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COVID-19 and Injury Claims: What You Need to Know!

By Allen, Flatt, Ballidis & Leslie on June 23, 2020

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Our world has dramatically changed in recent months and will continue to at an unparalleled rate throughout California, leaving many people anxious and uncertain about their future, especially when it comes to health, unexpected accidents, and the potential of serious injury. You may have a ton of new questions, such as how COVID-19 could affect your personal injury or auto accident claim.

At Allen, Flatt, Ballidis & Leslie, we will always uphold our promise to our valued clients which is as long as accidents happen, we will be here to help. Our firm was able to adapt swiftly during the COVID-19 Pandemic and we immediately began offering virtual consultations and case evaluations as our team of legal experts worked from home. There continues to be a lot of uncertainty about various other aspects of current and future personal injury claims that might need legal guidance, which is why we are here to help.

 Q1: Claims, Courts, & Negotiations: Can I Still File a Claim?

In Orange County, our courts have slowly begun to reopen since May 26, 2020, but they are currently hearing only criminal, emergency probate, and family law matters at this time. Most jury trials will not resume for several months, but you can still file a personal injury claim during this period. While courts are open to the public, there are only limited services available. Fortunately, most personal injury cases settle before making their way to trial, but the progress of cases that do need to go to trial will, unfortunately, be slower. The good news is court and legal operations are still in motion and cases can still move forward.

Q2: Will Any Pending Treatment or Surgery for a Current Personal Injury Case Potentially Be Delayed?

As of this week, elective surgeries are being scheduled once again, but cancer surgeries and organ transplants continue to be on a case-by-case basis. The American College of Surgeons has recommended all surgical procedures be avoided in hospitals that may still have overloaded ICUs due to COVID-19. Some urgent inpatient diagnostic and surgical procedures are being moved to outpatient settings when possible. In addition, Orange County physical therapy offices have offered Telehealth options to ensure patients complete their treatment while at home.

But what does this mean for your personal injury case?

Depending on the nature of your treatment and how severe your injuries are, you may face some delays in completing your treatment. If this is the situation, it is vitally important that you stay in touch with your medical providers to document your pain and symptoms and try to schedule your treatment as soon as it is safe to do so. It is also critical to make sure that you complete all treatment necessary for your injuries before you close your case, even if it takes longer to do so given current circumstances.

If you have not been billed for surgery or other medical procedures, your lawyer cannot properly add that expense to your personal injury claim. They can only present the insurance company with an estimate for any procedures that were recommended. Unfortunately, insurance companies rarely consider these estimates at all in their evaluations. For this reason, it is best to complete all your treatment before moving forward with a potential settlement.

Q3: How Do I Deal with Personal Injuries During the COVID-19 Pandemic?

Accidents will happen, even during hypervigilant times like these, and you should always seek out the opinion of a medical professional after an accident. In addition to medical aid, you still deserve legal help, and our team of experienced attorneys is here to provide it.

If you are injured in a car accident or other negligent event, our attorneys and staff will treat you with respect and compassion. We continue to adhere to the same “client-first” service standards that we have upheld for over 40 years. Our virtual and live consultations are completely free, and you pay nothing upfront for our services.

Q4: What Does My Car Insurance Cover If I Get into a Wreck During This Pandemic?

Your insurance coverage should not change due to COVID-19 unless you and your auto insurance agree to a policy change, such as lowering your coverage because you are driving less. In times of financial stress like these, many people will often reduce their insurance coverage or cancel it outright. However, we consistently encourage our clients not to cancel their insurance, since continuing your uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage is more important now than at any other time.

If another driver chooses to reduce or cancel their coverage, your uninsured and underinsured coverage will be key to getting your compensation after an accident. It is always important to keep your auto insurance policy up to date, even if you do not think you will be on the road much. Car accidents happen at the most unexpected times, including during a pandemic when delivery drivers are constantly on the road.

Q5: Are Statutes of Limitations and Other Deadlines Affected?

Statutes of limitations may be affected due to COVID-19 court closures or other obstacles out of your control. In California, while the courts were closed due to COVID-19, the courts tolled or postponed the necessity to file a lawsuit within the required two-year statute of limitations. However, now that the courts have reopened, it is our understanding that this “tolling” may be lifted, so please contact us as soon as possible to assure you do not waive your rights to pursue a claim.

Q6: Should I Go to the Emergency Room After a Car Accident? What About the Risk of Contracting COVID-19?

You should always seek a professional medical evaluation immediately after an accident in which you have suffered an injury as soon as it is safe to do so. Receiving medical care is crucial for your health and for avoiding the standard defenses that insurance companies will bring to cases with delays in treatment. If parts of your treatment are delayed, you can expect the defendant’s insurance company to use any delay as an argument as to why your injuries were “not so severe.” That being said, you should carefully consider your decision and make sure that you proceed safely.

 Q7: I Was Injured and Have Not Obtained Any Medical Treatment Because I Did Not Want to Contract COVID-19. Should I Still Call a Personal Injury Lawyer?

No matter what your situation is, contact us so we can evaluate your options. Delaying to team-up with a lawyer is the biggest mistake you can make after an accident and a surefire way to reduce the value of your case. One can hope that these delays in treatment, especially during this time, will not be treated as negatively by insurance companies given the current circumstances, but there is no guarantee. The best way to ensure you will be treated fairly by an insurance company is by hiring an experienced and effective personal injury law firm to work with you on your claim.

Q8: Does COVID-19 Constitute a Personal Injury Claim?

The short answer is not by itself.

A personal injury claim arises when an individual’s or entities’ careless or intentional action causes an injury to another. Getting infected with a virus such as COVID-19 can be considered an injury for purposes of a bodily injury claim. To reach a valid claim, however, you need more than just an injury. The injury or infection would have to be inflicted by an intentional or negligent act of a third party.  This could arise through improper treatment or negligence from a medical provider, or from an assault by a person with the disease, cleanliness negligence by restaurants, etc. Depending on the specific circumstances of your infection, you may have a valid personal injury claim.

The damages you can expect to recover in any personal injury claim include whatever hardship you suffered as a result of the injury, such as related medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and mental anguish. If the defendant was particularly negligent or egregious in their behavior, punitive damages might be included as well.

Additionally, if you are a business owner and you have business interruption insurance, we highly recommend you speak with a lawyer. If your business has been affected by the COVID-19 crisis, you may have a valid claim.

The team at Allen, Flatt, Ballidis & Leslie would be happy to discuss your particular situation or case in greater detail. We offer free consultations to potential clients, including virtual consultations, so there is no cost to calling an Orange County personal injury attorney and discussing your case. If you were injured due to someone else’s negligence, please call us at (949) 752-7474, contact us online, or email us at contactus@allenflatt.com.

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