While the novel coronavirus surges through the U.S., many people will continue to suffer injuries in car accidents, slip and falls, and other ordinary events. An accident victim still can bring a personal injury claim to pursue compensation for their injuries during the COVID-19 outbreak. However, they may want to be aware of certain issues that may affect their claim.
One of these issues involves the court system, which has been largely shut down until the emergency ends. A personal injury case thus may not be resolved as efficiently as it would be under normal conditions. Almost all personal injury cases settle before going to trial, but many cases proceed through at least one hearing in a court before the parties reach a settlement. Therefore, some accident victims may face delays in getting their case resolved.
Settling a Personal Injury Case
The financial stress caused by the COVID-19 outbreak may motivate many accident victims to settle a case as soon as possible. A victim may urgently need the money from their settlement, especially if they have lost their job. Some insurers may try to exploit this situation by offering an unfairly low settlement. A victim who has suffered serious injuries should think twice before accepting the first offer from the insurer. It likely will not cover the full scope of their losses.
If litigation develops, a victim also may expect stiffer resistance than usual from an insurer. Since the insurance industry expects profits to decline as the economy struggles, an insurer will be motivated to minimize the value of a claim and protect their bottom line more aggressively than ever. This could mean that more personal injury cases go to trial, or proceed further through litigation.
In some cases, collecting a compensation award from a defendant may be more challenging than usual. Many businesses are suffering from economic pressure during the outbreak, and a business that is not insured may not be able to pay. If the defendant files for bankruptcy, an accident victim will need to wait a long time to collect their settlement or judgment award, and they may never receive the full amount.
Getting Medical Treatment
To maximize a compensation award in a personal injury case, a victim will need to receive medical treatment as recommended by their health care providers. This is because medical documentation is critical to proving the extent of a victim’s injuries and costs. During the COVID-19 outbreak, many people will feel reluctant to visit a hospital or a doctor’s office for treatment, due to concerns about contracting the virus. These concerns are reasonable, but it is still true that getting treatment is important to the value of a claim. A victim should try to keep their medical appointments to the extent possible, while maintaining social distancing practices and following CDC recommendations.
Since health care facilities are currently saturated with COVID-19 patients, an accident victim may need to wait longer than usual to receive treatment. This may mean that they should wait to file or settle their case. They will not know the full scope of their damages until they complete their treatment and reach maximum medical improvement.
Lapses in Insurance Coverage
Due to the deepening recession, some drivers may not keep up with paying their insurance premiums. This could result in the loss of coverage, which could complicate the situation of a victim after a car accident. A victim who is struck by an uninsured or underinsured driver may not be able to recover compensation from the driver’s personal assets. Their only option may involve pursuing benefits through their own uninsured/underinsured motorist policy with their insurer. In these cases, a victim should remember that their insurer is an adverse party and likely will not pay a claim without resistance. First-party claims may be just as contested as third-party claims, and the assistance of an attorney may be just as critical.