The novel coronavirus pandemic is dominating headlines – not to mention the lives of most Americans right now. But how might COVID-19 impact your Fort Myers car accident claim?
Our personal injury lawyers know several elements of your case could be affected by the pandemic, but the most important things to know are: You should not delay seeking medical treatment or consulting with an attorney. These are the quickest ways to jeopardize your health and reduce the value of your claim.
The silver lining in all of this is that with reduced traffic on the roads, we may see fewer crashes in total. However, pending cases will still proceed (even if delayed) and a crash during the pandemic is not impossible either.
That said, you should be aware of a few things that might be different. It is important to stay informed as we navigate this once-in-a-century national and global crisis.
You Must Still Seek Medical Treatment
For some clients, seeking treatment may be inevitable. If you are unconscious, you may be transported regardless. In the event that you are not transported, it is imperative to seek emergency medical treatment as well as maintaining all doctor-recommended treatments. This is necessary to obtain the maximum $10,000 in personal injury protection (PIP) coverage per F.S. 627.736 from your auto insurer. It is also essential to step outside Florida’s no-fault system to collect damages from at-fault drivers.
Perhaps the only exception may be if hospitals and healthcare facilities become overwhelmed with coronavirus patients and it becomes impossible to obtain or maintain a doctor’s appointment or treatment. This could also lead to delays in resolving cases because it is only once you have substantially finished treatment that we can begin resolving a case – otherwise, it will be difficult to prove the permanent extent of your injuries.
Bear in mind that most doctor’s offices and health care facilities have rigorous sanitation and social distance policies in place to protect patients and staff and reduce the spread of the virus. Be mindful to keep at least 6 feet of distance, wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your face.
If you have specific concerns about this, your health care provider may be able to answer your questions, and our Fort Myers car accident lawyers can answer client questions about how this element might affect their specific case.
Fewer People Paying Car Insurance Premiums
The pandemic has had a devastating economic impact, with a reported 10 million Americans filing for unemployment in March alone. Although there are various measures of federal economic relief on the way, it may not be enough for people to pay all their bills. Given that everyone is currently ordered to stay home, car insurance may be one of the first payments foregone by those who are financially squeezed.
As it stands, Florida already had the highest uninsured driver rate in the nation, amounting to roughly 1 in 4.
This means it is a very good time (if you have not already) to consider reviewing your uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. UM/UIM coverage is an available part of auto insurance plans that covers you in the event you are injured due to the negligence of a driver who is either not insured or lacks enough insurance to cover your injuries.
Court Schedules and Procedures May Be Altered, Delayed
Courthouses around the country are either closing or modifying their procedures to handle cases remotely to the greatest extent possible. That does not mean cases will not proceed, but depositions, hearings and other events may be conducted electronically or via phone or video conference where possible.
The Florida Supreme Court is closely monitoring the situation and is setting precedent and guidelines for courts across the state.
The good news is that the majority of Fort Myers car accident cases are resolved without trial anyway – sometimes even without a lawsuit. Our injury lawyers can negotiate directly with your insurer. Our firm has already handled many depositions, mediations, and court hearings over (zoom) virtual meeting software and telephonic hearings.
Insurers May Fight Harder
Like many other industries, the insurance industry has seen a decline in profits. That could mean that we are likely to see insurers fighting even harder for reduced settlements. That makes it all the more imperative for you not to attempt to settle your car accident claim on your own. An experienced injury lawyer can advocate on your behalf. While we have had many cases settle since the coronavirus lockdown has begun we have recently seen insurance companies lowball claims as it appears that they are aware that the local courthouses have suspended jury service and a jury trial is currently impossible.
Our Fort Myers Car Accident Lawyers Are Still Here for You
Although these are the areas of obvious concern/disruption that we see specific to Florida car accident claims, one thing that has not and will not change is our commitment to serving the injured in this community. Although we are no longer allowing walk-ins at this time, we are still extending free initial consultations as well as client interactions via telephone and video conferencing.
In limited circumstances, we may also be able to arrange an in-person appointment. If your injuries are serious, we may make arrangements to come to you.
Read more about our law firm’s response to COVID-19.
If you are injured in the greater South Florida area, contact our injury attorneys at The Garvin Firm at 800.977.7017 for a free initial consultation.
Afternoon Briefs: Find COVID-19 resources on new ABA website; law firms aid coronavirus fight, April 3, 2020, American Bar Association