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How Has COVID-19 Impacted Personal Injury Cases in Ohio?

Post By Corey Heit

The coronavirus pandemic changed so much about how residents of Ohio live and work. It should come as no surprise, then, that COVID-19 impacted personal injury cases in some ways. Attorneys such as myself continue advising and representing victims of car crashes, collisions with trucks, dog bites and other preventable accidents that inflict injuries and wrongful deaths. But some of our processes and procedures have changed.

What Hasn’t Changed

Drivers, passengers, pedestrians and bike riders still get hurt—and, sadly, killed—by people who speed, become distracted or fall asleep behind the wheel, or drive under the influence of alcohol and drugs. Dogs still attack. Negligent homeowners and businesses continue putting guests and customers at risk for slips and falls.

In other words, stay-at-home orders and social distancing guidelines have not eliminated the grounds for personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits. This means that I have continued working through the pandemic, both taking on new clients and handling cases that commenced before anyone heard the term “novel coronavirus.”

Similarly, insurance companies and courts have stayed in operation. Filing claims, negotiating settlements, and doing things such as requesting police reports, taking depositions, and responding to motions continued even though office buildings were closed and members of the public were encouraged to stay away from courthouses.

What’s Different

Say you have a car accident claim during the COVID-19 pandemic. You are an essential worker who could not do your job remotely. Returning home after a long shift, another driver crossed the center line of the highway and slammed into you. What happens then?

First, you should receive all appropriate medical care. Hospitals, emergency rooms, clinics, and doctors’ offices have protocols in place to protect patients from infections. Some of your follow-up care is likely to be delivered via telehealth, and you may need to figure out how to navigate no-contact prescription fills and pickups.

Next, contact your own insurance company and the insurer for the at-fault driver. The interactions with insurance company reps and claims adjusters will be handled over the phone and via email.

You might be asked to take part in a Zoom call (or some other type of videoconference). If that happens, you will benefit from consulting with an experienced personal injury attorney. Providing too much information to an insurance claims adjuster too early in a case can make it difficult to later secure a fair settlement for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

When it comes time to reach out to a car accident attorney, do so via phone or through the lawyer’s website. Do not many, if any, visits to the office.

With the possible exception of a jury trial (which would be held months in the future, in any event), each stage of your case can be handled remotely. Videoconferences, online document sharing, emails, and old-fashioned phone calls should suffice to ensure all information is shared and all negotiations are conducted equitably. Required signatures can be secured electronically, by fax (still a thing!), or through the mail.

Should going to court become necessary at some point, you should find and follow the most-recent guidelines for making an appointment and wearing a mask. The guidelines for the Franklin County courts that serve residents of Columbus and its neighboring communities are available here.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has, unavoidably, impacted personal injury cases in Ohio, the public health emergency has not made it impossible to pursue car accident claims. As long as you are prepared to partner with your plaintiff’s attorney online, you should be able to press your claims for compensation from the person who injured you.

Heit Law never shut down during the pandemic. Based in Westerville, Ohio, the firm helps people with all types of personal injury and wrongful death cases. To request a free consultation, call (614) 898-5300 or complete this contact form.

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