A personal injury is inconvenient and stressful at the best of times, but the COVD-19 pandemic has increased the complexity and timescales for making claims.
Problems in getting medical attention quickly, restrictions on visits to lawyers, court closures and staffing problems at insurance companies can represent real barriers. But, by following our guidelines and working with an experienced personal injury law firm, you can be confident that your claim will progress as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Gather information immediately
You must obtain the name and contact details of the person causing your injury. That can prove awkward as you try to minimise personal contact and maintain social distancing. Suggest exchanging details by text on your phone or ask the other person to leave written details on a flat surface so you can read or photograph them.
For example, if you have been injured in a public place such as a retail store, there will likely be less staff around, but make sure to ask for the store manager or security to document the injury. It’s important that you don’t leave the scene as the cause of the accident may be cleaned up or removed while you’re away. Your injury must be recorded in a detailed incident report if you want to make a claim.
If it’s a car accident, ask the other person for insurance details. Drivers might not have personal injury cover on their policies in an attempt to save money during the pandemic. Your lawyer can check the other driver’s policy with the insurer, but it’s worth having Uninsured Motorist coverage on your own policy to cover any risk.
Wait for the police and medical team to arrive. They will assess any injuries and provide an initial report, which will be vital evidence that your claim is genuine. If you leave the scene before, insurers could argue that any injuries were caused under different circumstances.
Get medical attention quickly
This is the next essential stage and one that is causing many injury victims to obtain lower compensation than they were owed. Any delay in obtaining professional medical assessment and recommended treatment weakens your case.
The problem is that many people are reluctant to visit a hospital or medical center for fear of contracting the virus. And, medical facilities are under pressure to prioritize cases, so you may find it difficult to get appointments for assessment or treatment.
Fortunately, technology can help. Many doctors and hospitals can offer remote consultation and diagnosis by phone or videoconference. You will then have a detailed report on your condition and a recommended program of treatment which your lawyer can use to start making a claim on your behalf.
While reluctance to seek medical attention is understandable during the COVID-19 crisis, it is essential to act as quickly as possible.
Contact a lawyer
It’s just as important to contact a lawyer quickly. Experienced personal injury lawyers recognize the problems that delay can cause, particularly when so many other parts of the ‘chain’ are facing delays in their own processes. Your lawyer needs to have as much detail as possible in the form of police reports, medical assessments and recommended treatment and costs, as well as contact and insurance details for the other party.
The lawyer can then make initial contact with insurance companies to begin negotiations. If the case is likely to go to court, the lawyer will quickly request a date for hearings. It is important to request early because of the changing situation in courts.
If you do not want to discuss the issue with your lawyer in person because of the risk of infection, you can send details by email or hold a virtual meeting by phone or videoconference. However, most lawyers have made arrangements to convert their offices so that meetings can take place within health guidelines.
Start medical treatment
Once your lawyer has all the relevant information, the claim process can start. However, staffing problems in insurance companies and courts are likely to make the process slower than normal, particularly if the case is complex or serious. If you plan to negotiate a pain and suffering claim without a lawyer, it’s also worth reading up on how best to negotiate a settlement after a car accident.
The advice from personal injury lawyers is that you should proceed with the treatment your doctor has recommended as soon as possible. If you do not go ahead, or delay the treatment, the other insurance company is likely to argue that your injury is less serious than you claim and will try to reduce the amount of compensation they offer.
However, if you cannot start the treatment because the medical services you need are not currently available, let your lawyer know so they can keep the other party informed.
Keep safe at court
If your claim goes to court, be prepared for delays. Many courts have temporarily changed their priorities with some abandoning jury service. This means that claims may go back and may not be heard for several months.
If you are required to attend, you may find that local courts offer remote offerings, joining by videoconference. If not they are likely to put safe distancing measures in place to protect everyone.
The key message from personal injury lawyers is to act quickly at every stage. The process of making claims for personal injuries has not changed because of COVID-19, but the claims environment is definitely different. Although the process may move more slowly, you must not delay. If you do, you risk obtaining a lower settlement.