If you were recently injured and have been considering filing a personal injury claim, or if you are in the middle of a personal injury lawsuit, how will COVID-19 affect your case? It is important to discuss any and all specifics with a New York personal injury attorney, but in the meantime we want to say more about some broad concerns pertaining to personal injury cases and the coronavirus pandemic.
Medical Treatment and Limitations During the Coronavirus Pandemic
When you get hurt in an accident or as a result of another party’s negligence, it is extremely important to be assessed by a healthcare provider as soon as possible to have detailed medical records as evidence in your case. Indeed, medical records are an essential element of any personal injury case since they can show that your injury resulted from the specific accident or as a result of the defendant’s negligent behavior. During a pandemic, however, seeing a healthcare provider can be quite difficult.
Although healthcare providers in New York are still able to see patients for emergencies beyond those caused by COVID-19, many New Yorkers are scared to go to a healthcare facility in order to be assessed by a doctor, out of fear of being exposed to COVID-19. Indeed, as a doctor at Yale New Haven Hospital recently explained, emergency departments are seeing far fewer patients for traumatic injuries and heart attacks, but the reason may be that those patients are concerned about virus exposure if they do go to the hospital. Even outpatient facilities and regular doctor’s offices are places where New Yorkers are afraid of being exposed to the novel coronavirus, and as such, many are not seeking treatment for non-COVID-19 medical issues.
Failing to see a doctor after suffering injuries in an accident can harm a personal injury case. At the very least, you should contact your healthcare provider to learn about options for telehealth or telemedicine, which involve a virtual “meeting” with your doctor over a video chatting service like Zoom. In some cases, however, a telemedicine conference will not be sufficient to fully evaluate your injury. You should speak with a New York personal injury attorney about gathering medical evidence for your case, and what your options might be during the pandemic.
Delays in the Insurance Process with Personal Injury Cases
While auto insurance companies are considered to be essential businesses in New York—and thus remain open for business as many other businesses are closed—it can still be difficult to have an insurance adjuster come out to the scene where a car accident occurred, for example, or for an essential business to have an insurance adjuster come out to the location where a slip and fall accident happened. To be sure, as the New York State Department of Economic Development explains that insurance companies are among the financial institutions that are specifically included as “essential” business that can stay open and operating. Yet just because a business is open and operating does not mean that it is necessarily functioning as it was prior to the outbreak of COVID-19.
To be clear, essential businesses do not have to abide by the workforce reduction requirements that took effect in March in New York, and those businesses can remain operational now. Yet employees and workers must abide by social distancing rules and other safety considerations that have been put in place. Essential businesses also cannot have all employees working at a single business location. Rather, as Executive Order 202.8 explains, “only those employees that are needed to provide the products and services that are essential to provide such products or services are permitted to work at the business location.” And even in small businesses that are considered essential, revenues may still be down, resulting in layoffs or furloughs. In other words, an auto insurance company or another kind of insurer may not have as many employees on staff at this present moment.
What does this mean for talking to an insurance company and having an adjuster come out to a location where an accident occurred? In short, there are likely to be longer wait times—both to speak with an insurance representative, to have an adjuster investigate, and to have the insurance company process the claim. However, delays should not prevent you from filing a claim. A New York personal injury attorney can still guide you through this process every step of the way.
Courtrooms Are Closed to Non-Essential Business including Personal Injury Cases
Most courtrooms in New York are mostly closed due to the coronavirus pandemic for all non-essential businesses. While courtrooms remain open for essential business, most personal injury claims are unlikely to fall into this category. Further, as the New York State court system explains, courts are only accepting filings in matters that are “essential.” Those “essential” matters include but are not limited to certain criminal cases, emergency family court cases, matters pertaining to the Mental Hygiene Law, domestic violence cases involving orders of protection, emergency applications connected to the coronavirus, and housing matters pertaining to code violations and evictions.
However, if you have a case pending, this change does not apply to discovery in pending cases. It also does not prevent your personal injury attorney from moving forward with certain other matters pertaining to your personal injury case.
Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer in New York
If you need help with a personal injury lawsuit, you should not assume that you cannot move forward with a claim because of COVID-19. An experienced New York personal injury lawyer can speak with you today about your case and your options. Contact When Accidents Happen and The Mandel Law Firm to learn more.
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