Amid the COVID-19 outbreak, the world has certainly changed recently – and this has left many of us with questions. These questions range from how our children will finish the school year, how and where we will be able to work, and most importantly, if and when things will return to normal. But for plaintiffs in a personal injury lawsuit that began before COVID-19 took root in the U.S., confusion over how this virus will affect your personal injury claim is inevitable. Although none of us can know exactly how this crisis will unfold over the coming weeks and months, it’s helpful to examine some of the ways in which your case may be influenced by this current global health concern.
The medical treatment that plaintiffs receive for their injuries is a critical component in determining the value of any personal injury case. If you’ve read our prior blogs, you know that, when you are injured, it is critical to see a doctor right away and then follow all of their recommendations. For instance, if your doctor recommends surgery, then under normal circumstances you should get that surgery without delay. If you don’t, the defense could argue that you made your injury worse by not following doctor’s orders and this may ultimately lessen your financial recovery.
Another important consideration is that we cannot fully resolve your case unless you have completed your medical treatment.
So what now? Amid the COVID-19 pandemic medical personnel and equipment is at a premium. Many doctor’s offices and outpatient surgery centers are donating their manpower and equipment to hospitals that need help caring for the most serious cases of coronavirus, and it is possible that this need will continue to rise in the foreseeable future. Getting your doctors’ appointments scheduled may be difficult in the coming weeks and months, so what is a plaintiff to do?
First, do your very best to get all appointments scheduled and then document every move you make in pursuit of this goal. If you keep extensive notes of your diligent efforts to follow through with your medical care and what each scheduler told you at each conversation, you will at least have a record that shows you tried your absolute best to complete your medical care on time and as directed. If your doctor’s office cannot accommodate you because of the pandemic, then you can at least show that failing to get treatment was out of your control.
If your doctor can see you, then you have a decision to make.
What If I Fear Going to the Doctor?
It is understandable that some personal injury plaintiffs may not want to get their medical treatment done during the COVID-19 crisis, even if their doctor is taking patients. As of the writing of this article, going to a doctor’s office and sitting in a waiting room is not recommended by our government. However, it is important to understand the potential consequences so you can make an informed decision.
Historically, as we stated above, failing to get treatment harms an injury case. It is safest to assume that this will still be the case when the COVID-19 scare is over. However, we should also consider that juries may make room for deviations from the norm that happen because of this global crisis. In other words, if you have been diligent about following your doctor’s instructions up until the crisis struck and are now not getting treatment for any reason related to the pandemic, if your case goes to trial, most juries will probably see this as reasonable and not hold it against you. This is particularly true if you are in a high-risk group like persons with asthma, respiratory illnesses, old age, etc.
So while no one has a crystal ball and no one can know with certainty that your jury will, in fact, be reasonable, it seems feasible that many jurors will understand that you did not pursue treatment during the pandemic due to fear of contagion. In our current situation, it is simply the socially responsible thing to do. In fact, your lawyer could argue that seeking treatment would have exhibited a lack of concern for others since the government is telling citizens to stay home in order to contain the spread of this killer virus.
That being said, talk to your doctor and your attorney. They should evaluate each case on an individual basis, consider all the circumstances, and advise you on your most prudent next move.
You Need an Aggressive Firm at a Time Like This
Because many courthouses are nearly or completely closed, the judicial system as a whole has slowed to a crawl. This gives the insurance companies less incentive to pay out huge settlements right now, because they know that time is on their side. As courts close and people avoid large gatherings, your potential trial date is delayed more and more – and the insurance company knows this. This gives you less leverage to encourage a settlement, so you need lawyers who will not give up without a fight.
Additionally, you need a firm that is up to date on their level of technology. Your firm needs to be able to work remotely to continue to press your case forward. There is no reason that discovery should stop just because the courts are closed. And depositions, mediations, and arbitrations can all take place electronically. Alternatively, these out-of-court proceedings can happen in person with less than six people in attendance, sitting far enough apart to avoid contamination. So make sure that your firm is up to the task of handling your case remotely, or it may be time to switch lawyers.
We Can Help
The team at Batson Nolan PLC is ready and able to pursue your case even in the midst of this global health crisis. We are technologically ready and able to service our clients remotely, file all necessary motions, and continue to move your case forward. Call us today, or contact us online to set up a free consultation from our Clarksville or Springfield office.