- April 5, 2020
- By Ian Peters
- 0 comments
Personal Injury Lawyer Lockdown Diary
I have just completed my first week of home working. It has been a challenge but there has been a determination from many to make things work. The courts are still running, court deadlines are still live, and my clients still need help. I have provided a diary of my week below to highlight some of the challenges which personal injury practitioners face at the moment.
It is not my first day of home working but it is my first day doing so with my wife who is also a lawyer and our two young children. School is cancelled for the foreseeable future and many parents are going to have to juggle work alongside home schooling. Fortunately, the weather is good so the children can enjoy the garden.
I receive a number of emails from insurance solicitors asking for service of all court documents and correspondence to be undertaken by email. I hear stories of firms serving important documents by post in the knowledge their opponents may not receive them. I hope this is not true as from my perspective everyone is taking a sensible and reasonable approach to matters.
The Prime Minister announces severe restrictions on movement on Monday night and that causes immediate problems.
I am in the process of moving a brain injured client from Surrey to more appropriate accommodation in Eastbourne. His current property is unsuitable for his needs and he is effectively housebound. The move was set for Friday but we are hit with the double blow that the support worker selected to work with my client has fallen ill and that the removals company have cancelled due to the lockdown.
Fortunately, I have a very good case manager in place and she is able to source an alternative support worker with suitable experience. The support worker is based in Manchester but is prepared to travel. I arrange funding to place the support worker in isolation at an Airbnb property in Eastbourne until my client is able to move. Through a family connection I am able to find another removals company who can move my client on Monday next week. Not all is lost but there is a lot of stress for my client and his wife who feel like everything is on hold until they move. I keep my fingers crossed nothing else goes wrong before Monday.
One of the main aspects of my role is obtaining expert evidence on my client’s injuries. This normally involves face to face examinations with various different types of medical experts. Following the lockdown on Monday many experts begin to cancel appointments which have been in the diary for months.
I have a client who suffered a below knee amputation of his right leg following an accident in 2017. He is a Polish national and returned to Poland following the accident. He has travelled back to London for treatment and some expert assessments but other assessments by care and accommodation experts should take place where is he lives. I have spent months planning my own visit to Poland in April alongside the care and accommodation experts. There is no way the trip can go ahead now and I look at alternative ways for the expert assessments to take place. Appointments by video link are difficult as my client does not speak English. I cannot get an interpreter to his house as Poland is also on lockdown. I decide to postpone the appointments and to review the situation again at the end of April. There is no benefit in sacrificing the quality of the expert evidence just to progress the claim.
I have my first remote Joint Settlement Meeting (JSM). The majority of high value personal injury cases are settled at a JSM. The parties agree to meet in advance of trial to see if they can resolve any significant issues in dispute between them and hopefully negotiate a final settlement. The aim is to get all the important people in the same place at the same time to negotiate a resolution. The barristers instructed by each party will discuss the case, exchange offers, and then take instructions from their respective clients. Some JSMs can last all day.
I act for a client who suffered a life changing injury as a result of an accident at work which happened nearly 3 years ago. The JSM has been in the diary for 6 months and my client has been looking forward to it as he sees it as a chance to settle his claim and move on with his life. The insurers’ solicitors informed me last week that they would not travel from the North of England to London for the JSM but they would be on the phone and their instructed barrister would attend the meeting in person. They made it clear that they wanted to keep the date if at all possible and would make it work.
My client is desperate to attend in person but following the Prime Minister’s announcement on Monday night he accepts that this is not possible. I agree with my client’s barrister that we will conduct the JSM by way of a telephone conference with the client initially for an hour to discuss the case and negotiating tactics. As the meeting progresses my client’s barrister proposes a 3-way What’s App Video call. The day before the meeting it is decided that the barristers will speak on the phone rather than meet in person.
The telephone conference is fine and there are no hitches. My client’s barrister hangs up and rings the insurers’ barrister to start negotiations. The first What’s App Video call goes well. There is a good connection and everyone can be heard. Various offers are exchanged throughout the day. The meeting lasts until 3.30pm and we have about another 6 video calls during that time. It is difficult to concentrate on other work whilst seven figure offers fly backwards and forwards.
We eventually settle the claim. It is fair and reasonable result for my client and one that he is very happy with. It will enable him to buy a suitable home free of a mortgage and think about what else he can do for work (he cannot manage what he did before the accident). I commend the insurers’ approach to the meeting as they were determined to make it work whatever the format and I am not sure all insurers would have taken a similar approach.
I prefer having meetings in person but this shows that you can make it work with technology.
I am relieved it is the last day of the week and my last Joe Wicks’ workout of the week with my 4 –year-old daughter and 6-year-old son. I speak with a client via Zoom. I have recently issued court proceedings on his case and I now have a 4-month deadline to serve the proceedings on the insurers’ solicitors. If I don’t comply with this deadline then my client’s case will be struck out and there is no leeway with this even with a global pandemic in full swing.
I am able to get what I need from my client. Whilst the deadline for serving the proceedings is in July 2020, I will not leave anything to chance and I will serve the proceedings immediately. No lawyer should leave things to the last minute at any time but particularly now when there is significant disruption to normal daily life.
Today I have more success in keeping existing expert appointments in place. Many experts are offering to undertake assessments by phone or video call as long it does not undermine the quality of their evidence. I manage to keep 2 appointments for the client which are due to take place in April. They will now go ahead via Zoom. I have a JSM on this case in September and again my client is keen to keep it if at all possible as she wants to move on with her life. A positive end to the week.
I have found it important to speak to my colleagues regularly as this work can feel isolating. It is important to keep in touch with others and also to take regular breaks from work and to get outside (if only in my garden).
It looks like I will be working from home for the foreseeable future and I am sure there will be further challenges caused by this situation. Everyone is going to have to be adaptable and flexible in the next few weeks and months.
*Disclaimer: The information on the Anthony Gold website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. It is provided without any representations or warranties, express or implied.*
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