Personal Injury Lawsuits During Covid-19
As you can expect, hearings in court during the coronavirus stay-at-home period are restricted to emergencies. Even then, judges will conduct most emergency court proceedings either over the telephone or through video conferencing.
While there are no courthouse trials in Illinois, civil lawsuits are not on hold. No new trials are beginning and those that have started have been suspended until the courts reopen. However, other parts of a personal injury case are still proceeding.
This applies to both state and federal proceedings. The Illinois Supreme Court has issued overall guidance for the state courts. Then, each circuit in the state has issued its own guidance that is consistent with the principles laid out by the Supreme Court.
With regard to your personal injury lawsuit, the Illinois Supreme Court has stated:
- Essential court matters and proceedings will continue to be heard by the Illinois courts
- All non-essential court matters and proceedings should be continued or, where possible, conducted remotely via telephone or video or other electronic means.
- The courts can suspend any deadlines for up to 30 days after the governor's emergency orders ends.
Cook County has suspended civil trials and hearings, but will still hear emergency matters, most often by telephone as judges are working remotely. Here is the May 1 guidance issued by Cook County.
Here is where you can find the guidance from each circuit in Illinois that can affect your personal injury case.
I Filed my Personal Injury Case Already. Is it Still Proceeding When the Court is Closed?
Yes. The courts are still working during this time even if the courthouses are not open for trials. If you have a deadline in your personal injury case, chances are you still need to follow it. Judges are allowed to be flexible during this time in terms of granting extensions.
You are still required to diligently pursue your personal injury claim right now to the extent possible. In many cases, this means that you are still even required to conduct discovery (with the exception of face-to-face proceedings such as oral depositions).
Note that your court case may proceed more slowly during this time as the court may be inundated or operating with a reduced staff.
However, the one thing that cannot be lengthened is the statute of limitations. If you have suffered an injury years ago and the statute of limitations runs out, you will not be able to file a lawsuit. In addition, if you suffered an injury right now, the clock to file the personal injury lawsuit still begins.
Can I Still Work With a Personal Injury Lawyer During COVID-19?
Absolutely. Even though the courthouses are closed, an attorney can still help you with your personal injury case right now. Personal injury attorneys have the capability to work with you remotely, even if they cannot meet you in person right now.
Technology makes personal injury law as easy as ever to practice remotely. In other words, your attorney will work for you even when you cannot go to meet them. They can still make the required filings with the court and can meet all of the deadlines.
You can Still File a Claim During COVID-19
There is nothing stopping you from filing a claim or a lawsuit right now. Your attorney can still deal with the insurance company virtually and does not need to be in the same room to negotiate and settle your claim.
Courts are also still open to receive lawsuits. In fact, many courts are making it easier for people to file their cases by waiving some rules that would make it more difficult such as the requirement for service of multiple paper copies.
Types of COVID-19 Personal Injury Lawsuits
There are at least three types of personal injury cases that could arise during the COVID-19 crisis. The first is the usual type of personal injury that you would suffer just like any other time.
Motor Vehicle Accident Claims
This could be a car accident or truck accident or even an injury from a product. It is important to note that the same exact laws and standards that were in force before remaining in effect during this time. Negligence is still negligence no matter how many people are or are not on the road.
Of course, there are fewer people who are working and outside of their homes at this time. Nonetheless, the fact that there are fewer people on the road has encouraged reckless driving so there are still critical injuries in car accidents. In general, the people who are out doing their jobs right now are under time pressure and may be more inclined to cut corners.
In Chicago, while there have been fewer accidents, the amount of serious injuries has not declined at the same overall rate as accidents. In fact, the number of deaths in car crashes has not fallen from a similar period in 2019.
Work-Related Injury Claims
The second type of lawsuit is one that is directly related to COVID-19. For example, if you are a worker and have been exposed to COVID-19 because your employer has been careless and failed to protect you, there may be a legal cause of action.
The type of conduct alleged may be enough to file a lawsuit as opposed to proceeding through the workers' compensation system.
Alternatively, you could file a lawsuit against a cruise company because they failed to maintain a sanitary environment and disclose the full risks to their passengers at the time that the virus was beginning to spread.
It still remains to be seen the extent to which you will be able to file a COVID-19 lawsuit against a business. There is talk that some in Congress want to insert a provision into a future stimulus package that may shield some businesses from liability in lawsuits when people have been exposed to COVID-19 on the job.
However, this would seemingly encourage employers to adopt reckless practices and put their employees' lives at risk. It is unclear how broad this possible liability protection will be and whether it will end up as law.
Medical Malpractice & Nursing Home Negligence Claims
The third is a lawsuit against a medical provider or a nursing home that failed to either properly diagnose and treat the illness or did not prevent the spread of COVID-19 in a health facility.
It remains to be seen whether these healthcare providers will end up being shielded from their actions during this time period notwithstanding the devastating toll that coronavirus has taken in nursing homes.
Do You Have Questions About a Potential Case?
The Chicago personal injury attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC is committed to helping our current clients and new clients as we navigate during this difficult time. Our legal team is working remotely and is fully operational. We invite you to contact our office for a free consultation regarding your legal rights and options. We are available via phone or video conference to ensure your safety.