Being injured in an accident is bad enough. Living through your injury in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic makes an already stressful time even worse. As everyone is navigating a post-COVID-19 world, here are the three most common questions the Dross Berman team has received regarding how COVID-19 will impact your personal injury claim:
- I am still in a lot of pain but I am unsure about my treatment options. What should I do about my treatment?
The answer to this question depends largely on your State’s temporary quarantine laws, as well as your comfort level in leaving your home. While Maryland, District of Columbia and Virginia residents are all currently under stay-at-home orders, these jurisdictions all have exemptions for leaving your home. A common exemption found throughout the region is travel to and from health care appointments. Accordingly, you should take reasonable steps to follow through with your health care provider’s treatment plan.
Obviously, your own personal circumstances may prevent you from leaving your home, even for an essential purpose, if you have, or live with someone who has an underlying medical condition. Or, attending office appointments may simply be outside of your comfort level. You should call your health care provider’s office to see if they are open. If so, inquire what steps they are taking to provide care while keeping their patients safe.
If leaving your home is not an option, there are many health care providers who are accepting new patients through “telehealth” appointments. These appointments would involve video conferencing with your health care provider. Telehealth appointments are a great option to get assistance with your therapy, or if you need to refill a prescription. This is a great temporary alternative to both document the injury and receive some level of care. If your own health care providers do not provide a telehealth option, the attorneys at Dross Berman can assist you in locating a provider who can accommodate your needs.
Finally, if in-person and telehealth appointments are not realistic options, you should continue to document your injury through a “pain journal”. A pain journal is a daily log documenting how your pain has affected your daily life, and activities of daily living such as cooking, cleaning, grooming and caring for family. You should include not only a detailed description of your pain and it’s impact on your daily life, but what remedial measures you are taking to cope with the pain, such as over-the-counter medication, heat or ice packs, rest or stretching exercises. While this option is not ideal, at the very least this type of a journal can serve as a good documentation of your injury for your insurance claim.
- How have the insurance companies reacted to the COVID-19 pandemic, and how will that affect my claim?
Like many of us, the liability insurance adjusters are working from home and open for business. While claims are being processed and moving along, you should expect some delays in the handling of your claim.
Unfortunately, but unsurprisingly, we have noticed that many insurance companies have used this pandemic for their own financial gain. During normal times, insurance companies will frequently rely on gaps in treatment, or lack of treatment, as leverage to minimize your injuries and try to get away with paying as little as possible. Unfortunately, these are not normal times, and instead of showing compassion, in a lot of instances we are seeing claims adjusters lean further into these bad faith arguments. If you are taking a break from your treatment due to COVID-19 related logistical issues, it is critical to, at the very least, keep a pain journal as described above until a time you can get back into treatment.
Further, we have started to see some insurance companies begin to lower offers on claims, making arguments like “we are sure your client could use the money right now” or simply stonewalling in negotiations and refusing to make fair offers. In these instances, we are advising clients to not settle for anything lower than a fair offer on your case, and to go to court instead of taking the lowball offer.
- My case is currently in litigation, will COVID-19 affect my case?
Unfortunately, the short answer to this question is “yes”. The court system in Maryland, the District of Columbia and Virginia are all currently closed to the public. This means there will be delays in the filing of new lawsuits, and disruption of the scheduling order and/or trial date in your case. The court systems are taking unprecedented steps to react to these long term court closures such as temporarily suspending statutes of limitations, and promising to grant liberal leave to modify current scheduling orders. Once things return to “normal”, and the courts are open, you should expect your trial date to potentially get moved back, or other delays.
If your case is in litigation, or if a lawsuit is about to be filed, we encourage our clients to be patient and understanding. You will eventually get your day in court. If you have any questions about your specific case that is in litigation, we encourage you to reach out to us to discuss the potential delays and next steps in your case.
We hope this information is helpful during these difficult times. Being in pain is never fun, and we understand that the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic likely made a bad situation even worse. Through the COVID-19 pandemic, the Dross Berman team is fully operational and working from the safety of our home offices. If you have a new matter you would like to discuss, or if you have any questions about your pending case, we encourage you to give us a call at 240-403-7200. Stay safe and healthy!