How is the Coronavirus Impacting Personal Injury Claims?August 17, 2020
As the global pandemic continues to threaten the health and safety of millions of people around the world, many schools, businesses, and restaurants remain closed. To avoid exposure to the Coronavirus (COVID-19), many people are staying home and going out only to pick up essential items, such as groceries and other household goods. However, even though there are fewer cars on the road, car accidents continue to occur. In fact, studies have shown that although the number of car accidents has gone down, there has been an increase in the number of serious car accidents during the pandemic. If someone is injured in a car accident, they may have concerns about whether the COVID-19 outbreak will impact their claim. Although these concerns are valid, the pandemic should not prevent those injured from collecting compensation. However, there are some issues that may impact the claims process. An experienced car accident lawyer will address a client’s questions and concerns and secure the compensation they deserve.
Why Does the Pandemic Cause Increased Car Accidents?
There are a number of reasons why the COVID-19 virus has caused an increase in serious car accidents, including the following:
- When a driver is sick, his or her ability to safely operate a motor vehicle is impaired. In fact, research suggests that sick drivers are often more impaired than drunk drivers. If a driver contracts COVID-19, he or she could be a safety risk to other motorists on the road.
- Medications used to treat the symptoms of COVID-19 can cause drowsiness and impair the driver’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle.
- Wearing a mask can prevent the spread of COVID-19. However, in some cases, it can cause people to feel lightheaded or pass out. If this happens when a person is driving, it can cause a serious accident.
- With fewer cars on the road, some motorists are more likely to speed or drive recklessly. In fact, according to a National Safety Council report, in March 2020, the number of motor vehicle fatalities per miles driven increased by 14 percent compared to March 2019.
Seek Immediate Medical Treatment
One of the biggest mistakes someone can make is to delay getting treated for injuries resulting from a car accident. Even if the injuries are not life threatening, it is important that medical treatment is sought as soon as possible, whether that means going to the closest emergency room or a primary care physician. If the injured person lives in an area where there has been a recent outbreak of COVID-19 cases, health care workers at the local emergency room may already be overwhelmed with patients affected by the virus. That means someone with injuries will likely have to wait longer than usual to receive treatment.
If the injuries are not life threatening, that person may want to make an appointment with their primary care physician. Many doctors’ offices have reduced their hours and are working with a skeleton staff. They may have limited appointment hours; therefore, taking the first available appointment is advised. If the injured person wishes to be seen sooner, or they are not comfortable going into the doctor’s office because of the potential risk of exposure to COVID-19, they can ask if the doctor would be willing to talk to them over the phone or schedule a video call.
Can Clients Settle Their Claim with the Insurance Company?
Even though many businesses are closed or operating remotely during this time, insurance companies are open for business and will be able to process a claim. However, insurance companies are businesses, and their main concern is their bottom line. Insurers will typically present a modest offer or try to encourage the claimant to settle for an amount that is far below what is fair. A skilled car accident lawyer will negotiate on a client’s behalf and recommend the best legal course of action that results in the best possible outcome.
Because many insurance companies are operating with fewer employees, or their staff is working remotely, this can create some logistical issues that may delay a settlement check from being sent. However, clients should not let that influence their decision to pursue an accident claim. Those injured are entitled to financial compensation, even if it means having to wait a bit longer to receive it.
Why is It a Bad Idea to Accept an Early Settlement Offer?
In addition to the impact that the COVID-19 virus has on people’s health and safety, it has caused widespread financial insecurity for people all over the world. People who have been particularly hard-hit by the pandemic may not be in a financial position to wait for their lawyer to negotiate the best possible settlement. If that is the case, they may have no choice but to accept a settlement offer. Although this may be tempting, particularly if someone is struggling financially, it is highly unlikely that they will receive the full compensation they deserve, and what a skilled car accident lawyer can obtain. An insurance company’s settlement offer rarely covers the total costs associated with a serious accident, including the following:
- Medical expenses related to the accident: Medical expenses can accumulate quickly, particularly if the injuries are severe. Examples of these expenses include:
– Emergency room visits
– Hospital stays
– Prescription medications
– Physical therapy
- Lost wages: If injuries prevent someone from being able to return to work, they will be reimbursed for any lost income resulting from their injuries.
- Loss of consortium: This is the loss of companionship that a spouse of a loved one can provide. In most cases, this is awarded only when injuries are very serious or cases involving wrongful death.
- Pain and suffering: This addresses the loss of comfort, happiness, and opportunity resulting from an accident. The amount of compensation a victim will receive will depend on several factors, including the type of injury, the medication prescribed, the length of recovery, and the permanence of the injury.
- Punitive damages: These are meant to punish the defendant for actions that are considered particularly egregious, malicious, or intentional.
One option that may be available to someone in dire need of financial resources immediately is to obtain a funding advance on a lawsuit. This is essentially a lawsuit loan that clients can borrow against the expected settlement amount. The money can be used for basic needs, including housing costs, food, utilities, other essentials, and bills that the client may be struggling to pay. Although funding loans do not generally need to be repaid if the lawsuit is unsuccessful, it is highly recommended that clients closely review the details of the loan, compare the terms to other financial companies, and select the offer that has the best terms. Fund loans should be a last resort because they come with high interest rates, but clients are more likely to walk away with more money in their pocket by obtaining a funding advance through the accident claim than they would if they settled the claim directly with the insurance company.
When Should Someone Contact a Car Accident Lawyer?
If someone intends to file a personal injury lawsuit after being injured in an accident, it is important that they do not wait to contact a car accident lawyer simply because of COVID-19. In fact, now more than ever, they will need an aggressive legal team to fight for their right to a fair compensation. Also, clients should be aware of the statute of limitations that apply to their case. In Maryland, a personal injury claim must be filed within three years of the date of the accident. The longer someone waits to file a claim, the greater the risk that they will miss the deadline, which means they no longer have the right to sue the at-fault party or secure compensation for their injuries.
An experienced car accident lawyer will conduct a thorough investigation into the details of the case, collect valuable information about the accident, and negotiate with the insurance company on a client’s behalf. If a settlement cannot be reached and the case goes to trial, a dedicated lawyer will develop an aggressive legal strategy to ensure that a client’s rights are protected and that they receive the compensation they deserve.
Baltimore Car Accident Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Assist Clients with Accident Claims During the Pandemic
If you or a loved one was injured in a car accident during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is in your best interest to contact the Baltimore car accident lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton as soon as possible. We will walk you through every step of the claims process, examine the details of your case, and ensure that you receive the maximum financial compensation you deserve. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.
Our offices are conveniently located in Baltimore, Columbia, Glen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, where we represent victims throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel County, Carroll County, Harford County, Howard County, Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, Queen Anne’s County, Maryland’s Western Counties, Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of Catonsville, Essex, Halethorpe, Middle River, Rosedale, Gwynn Oak, Brooklandville, Dundalk, Pikesville, Parkville, Nottingham, Windsor Mill, Lutherville, Timonium, Sparrows Point, Ridgewood, and Elkridge.