What Will Happen To My Personal Injury Case During the Coronavirus?
We are living in a unique and unprecedented time in our lives, if not in the history of the world. Rules, restraints and quarantine recommendations and requirements are changing every day. If you’ve been injured, are out of work, or are still treating medically for your injuries, this pandemic has additional worries for you. Which begs the question, how is the closing of law offices, Courts, and the strain on our health services industry going to affect you and your personal injury case?
Can I Still Hire And Meet With A Lawyer To Pursue A Personal Injury Case During The Coronavirus?
Yes. How you meet with the lawyer may change in the short term. While everyone is being cautioned to limit interaction with other people and to practice “social distancing” the technology that is available today makes face to face meetings through the computer or the phone very easy. Documents such as authorizations and retainer agreements can be sent through email, printed and emailed back. While it is our preference and we may be used to meeting in person, in this complicated time, electronic meetings may become the new normal. These meetings can be just as effective.
At our office we are already transitioning to conferences by phone and zoom meeting and are available to conduct meetings by Facetime, and/or Skype. If in person meetings are necessary, we are practicing social distancing, as well as washing hands with soap and water before and after the meeting and disinfecting the conference rooms after each meeting.
Will My Personal Injury Case Still Move Forward During the Coronavirus?
The likely answer is yes, to some extent. If you have recently been injured your lawyer may be able to do things that do not require close interaction with other people. For instance, obtaining copies of your medical records, which is an important piece of any personal injury case can still be done. However, it should be noted that responses to these requests may be slowed because of other more pressing needs of the healthcare workers and medical providers. Moreover, treatment you may be receiving for non-emergency related injuries could be impacted or delayed which can impact how quickly your case may progress.
Neither you nor your lawyer should attempt to settle your personal injury case if you are still actively treating as the full extent of your injuries may not yet be known. Additionally, investigating your case by speaking to witnesses, and experts can still happen during this time as this kind of work can be handled by phone or electronic meetings rather than in person.
If A Lawsuit Has Been Filed, Will My Personal Injury Case Continue During The Coronavirus?
If the case is already in suit, there is plenty of work that can be done on your case that does not require interacting with other people. For instance, exchanging of pretrial discovery documents can still occur to keep your case moving forward. Providing the defendant/the defendants lawyer with information about your theory of the case, the extent of your harm and damages, medical records and releases and other information about your case can occur during this time. If you have a prior scheduled court appearance, that date will likely be moved for a period of time until the Courts are working at full capacity.
Can Legal Documents Be Filed During The Coronavirus Outbreak?
Filing legal documents can still be done. In many counties documents are electronically filed. In those counties where documents cannot be filed electronically, you should check with the county clerk to see if the office is open. Note that even if the documents can be filed, if the filed documents request court intervention, unless the matter is an emergency, any necessary hearings will likely be postponed until further notice.
Will I Have To Testify At a Deposition During The Coronavirus Outbreak?
What Is A Deposition?
A deposition is an opportunity for the lawyers to question the defendant, the plaintiff(s), other witnesses or experts about the accident and about the injuries suffered.
Will My Deposition Be Delayed Because of The Coronavirus?
At this time, at least for the short term, in order to “flatten the curve”, to comply with social distancing mandates, and to avoid transmission of this very contagious disease, most depositions and non-emergency case meetings are being postponed. If your case is ready for depositions to be conducted, you should expect the depositions to be postponed at least until the end of April with the possibility that it could be longer depending on how the recommendations of the CDC continue to evolve. While it is important to keep your case moving forward toward resolution, it’s not worth the risk of infecting other people or becoming infected yourself in the process.
Will My Personal Injury Trial Be Postponed Because Of The Coronavirus?
Yes. The Office of Court Administration has, as of March 15, 2020, provided updated protocols for operating the courthouses. At this time, until further notice, other than trials in progress, no other civil trials (including personal injury trials) will be scheduled until further notice. https://www.nycourts.gov/whatsnew/pdf/Updated-Protocol-AttachmentA3.pdf
If you have trial already scheduled in April or May, it is unclear if it will proceed, but, it is likely it too will be rescheduled for a future date.