The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted nearly every facet of day-to-day life, from large (cancelling vacations and weddings) to small (just the phrase “toilet paper” is enough to start an hour long conversation). It probably comes as no surprise that the legal field and COVID-19 personal injury is no exception. As we at RAM Law continue to work remotely with the assistance of Zoom meetings teleconferencing, there is one question that attorneys and litigants alike are all wondering: How will this affect my case?
With the Courts essentially closed for the foreseeable future, and with the federal quarantine guidelines now extended through the end of April, there is uncertainty surrounding how cases will be managed, advanced, and ultimately settled or tried. Somewhat surprisingly, the first two weeks of the quarantine have shown a small change, but perhaps not the change you would expect: calls for potential settlements have actually been coming more frequently than usual. This of course begs the question: why?
If you are an optimist, one reason could be that the quarantine has allowed adjusters to re-evaluate their cases with higher scrutiny, which in turn leads them to look to settle the cases earlier and save expenses. This could certainly be true, and in some cases it surely is, but a second reason is more likely: economic uncertainty. It is no secret that numerous industries are suffering a loss of business and some resorting to layoffs or furloughs. If a litigant is uncertain about their job security, or in worse situations has already been laid off, the thought of a lump sum settlement could be very enticing. If a client is going through financial hardships, perhaps they are more likely to take a “discount” settlement offer in order to get the cash now (I can’t say “cash now” without hearing that J.G. Wentworth jingle, but I digress). Insurance companies are always looking to settle cases for the least amount possible, and using the current uncertainty to their advantage is no different. While we are cannot be sure how long this practice will continue, we can be sure of one thing: if insurance companies can save money on cases, they will continue to do so.
Looking forward, there is more uncertainty on how the Courts will be handling cases once they’re open. Obviously, all trials have been postponed for the time-being, meaning there will be an exceptionally high number of cases listed for trial once things return to normal (both the postponed and the originally scheduled trials). Courts will, understandably, be more inclined than ever to get cases settled to avoid a substantial backlog. This will almost certainly mean more settlement conferences and more judicial pressure to settle cases. Judicial pressure is a double edged sword: judges will pressure insurance carriers to come up with more money on good cases, but they will also beat up on plaintiffs’ attorneys to accept lower numbers.
At RAM Law, we will continue to fight for our clients in the face of what may low-ball offers. However, we understand that every client’s personal situation is different and what a lump sum can mean during financial troubles. The COVID-19 personal injury has not and will not change what has always been our goal: zealous advocacy with the client’s best interest in mind. Stay safe everyone.