Legal Issues in the Coronavirus Pandemic

First and foremost, we at Gilbert & Greif, P.A. want you to stay safe and healthy during these times. Federal, state and local authorities are issuing guidelines and bulletins daily, and there will be more to come. Business at every level is affected, and families and individuals face uncertainty regarding what lies ahead, both medically and financially.

Like everyone else, we have been impacted by these events, but the good news is that we are open and available to assist our clients with their legal questions and problems. Some may arise specifically out of the coronavirus situation, and others are part of everyday life, as unusual as things are at the moment. For the safety of all, we are restricting personal visits to the office, but we can still cover a lot of ground through phone, video and email. The law has faced previous pandemics so there is precedent to be drawn on. Although there has been some emergency legislation passed at both the federal and state levels, most of what we deal with and have dealt with for years remains in place. Because of court shutdowns, there will be delays in certain cases, but that is nothing new. We resolve to remain calm and carry on. If we can be of assistance, please don’t hesitate to contact us.


Personal Injury and the Road to Resolution

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At Gilbert & Greif, P.A., we try our best to produce excellent results in a timely manner. However, as anyone who has been involved in civil litigation can attest, more often than not, positive results take a lot of time.

The process of getting to trial itself can be long and arduous.  Unfortunately, movies and television tend to skip all of the pretrial work of collecting records and deposing witnesses, which sometimes gives people the impression that their real life legal issue will be resolved within a month or two. Further extending the timetable are courts that can be clogged with a backlog of civil cases, making a trial date seem like a very distant goal. These disappointments are exacerbated when a client is behind on bills, in pain, and counting on a settlement or a judgment to make them whole.            

           Let's take for instance, someone who has been injured in an accident. A personal injury client may have been through months of rehabilitation and has racked up thousands of dollars of medical bills, which may or may not have been paid. Perhaps that individual is now unable to work. More often than not, these types of cases take time to resolve. An attorney almost always has to wait until the client has "finished treating" or "reached a medical endpoint" before negotiating with an insurance company. After all, it makes little sense to settle a claim if there will be future medical bills or treatment because settlement is usually conditioned upon the client giving up all claims that arose, or could have arisen, from the accident. In other words, you only get one "bite at the apple."

             When a client has finished treating, typically a "demand letter" is sent to the insurance company for the opposing party that demands a particular amount of money in exchange for settlement of the claim. At this point, some cases settle quickly. However, because insurance companies do not typically pay claims quickly (especially large ones), the negotiation process often takes time. If the insurance company denies the claim or a settlement cannot be reached, then a lawsuit is typically filed against the opposing party. As mentioned above, the pretrial process takes months or, in some cases, even years.

             So, what can a personal injury client do when dealing with this long road of litigation? Here are a few thoughts:

  • Keep some sort of record about the accident as you remember it shortly after it happens. As time goes by, memories tend to fade. Even though accidents are often memorable events, details can be elusive if you have to testify about them years later.
  • Mentally prepare yourself for the time it takes to get a case resolved. I have found that a client’s knowledge of a potential timeline for the resolution of a case helps to relieve him or her of the anxiety and uncertainty that sometimes accompanies litigation.
  • Do the best you can to prepare yourself financially for the time it takes to settle a case. If you can, try to live day to day without counting on the money from a potential settlement. While a whole industry has arisen to provide people with advance funding for a potential settlement, the interest rates that these companies charge can be steep. This makes an advance a potentially costly wager when the case could take a long time to resolve.

             Even if the road to resolving a personal injury case is long, clients often find that their settlement or judgment is worth the wait.