Over 4,310,000 cases of COVID-19 have been detected in the USA as of July 2020, with around 460,000 in California. This pandemic has far-reaching consequences around the globe that will last a long time into the future. There has been an unprecedented disruption in people’s lives, and all professions are having difficulty coping with the ‘new normal.’
The social-distancing rules have had a significant effect on personal injury cases in Sacramento and throughout the US. This article details all the information you need regarding the impact of COVID-19 on personal injury cases in Sacramento, California.
Complete Closure of Courts in the Early Days of COVID-19
The Sacramento Superior court suspended all jury trials in March 2020 following a rapid rise in COVID-19 infections in California. There was some backlash stating that a defendant in a criminal case has the right to a speedy trial under the Speedy Trial Act and the 6th Amendment of the United States Constitution.
However, state law gave the California Judicial Council authority to suspend certain rights once the State Governor’s office announced a state-wide Stay at Home order due to the ongoing emergency.
No court activity occurred for several days as all parties looked to find an alternative solution and also took time to care for themselves and their loved ones. This meant that clients and attorneys were unable to file lawsuits or move forward with existing cases causing a significant backlog of cases to pile up. Both clients and attorneys in the personal injury field had to navigate new waters while also taking on unforeseen financial burdens.
Many clients were concerned about whether their insurance companies would still pay insurance claims. However, the state government informed insurance firms that they must inspect, process, and pay insurance claims under the California Insurance Code, which still applies during the Stay at Home order. If you are facing any issues in retrieving personal injury insurance claims, then we suggest you contact your attorney.
The New Normal and Partial Opening
In June, Stay at Home orders were eased so that economic life could resume while following social distancing rules.
Today, many Sacramento courts have resumed jury trials through the use of video conferencing software or even face-to-face trials in some cases. A 75-page guideline developed by the Pandemic Continuity of Operations Working Group comprises health and safety measures adopted by courts across Sacramento to facilitate emergency cases.
The courts have issued some general guidelines for the safety of all members of the court:
- A reduction in jurors
- Mandatory face masks
- A body temperature check
- Disinfection of courts every day
Lawyers hold nonessential hearings over video conference calls. There is a massive number of cases that need solving, and things are still moving relatively slowly.
This can be a cause for concern if you had a trial scheduled, so you need to work with your personal injury lawyer to either find a settlement or find the best way to move forward with the trial. Lawyers and clients settle most personal injury cases before trial; however, several go through at least one hearing in court before settling.
Sacramento’s courts are accepting electronic lawsuits, so you can remotely work with your personal injury lawyer to file an electronic lawsuit in case the need arises during this pandemic.
Claims for workers’ compensation have reduced during the COVID-19 pandemic as fewer people are doing outdoor jobs and working in offices. However, not all industries will be able to use remote-work models due to their work nature. Industries such as healthcare, construction, transportation, retail, distribution, and manufacturing, among many others, will still have employees working close together. They may have a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 and might be working harder and longer hours than before.
Claims regarding overexertion and injuries can be compensable under the law. Workers’ compensation is also known as personal injury protection (PIP) as it is a no-fault system. A no-fault system means that injuries during employment are compensable under company insurance irrespective of whether they are caused by someone else’s negligence or your own.
If you or someone you know is injured within the “course and scope of employment,” speak with your personal injury lawyer to see if you can prove that it is work-related. Employees working remotely from their homes that were injured on the job and didn’t contract COVID-19 have the burden of proof to provide a link between the injury and their work in these cases.
Employees who contract the coronavirus while conducting company business will be liable to receive compensation and insurance cover.
Nursing Home Negligence Cases in the Pandemic
Around 142,231 cases of COVID-19 cases have been reported in nursing homes. Nursing home negligence is reported by more than 1 in every 20 residents, and it might become more prevalent in these trying times. There are currently around 1.4 million people living in nursing homes across the United States, with 84% being above the age of 65.
The elderly are the ones most at risk from the harmful effects of the coronavirus. You may be able to sue a nursing home if you find evidence that the nursing home is not taking precautions and safety measures to protect your loved ones from the virus or any other harm.
If someone living in an aging home contracted COVID-19 due to the nursing staff’s improper care and safety measures, the victim would have to prove it was so. This can be anything from a failure to contain an outbreak due to a lack of response or incompetent preventative efforts.
It should be noted that 15 states gave legal protection to nursing homes against certain kinds of COVID-19 related lawsuits. However, California is not one of those states, so nursing homes here can still be sued for negligence.
It can be hard to prove liability on the nursing home, so speak to your personal injury lawyer about the best way to proceed with a case.
Insurance Companies and Personal Injury Claims
The economic conditions prevalent across the country can lead to unsavory conditions when trying to get personal injury claims from insurance agencies.
More than 14 million Americans have filed for unemployment since the beginning of this pandemic, and they are now struggling to find the money to buy groceries or pay their rent and bills. There is a great deal of anxiety among people regarding their economic and financial future. Everyone has to deal with this while also having to look after their family’s health and keep their mental health in check. Insurance firms know all about this, and many will try to make the most of it in negotiations.
Insurance firms are also going through sketchy financial waters, and they will want to capitalize on any opportunities. They understand that people who are financially distressed due to the current crisis would likely accept lower settlements than they previously would have to get the payment sooner. Clients should work with their attorneys and remain steadfast in front of low-balling tactics. We must look at each case in a context that does not include the pandemic and negotiate as we would normally.
Insurance companies are likely to become stricter due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. They will likely lower insurance claims to minimize their losses. This means that plaintiffs might end up going to trial more often rather than reaching a settlement.
There is also one last possibility that is out of everyone’s hands. Experts estimate that the number of companies filing for bankruptcy post-COVID could be higher than the companies that claimed bankruptcy after the 2008 financial crisis. If the insurance company (defendant) files for bankruptcy, victims will be unable to collect their compensations or settlements.
Video conferencing has begun in courts for some civil case proceedings, but most of these are not personal injury cases as they are not considered essential. There is a significant backlog of cases, and things are moving very slowly in the Sacramento courts. However, it is recommended to file cases as soon as an event occurs even if trials may not occur soon.
As the financial impact of COVID-19 pandemic seeps into our society, there are likely to be many more drivers on the road who lose their insurance due to the inability to pay their premiums. We would advise everyone to do their best to keep their auto insurance; otherwise, there will be no third party to cover all damages in case of an accident.
However, clients can claim damages in California after an accident, even if they do not have insurance. They can receive claims for medical bills, but they cannot claim general damages. If there is an accident involving another uninsured driver, then things can get extremely complicated as compensation cannot be claimed from their personal assets.
Filing Personal Injury Cases in Sacramento During COVID-19
A statute of limitations (SOL) refers to the maximum time allowed after an accident or injury to file a lawsuit. After this time, the case will not be filed by the court, and the legal claim will not be valid. We realize that these processes can be complicated due to the prevailing situation. However, the sooner you file a claim, the faster it will move through the court. According to California Courts, the SOL for personal injury claims is two years after the incident, but lawyers will always advise you to file sooner or risk delaying settlement.
For example, let’s say that you have a motor accident on the road while the Stay at Home order is in effect. You might wonder if your insurance policy would cover this since it was against the authorities’ advice to go out. However, motor insurance policies cover injuries even when owners make ‘bad choices’ such as going out during lockdown, so you should still be liable for a claim.
Make sure to follow standard protocols. In many parts of Sacramento, police officers have declared unavailability for situations that aren’t urgent. Typically, motorists should get a police report before leaving the accident site as it can be a vital part of a potential personal injury case and insurance claims. If the police are unable to reach the scene of the accident, the client should take as many photographs and notes of the accident. These are all things that can be used as crucial pieces of evidence in the case.
Health Practitioners and Rehabilitation
Many victims of personal injury cases in Sacramento are concerned about how they can get their medical care during the COVID-19 pandemic due to social distancing rules. Medical practitioners are the front-line force in the fight against the virus, which affects those with personal injury claims.
Many doctors that would normally attend to patients of personal injury cases are now being reassigned to tackle the pandemic. A lot of victims visit specialist doctors and therapists who have long waiting lists, and this situation is likely to make them longer.
One solution has been to conduct sessions with your doctor through video conferencing. For example, your physiotherapist can provide you with detailed videos of an individual carrying out the activities they would like you to do. They could use the same technology to observe you doing movements to examine your condition.
Video conferencing is not a perfect solution, especially in situations where mental trauma is involved. Patients may not feel comfortable speaking through video or may not be able to express themselves fully.
When video conferencing is not possible, try not to avoid the doctor’s appointments. Follow social distancing guidelines and wear protective gear when visiting your doctor. This is because medical documentation is needed when providing evidence for the costs of the client’s injuries. If there is a delay in receiving treatment due to the crisis, you may have to delay filing your case until you receive
Schedule A Meeting
The bottom line is that COVID-19 has slowed the wheels of justice, and it has become increasingly challenging to settle personal injury cases in Sacramento. However, accidents are still happening, and they should be filed as soon as possible. At the law offices of Phoong Law Corp we know it is now more important than ever to help you recover the compensation you are owed. If you suffer from a personal injury, get in touch with our expert personal injury lawyers for a free consultation.