The effect of COVID-19 on personal injury claims
Everything you see and read at the moment is related to the COVID-19 and I make no apology for this blog also focussing on this central event. It has taken over the lives of everyone. Everyone. For the majority of us this means our usual lives are put on hold. This will have a significant impact but, hopefully, this will be relatively short lived and it is a pause from which we will recover. For others, the impact is more significant. This blog is not a criticism of practice or policy, it is merely a brief observation of what the potential effects could be for our clients who have ongoing personal injury cases.
A significant part of the role I have in representing clients who have been injured as a result of accidents and clinical incidents is to work with case managers to identify treatment needs and to put in place rehabilitation programmes. These programmes often take place in a clinical setting and are delivered by clinicians who not only work on a private basis but combine such work with a role within the NHS. Bearing in mind that even some chemotherapy is being suspended by the NHS, it is easy to see how ensuring continuity with treatment such as physiotherapy, speech and language therapy and counselling will be challenging. There is understandably a huge demand on all clinicians to devote their skills to the current and greatest need of fighting the COVID-19 which will potentially lead to a slow down or halt in a client’s rehabilitation.
Even if the clinicians are available, those clients within a rehabilitation programme may need to be self-isolating and/or will not be able to receive treatment due to social distancing and following government policy to stay at home. A delay in receiving treatment will potentially lead to (a) a reduction in the effectiveness of treatment and (b) a delay in recovery. A person who needs intensive physiotherapy now cannot simply just pause treatment without consequence. Case managers are looking at what treatment can be provided virtually but this is challenging for both the providers and clients alike. But I am so impressed by the willingness of all those involved to try these new means.
There will also be delays in obtaining expert reports. Experts also often combine a medico-legal and NHS role. Producing reports for litigation will (and should) take second place. Having said that, I am overwhelmed by the willingness of experts and defendants/insurers to find a way to continue to progress claims by using technology to conduct assessments and interviews.
Whether any court appearances currently in the diary will go ahead is also uncertain. If it can be conducted by telephone or by some sort of video conferencing platform then every effort is being made for this to happen. However, this still requires a degree of court/legal staff to be physically present and given the talk of a complete lockdown it is not clear how viable these alternative hearings will be. New hearings may not be listed during this uncertain period. There may therefore be a delay in achieving vital steps in a claim and even concluding it if the hearing concerned is a trial.
The situation surrounding the COVID-19 is fast moving and will no doubt change from the writing to the publication of this blog. However, clients of Anthony Gold should be reassured that their claims will be progressed as far and as efficiently as possible using all available means during this difficult time.
*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.*