The bottleneck of personal injury claims is expanding as courts shut down, companies go out of business, and Americans struggle to understand their options. Though most personal injury cases settle out of court, for many victims of accidents and people new to claiming disability, the coronavirus means long, stressful delays.
Deirdre DiBiaggio is a personal injury lawyer and social security disability attorney in Southern Florida. Here is what she believes you need to know about personal injury cases and social security disability claims during the time of COVID-19.
How Florida Courts Are Affected On Personal Injury Cases
Following Governor Andrew Cuomo’s example in New York, Chief Justice Charles Canady deemed Florida law firms and courtrooms nonessential places of work, ending jury trials on March 13, 2020. Since then, a backlog of cases has piled up. Canady launched a remote-technology pilot program on May 22, hoping the outcomes might ease some of the work associated with this backlog. He also introduced the five-step transition plan Florida will follow:
- Phase 1: While in-person contact is highly inadvisable, court facilities will be closed to the public to avoid the spread of Covid-19 and meet health care needs.
- Phase 2: Courts will permit limited in-person contact, with mandatory protective measures such as social-distancing and mask-wearing to meet health care needs.
- Phase 3: There will be more in-person contact allowed, and protective measures will be relaxed.
- Phase 4: Covid-19 will no longer present a significant risk, and courts will resume.
As in New York, Florida hopes imposing restrictions on our places of work will slow the coronavirus spread. Nevertheless, Floridians will feel the impact of these restrictions for years to come.
How the Backlog Affects You
COVID-19 has increased the stress clients may experience when submitting their personal injury claim. There are three specific reasons:
1. Predatory insurance companies are offering inordinately low settlements. If you’ve lost your job due to COVID-19, you may wish for a quick settlement. However, don’t take the first offer you receive. Make sure the insurers offer to cover the full scope of losses included in your personal injury claim.
2. COVID-19 has affected the economy worldwide, and insurance companies are no exception. If you find yourself in court, expect a fight, as your insurance company may work hard to minimize your claim.
3. When businesses are on the verge of closing, companies often drop insurance plans or file for bankruptcy. If this is the case, victims of accidents can count on long wait times before they see any monetary award for their claim, if they receive one at all.
What You Can Do Personal Injury Cases
Whether it’s a car accident or a workplace injury, document your injury case as thoroughly as possible, noting witnesses’ names and phone numbers. Then, visit your doctor for any medical treatment needed, even if it’s a simple check-up or a telehealth appointment.
While going to the hospital during a pandemic might seem ill-advised, it is incredibly important to properly document your injuries and receive a full report on your health. If your doctor recommends additional visits, follow through. Take the proper precautions for COVID-19, but keep your appointments.
Until you know the full scope of your injuries, you may not file for the full amount of compensation you are entitled to in a personal injury case.
Social Security Disability
The Social Security Administration (SSA) has continued to send out payments during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, if you are new to social security, there are matters to be aware of:
- Currently, the SSA is handling many new claims remotely, though this depends on the office with which you work. If you are on the hearing schedule, please be advised that all hearings are being held by telephone until further notice. You have the option to delay your hearing and to wait for an in-person hearing with an Administrative Law Judge, but we currently do not know when those live hearings will resume. It all depends on COVID 19.
- If you qualify for social security disability, know that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued an Economic Impact Payment on May 22, 2020. If you filed a 2018 or 2019 tax return, you might be eligible for a tax refund. Visit www.ssa.gov/coronavirus/#reppayee for more information.
Contact DiBaggio Law
DiBaggio Law will continue to negotiate your claim during this stressful time. We may gather documentation and research issues related to your case. Furthermore, most insurance settlements are prepared through the mail or over email. Do you need help with a personal injury or disability claim? Whether you live in Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade, or the Florida Keys, we can help. Contact us at (561) 903-2478 for an evaluation of your case.
DISCLAIMER: The information in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information contained in this post should be construed as legal advice from the individual author or the law firm, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information included in, or accessible through, this post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.
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West Palm Beach, FL 33405