases, and with delays in both of them, clients are struggling more than ever to file claims.


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