The coronavirus pandemic has changed America in profound and lasting ways. While the nation continues to combat the public health crisis, it’s already clear that life as we know it will never quite be the same.
That’s very much the case when it comes to navigating the personal injury claim process and a court system that has been deeply affected by the pandemic.
Un-Represented Individuals Face Challenges Amid Pandemic
Across the country, local and state officials have been struggling to keep the civil justice system functioning amid closures and considerably curtailed operations.
While that’s led to some creative solutions and an increased adoption of technology to facilitate court processes traditionally done only in person, it’s also highlighting problems in areas of the legal system that were already strained.
As a recent BuzzFeed article notes, the pandemic has become especially problematic for unrepresented individuals trying to navigate the court system without the help of a lawyer.
The Civil Justice System & COVID-19
The civil justice system plays host to legal issues ranging from small claims and family law to real estate transactions, business litigation, and personal injury lawsuits. Unlike the criminal system, Plaintiffs in civil cases do not have the Constitutional right to a lawyer. In fact, at much as 75% of all civil lawsuits involve cases where one side is un-represented, according to the National Center for State Courts. The number is even higher in cases involving parties with lower income.
With courts becoming increasingly reliant upon remote operations amid the pandemic, they’re no longer able to provide in-person help to the self-representing who seek it at public courts or legal aid resources centers. Advocates say that only adds to a pre-existing justice gap by creating additional barriers for those who don’t have the necessary technology or are unable competently use it. Those who can also don’t have many options when it comes to seeking help or clarity. As BuzzFeed reports, some self-representing litigants facing troubles as they try to research the law, figure out new court procedures, and balance their personal lives have resorted to tweeting courts and public officials, and asking questions on other social media platforms.
While this is problem throughout the civil justice system, it’s becoming a larger concern for certain matters, especially those where unrepresented individuals must face off against powerful adversaries with more resources, deeper pockets, and legal representation. That includes personal injury suits, which are typically defended against by large insurance companies and corporations, as well as matters involving evictions, landlord-tenant rights, consumer claims, and foreclosures.
For many, the only real solution rests not on refining technologies and remote court proceedings, although they may be more common in U.S. courts in the future, but rather the time-tested support of a real human lawyer.
Why Legal Representation is More Important Than Ever
Though there is no law that requires victims to have legal representation when filing a personal injury lawsuit, it is well established that working with an attorney can make a substantial difference in a person’s case, as well as its ultimate outcome.
Experienced attorneys are not only able to help clients address an unfamiliar system, highly technical rules and procedures, and the necessary components of a successful claim, they can also provide invaluable counsel for navigating challenges created by the pandemic.
That includes various local, state, and federal laws or regulatory amendments which may impact a client’s case, as well as evolving court processes and procedure as courts re-open, continue social distancing, and handle cases in new ways. Given that insurance carriers are facing unprecedented claims from businesses hit hard by interruptions and closures, it may also include greater resistance to injury claims, and invigorated efforts to pay victims less, if at all.
At Levinson Axelrod, P.A., our legal team knows clients come to us in times of need. It’s why we’re unwavering in our commitment to helping clients understand their rights and options, and handling the complex aspects of their cases while they focus on recovering physically and emotionally from their accidents. This means, among many other issues, providing support for:
- Accident investigations, witness interviews, and informal discovery;
- Evidence gathering, interrogatories, and depositions;
- Communications with insurance carriers / defendants;
- Collaboration with experts, doctors, and medical specialists;
- Settlement negotiations, mediation, and litigation.
Research shows personal injury claimants who work with attorneys have more positive experiences with the legal system, and one study from the Insurance Research Council suggests auto accident victims with lawyers also recover roughly 3.5x more compensation on average than those without.
Though there is growing support for establishing a right to counsel in civil cases, people with personal injury or workplace accident claims should be aware that legal representation has always been a vital resource for taking on issues that have the potential for lasting repercussions. Today, amid all the uncertainties and growing pains of finding a new normal, it’s more important than ever.
Levinson Axelrod, P.A. has been serving victims and families across New Jersey since 1939. If you have questions about a potential case, contact us. Our firm remains open while courts are closed, and we’re happy to offer free consultations by phone, e-mail, or video conferencing.