The Corona Virus, better known as COVID 19, is in full swing throughout the US. The average person does not consider the impact on legal matters. They say justice delayed is justice denied and with the courts closed, but for emergencies, one can imagine the nightmare that is facing the judicial system whenever the courts reopen. The Desert Bar Association’s monthly lunch a few weeks ago featured Riverside’s Presiding Judge. The Judge gave her annual presentation about the status of the court’s congestion and what we can do about it. That was before COVID 19 and the courts closing.
When the courts are congested, your case cannot be heard and all these continuances will cost litigants more money for their hourly attorneys. But they are only losing money. However, what about those in custody expecting to have a judge reduce their bail or give them an OR release on their own promise to return. How much extra time will they spend in custody? Will their cases have to be dismissed because of the delay in prosecution?
Lawyers and the Courts have no script for how COVID 19 will affect your legal case. We are all flying blind. The courts are closed and there is no way to know when this will be over and the continued cases put back on calendar. Courts are closed for at least 2 weeks because of the health risk. There is no playbook on what to do during this pandemic.
Here are examples of how it might affect you on a simple auto accident or DUI case. Initially, since we are not supposed to drive, there are going to be fewer cars on the road and thus fewer accidents. Bars, restaurants, hotels are also closed and no one wants to attend a party and be around people who may be carrying the virus. A big factor in a legal case is finding a lawyer. Most are working from home and not going into the office. Finding a doctor and lawyer may be a problem in the foreseeable future.
Let’s say you were in an auto accident and assume you were driving legally on the roads. Can you get a tow truck quickly or a body shop to repair your car, let alone getting an adjuster to come out to appraise the damage? More importantly, the body shop must get authorization to start work on your car from the insurance company. What are you going to do about the delays? Payout of pocket?
However, these are not the only delays when you are in an accident. Will you be able to get into an ER or Urgent Care Center? Not to mention you may not want to even go there because of the threat of COVID 19. Many of my personal doctors have closed their offices and are very selective about who comes in their doors.
You or your lawyer must find a doctor that knows how to both treat your injuries and prepare a proper med/legal report. Doctors on accident cases will tell you it will take a while to heal and will require your attending physical therapy 3 times a week. Will you be able to find a doctor and do you really want to be going out in public with this crazy virus haunting us?
Finding a doctor that knows how to write med/legal reports is not easy to find. There are very few in the desert trained on how to do so. I lectured for years to the International College of Surgeons’ annual convention teaching them what to put in a report and what to leave out. Most doctors do NOT know how to prepare a proper medical/legal report that goes to the insurance company. The report is how you get more or less money on your case.
You also need a doctor who will take the case on a lien and wait to be paid until the case is concluded. All the delays that are about to take place may convince a lot of physicians to not take future cases on a lien. That would mean you, and your medical insurance would have to pay upfront. Doctors on accident cases will tell you it will take a while to heal and will require physical therapy where you go 3 times a week. Will we be able to find one and do you really want to be going out in public with this crazy virus haunting us?
The value of an accident case depends on a number of factors. Clearly, liability is an issue. You are not going to be paid if you are at fault. The amount of property damage is also a factor. With a sideswipe and $500 in damage, you will not collect the same amount of money as you would with a rear-ender and $9,000 in PD.
One of the biggest factors is that Insurance Companies DENY AND DELAY. There is an overnight value for money. The insurance companies have claims all across the US. If they can delay sending millions of dollars for a day then that is worth a lot of money to them. If they can stall for months or years, imagine how much more they will make. The interest on the money can pay the claims. If the insurance company knew that a lawsuit is going to be tied up in the courts for 5 years why settle for top dollar now? I assure you the insurance companies will do whatever they can to take advantage of this terrible situation.
One of my biggest concerns is the Census. It controls how many congressional representatives we add or delete from California. Without enough votes, the laws may change and the insurance companies have the money to donate to politicians to change the laws in their favor. If either party loses too many congressmen or congresswoman, that could change the vote on important issues.
This morning I woke up and birds were chirping and the sun shined bright…but all was not the same. At least I am stuck at home and able to hear the birdies.
Attorney at Law
“TOP LAWYER” Palm Springs Life
73-061 El Paseo, Suite 220
Palm Desert, CA 92260
Office – 760-837-7500
Fax – 760 837-7502