August 3, 2020

You’ve probably read articles or seen news reports touting the reduction in auto accidents during COVID-19. It makes sense — millions of Americans are working from home — less driving equals fewer accidents. One study estimates Americans in some states are driving 60 percent fewer miles per week than they were before the pandemic struck.

But that is only one side of the coin. Thousands of Americans are still seriously injured in car accidents every day, and knowing your rights and risks following an accident is critical. COVID-19 has added layers of potential complications to personal injury cases. I’d like to briefly touch on three important areas to consider if you or a loved one are involved in a car accident or other personal injury matter:

Timing is still critical

You may have read or heard that many courts have been closed or have gone virtual during COVID-19. While that is true, it doesn’t eliminate the strict deadlines New York imposes on accident victims. From filing an accident report, to filing a no-fault claim with your insurance company, there are hard deadlines that must be met. Missing one of these deadlines could put your claim for injuries and medical expenses in jeopardy.

Seek medical care

There is, understandably, a hesitation to seek medical attention during COVID-19. Some people are reluctant to go to the doctor’s office or hospital for fear they are more likely to be exposed to COVID-19. In some states, where hospitalization numbers are still high, there may be a reluctance to “take a bed” from a potential COVID patient. If you’re transported from the accident scene by ambulance this obviously isn’t an issue, but what about the fender bender where you decline care at the scene, only to wake up with debilitating neck or back pain?

The temptation in that case might be to delay seeking medical treatment, but this would be a mistake. If you are injured, it is still important that you seek medical treatment, even if it is just an examination to document your initial condition and make a plan with your doctor for your treatment.

Beware of quick settlement offers

The vast majority of personal injury cases are settled before trial. A good personal injury attorney will negotiate to get you a fair settlement that helps compensate you for your medical treatment, lost earnings and pain and suffering. If you are injured in an accident, an insurance company may offer a quick settlement of your claim. The number may look great to you, especially if you have suffered financial hardship during the pandemic. The temptation might be strong to sign on the dotted line and take the money.

But what happens three to six months later, when a visit to your doctor reveals more damage or a worsening of your condition? At that point, it will be too late to go back to the insurance company. You’ve settled the case and signed away your rights. Suddenly, that once big number seems unfair.

 Resist the urge to take a quick settlement. Consult an attorney that focuses on personal injury matters. Let them negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf to make sure you receive fair compensation for your injuries.

 If you are injured, protect yourself and your family and don’t let COVID-19 scare you into making a decision you’ll later regret.

 Sarah P. Rera is an experienced litigation attorney who focuses her practice in the areas of personal injury and business litigation. She can be reached at Gross Shuman P.C. by calling 716-854-4300 ext. 289 or [email protected].