Personal Injury and COVID-19
September 29, 2020

COVID-19 has certainly wreaked havoc across the nation. States like Oregon have been hit pretty hard in some areas, yet not as hard as some of the more heavily populated states throughout the nation.

If you take a look at their current numbers, you see both rises and falls in the daily numbers but as far as today is concerned, the numbers look better now than they did in July and August. They are averaging about 216 new cases per day and have breached 30,000 total cases across the state as well as more than 500 deaths related to COVID-19.

How does being affected by COVID-19 relate back to jobs, personal injury, and the justice system? Actually, the terms go hand-in-hand. Many people are out of work for extended periods of time, particularly those who have been infected by the virus or have to be a caretaker for an infected family member.

COVID-19 and personal injury are integrated terms are there are many out there who don’t understand the correlation. We’re going to try to clear that up for you and let you know the legal perspective of how these terms are related.

Is COVID-19 a Personal Injury?

There is a lot of gray in this area. Personal injury claims tend to fall back on the business and cause them to have to pay for an injury because procedures to protect employees weren’t in place. This is not always the case but already we find that businesses are challenging these claims.

Businesses are working hard to mitigate risk by improving cleaning practices, educating employees and staff, following state guidance and recommendations, and changing their day-to-day practices in an effort to protect employees and the business. This protection is for the business, employees, and customers.

Typically, a personal injury claim requires that there be proof of negligence in some way. Very few personal injury claims are related to things like viruses and infectious diseases but that does not disqualify them from the category.

There could be a number of COVID-19 related circumstances that do potentially lend to negligence and therefore personal injury. Here are some examples.

  • Cruise ship exposure and liability
  • Workplace exposure, in some circumstances
  • Medical malpractice based on negligence (dependent upon state allowances)
  • Nursing home negligence of care and cleaning (dependent upon state allowances)

We do want to point out that a workplace exposure is more likely going to fall under a workman’s compensation claim rather than a personal injury claim.

When it comes to the medical field, such as nursing home negligence or medical malpractice, some states have issued guidance protecting these entities from such claims. Oregon is not one of those states.

How Have Personal Injury Claims Been Affected by COVID-19?

While we’re on the topic, we want to talk about how these claims and the timeliness of any personal injury claim could potentially be impacted because of COVID-19. Not only are there personal injury claims coming to light specifically related to COVID-19 but there are claims that are seeing a tremendous delay in processing because of COVID-19.

There are concerns that contracting COVID-19 during a persona injury case could potentially affect the case or the terms of the case at play. Additionally, there are concerns that claims will take additional time to process when it already seems like they take forever.

Many of these statistics and processes do vary by state as well.

Businesses, courts, attorneys – they have all experienced process delays and closures. If you check out the numbers, some courts have processed as little as half the cases they did in previous years.

In fact, in Lane County, Oregon the public defenders recently took a stance to stop taking felony cases so that they can focus their attention to the backlog of cases already in their possession.

At his point, the legal system sees very little hope of resolving this issue because as they clear some cases, more are just beginning.

Alternatively, courts have been forced to reduce hours, use remote meeting technology, and postpone basic things like hearings. The courts are actively only handling a single criminal trial per day in some counties, which means the due process is taking much longer.

The Crisis of Personal Injury Claims and COVID-19

The legal system is very near to a crisis with the backlog of claims that simply can’t be seen or continue to be postponed. The same is true of personal injury claims. Whether your claim is specific to COVID-19, a workman’s compensation issue, or some other form of personal injury, the delay could be impactful.

The burden lies on both the defenders and the courts. However, is the victim of the personal injury that really feels the crisis and the defender that has to watch them struggle through the process.

While many courts have slowly begun to reopen and impart a regular schedule, cases continue to be slow to come to fruition, which means a solution may be some time off. According to the Register-Guard, defenders say they have never seen backlogs like they do now. Cases were cleared as new cases were presented. These are unprecedented times.

Finally, it is the people that don’t have money to fight the system that are truly feeling the difference here, particularly with personal injury claims. These claims are typically not paid out of pocket but rather by payment from the claim itself. Meanwhile, those already struggling are not finding justice served. The attorneys also feel the backlash of this since they are not able to handle as many cases as quickly through the system.

Conclusion

COVID-19 can present personal injury cases to the legal system. Your case could be legitimate to this scenario. The downside is the impact of the wait for the legal system to accomplish its task and how you can handle yourself in the meantime.

Don’t stray from a claim when the basis is clear but keep in mind the process could be more drawn-out than personal injury claims have been in the past.

Keep yourself well to the best of the ability but when something happens, look to the experts to help you through the process and protect yourself and your family.

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