Personal injury practitioners should carefully consider which services should be provided remotely or whether they need a stationary office at all.
The COVID-19 pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus in early 2020 has turned the entire globe upside down. As more and more people develop immunity either through natural infection and recovery or through vaccination, many experts say we can expect a slow return to something “normal”.
However, the pandemic continues to affect all industries, including the legal industry in general and personal injury practitioners in particular. Many aspects of how we learned to deal with COVID-19 are likely to remain long after the pandemic ends, permanently changing the way we do business. For example, virtual consultations with injured customers can become the norm, and customers can routinely sign fee agreements online rather than in the office.
While technology has enabled many lawyers to continue to take cases and fight for the rights of their clients, there is no denying that COVID-19 has dampened the personal injury industry and that the road to recovery will be long. 5 specific ways in which the pandemic has affected injury attorneys and their practices are discussed in more detail below.
The victims are not sure if they can make a claim
One of the problems that can lead to a downturn in business for personal injury attorneys is that many victims may not be sure they can file a lawsuit during the pandemic. Many courts still operate restricted hours or only rule on particularly urgent matters that victims may understand in a way that prevents them from filing a claim. Similarly, people injured in accidents may be reluctant to seek a lawyer because they feel they need to come to the office to discuss their cases, exchange records, enter into a retention agreement, or perform other duties .
Of course, many of these problems stem from misconceptions about how personal injury claims work. Lawyers and law firms can combat these issues by making an effort to educate potential clients about how claims can be made during this time. For example, many victims may not understand that most claims will be paid and that insurance companies will be fully operational even if the courts do not. Lawyers should also make it clear that they can accept and represent clients without having to meet in person.
When people crouched down and stayed home last March, the number of personal injury cases filed dropped dramatically. According to Clio, the number of personal injuries fell by a whopping 46 percent in early April 2020.
One can speculate and say that empty streets and people who stayed home from work caused fewer wrecks, slips and falls and other accidents. and some of the data supports it. Interestingly, however, the data released by the National Security Council suggest that road deaths have indeed increased during the closures – a result many observers attribute to people accelerating on empty streets.
Courts can be lagging behind
Empty courtroom; Image courtesy of 12019 via Pixabay, https://pixabay.com
Many personal injury cases have life cycles lasting months or years. Hence, it is important for injury attorneys to have cases in the pipeline at all times. Litigation can take much longer to resolve than it did before the pandemic. Many personal injury attorneys are waiting for large cases to be closed.
Some victims did not seek care
Another problem directly related to the pandemic is that many accident victims did not receive medical care for injuries that required medical attention. Injured victims who otherwise would have sought help often failed to do so because they feared exposure to the virus, resulting in undocumented and untreated injuries.
Of course, a lack of medical documentation relating to an injury can be devastating to the outcome of personal injury, as victims do not have records that describe the nature and severity of their injuries or causally link them to the accidents in which they were sustained . As all personal injury practitioners are aware, failure to seek medical attention may allow insurers and debtors to argue that victims did not take adequate steps to mitigate their harm. Taken together, these issues can result in significantly fewer settlements and awards than victims would have received had they received timely medical attention.
Personal injury practitioners should be willing to meet the registration deadlines
According to many experts and observers, the United States is on the verge of turning point and will achieve a semblance of normalcy in the coming months. Because of this, once restrictions are lifted, many people are pondering how to position themselves to get back to pre-pandemic levels as soon as possible, and we are entering the next phase of life after COVID.
It is believed that personal injury attorneys will see an influx of injured clients who postpone filing claims until after the pandemic ends. You may see customers injured in the early days of the pandemic, or just before, who are just at ease to seek legal aid and file a claim. Unfortunately for personal injury attorneys in certain states, this can mean you have much less time to file applications than you normally would. In states like Tennessee and Louisiana, where personal injury claims are statute-barred for a year, you can even meet with customers whose claims are already statute-barred. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, courts or legislators can honor limitation periods, so that otherwise statute-barred claims can be asserted.
It remains to be seen how – or if – the 2020 pandemic will change the legal industry and personal injury practice in the long term. Personal injury practitioners should carefully consider which services should be provided remotely or whether they need a stationary office at all. Even so, we can all be fairly certain that the volume of personal injury cases and the speed at which they are resolved should return to pre-pandemic levels once restrictions ease and people return to normal.