How Does the Coronavirus Affect Legal Cases and Settlements?
We are living in a historic moment. How will handle the coronavirus crisis will be remembered for decades, and never forgotten by those of us who lived through it. The Butler Law Firm is maintaining a physical presence in our office and our doors are still open, but our firm is staying safe and doing our part to #FlattenTheCurve by allowing most staff to work from home.
We continue to help our clients and push our cases forward.
Coronavirus May Delay Cases and Settlements
The coronavirus has affected the court system, which in turn affects claims and settlements. As a result of the virus and COVID-19, juries are not assembling, courts are not holding in-person hearings, most depositions have been cancelled. That slows cases down—in part because of legitimate health concerns, in part because insurance companies tend to seize any excuse for delay, and in part because the troubles in the stock market have caused insurance companies (which invest their customers’ premiums in the markets) to lose money, which makes them more reluctant than usual to pay claims. Even cases that might not ordinarily go to court are slowed down because if there is no threat of a trial, insurance companies usually won’t offer enough money to settle cases for their full value.
We have found ways to move cases forward, however. Some hearings and depositions can be handled through videoconferencing. Although most mediations have been postponed, lawyers can still negotiate by phone, email, and postal mail. Although most deadlines imposed by statute, regulation, or court order have been suspended, deadlines in settlement offers are still valid. When someone is hurt and needs help, negotiation deadlines or time-limited offers can still move cases toward settlement.
Legal System Recognizes Coronavirus
State and federal court authorities have recognized the seriousness of the coronavirus outbreak. The Georgia Supreme Court declared a state-wide judicial emergency and urged courts to close except for “essential functions,” which generally are not defined to include personal injury or wrongful death cases. The Georgia Supreme Court wrote that under O.C.G.A. s 38-3-62, all “deadlines or other time schedules or filing requirements imposed by . . . statutes, rules, regulations, or court orders” are suspended. The Georgia Supreme Court’s order was entered on March 14, 2020 and is set to expire (unless it is later extended) on April 13, 2020. As long as that order is pending, personal injury and wrongful death cases will move more slowly than usual.
The United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia (which is the federal trial-level court in Atlanta) has also declared an emergency during the coronavirus outbreak. The federal court wrote that the Atlanta-based Center for Disease control had confirmed an increase in coronavirus or COVID-19 infections, and the Department of Health and Human Services, the World Health Organization, and President Trump have all declared emergencies. To protect the public, juries, court staff, judges, and lawyers, federal courts have suspended the summoning of juries and most in-court proceedings. The Atlanta federal court’s order was entered on March 16, 2020 and will remain in force (unless it is extended) for thirty days from that date. As with the Georgia Supreme Court’s order, personal injury and wrongful death cases will be slowed down as long as the coronavirus interferes with the operation of the courts.
Finding a Doctor for Your Personal Injury Case During the Coronavirus Outbreak
The coronavirus outbreak affects personal injury and wrongful death cases in more ways than slowing down insurance claims, legal proceedings, and settlements. As hospitals, doctors, and other medical providers deal with coronavirus patients, they are less able to provide other forms of treatment—such as treatment for personal injuries that are not life-threatening, or even counseling services for bereaved survivors in wrongful death cases. Other medical offices that don’t treat coronavirus victims may have closed their doors in an effort to slow the transmission of the virus or to protect their staff members from COVID-19. The unavailability of medical treatment is a serious problem in personal injury cases.
We know of some solutions. Some medical treatment providers are still open to treat personal injury victims. In particular, some medical clinics that focus on orthopedic injuries have been less affected by the coronavirus outbreak and are still able to see some patients. Our firm knows of some medical offices where patients can still be seen. Other medical clinics or practices can see patients through “telemedicine,” which is another way to say that they assess patients through videoconferencing or over the phone. If you need to find a doctor who can help you during the coronavirus outbreak, we may be able to connect you with a doctor who can help.
Personal Injury and Wrongful Death Lawyers Working During Coronavirus Outbreak
The needs of our clients have not lessened just because of the coronavirus, and we have not stopped working. Our lawyers and staff continue to work on cases from our laptops and cell phones even when working from home. We keep one or more lawyers in the office each day and remain available by phone, videoconference, or email.
If you are a client of the Butler Law Firm or would like for us to review your case, you can still reach us in the usual way. If you call our office at (678) 940-1444, your call will be routed to the lawyer or paralegal you’re calling for, even if he or she is working from elsewhere. We continue to receive and send emails. If you are a potential new client, you can still call, use our online chat feature, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or submit an Application for Representation.
In short, we’re still on the job.