COVID-19 – What is the impact on my Personal Injury Claim?
At the time of writing this blog the Prime Minister has just announced an admittedly vague roadmap as to how, as a country, we might begin to emerge from the COVID-19 crisis.
That being said, it is probably safe to assume that any return to ‘normal’ is some way off yet with many predicting the effects of the pandemic, both good and bad, will be felt for generations to come.
For this reason, many of those who have active personal injury claims and even those wondering if they might have a claim are asking what impact the pandemic will have on them. Below, I answer some of the more common questions posed.
“Is BBK open?”
Absolutely. Whilst it is impossible to say there will be no impact on the claims process, we have seen Claimants, Defendants and the Courts cooperate and work together to ensure that any delay is minimised or in most scenarios, avoided entirely.
At Bolt Burdon Kemp we have worked flexibly for many years and our solicitors have always had the ability to work from home remotely so it’s true when we say this is ‘business as usual’. As a result, whilst our office remains closed for the safety of our staff and clients, the lockdown has not impacted on our ability to manage our clients’ claims as normal.
Our clients will be used to seeing their solicitor virtually, whether that be via Skype, FaceTime or now even Zoom. Whatever the platform, we recognise the benefit of being able to see and talk to your solicitor – even if face-to-face meetings aren’t possible at the moment.
“Are the Courts open and operating?”
Yes they are. It has been very interesting to see the Courts adapt to this new way of working. Generally speaking, Court hearings have not been postponed or cancelled as a result of the pandemic. Instead, our solicitors and our clients’ barristers have been attending Court hearings virtually or via the telephone. The general consensus is that such has been the success of these virtual hearings, we may see the Courts willing to deal with certain types of hearings in this way even beyond the pandemic.
Where a degree of delay is unavoidable, the Court rules have been updated to allow the parties to agree a modest extension of time to complete certain tasks. However, in our experience, we have not experienced much cause to use this option yet.
“Can I see experts?”
As part of your case, you are almost always required to see and be examined by a medical or non-medical expert. This is so they can prepare a report on your condition and/or your needs arising from your injuries.
In ordinary times, you would normally see these experts in person. In some specialisms of medicine it will not be possible to undergo a meaningful assessment virtually. However, we are finding that both clinical and non-clinical experts are adapting extremely well to the demands of the pandemic and offering assessments via Skype, Zoom or the telephone to keep cases moving. Occasionally it will mean that expert reports are provisional and subject to a later face-to-face assessment but the report is nonetheless informative and can be used to support requests for interim payments, for example.
Similarly, case managers and treating clinicians are developing ingenuous ways of ensuring a client’s rehabilitation continues at home with virtual and written exercise plans until they can see them again in person.
“I’m struggling financially, can I get an interim payment?”
Over the last two months, we have succeeded in obtaining tens of thousands of pounds in interim payments for our clients. We recognise that many are facing increased uncertainty, either because they or their family members have been furloughed or because they aren’t working at all. Oftentimes this is on top of a disrupted working pattern due to their injuries. As a result, we are redoubling our efforts to cooperate with Defendants to ensure advanced payments are obtained for our clients to ease the financial burden.
We are also delighted to boast several examples of large settlements for clients during March, April and May which have been achieved by way of virtual joint settlement meetings. This is where all parties to a claim ‘meet’ online using video-conferencing tools to negotiate a settlement in much the same way as they did in person. This means long delays to resolving cases are avoided to the benefit of all involved.
“I’m unsure if I should even bring a claim for personal injury…”
Making that initial step to call or email a solicitor about an accident or medical negligence claim is always a big decision. At Bolt Burdon Kemp we offer you the opportunity to speak to a solicitor from the first call. That means you won’t need to speak to any call centres or unqualified lawyers about your potential case and instead you can speak to a solicitor who will be able to answer your questions and put your mind at rest – whatever the advice might be.
There are strict time-limits which apply to personal injury claims and so it is hugely important to make sure you don’t delay your enquiry during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The COVID-19 crisis is of course creating significant challenges that are testing Claimants, potential Claimants and all those involved in the personal injury industry. However, most firms and insurance companies are demonstrating a great deal of resilience, adaptability and cooperation in avoiding unnecessary delays and progressing claims towards a satisfactory conclusion. Ultimately, this will benefit victims of negligence whose needs are increasingly significant at this time.