As some segments of society grind to a halt to adhere to local shutdown requirements, many of us are adjusting established routines in light of the COVID-19 outbreak. While familiar risks like car accidents remain, how those risks are approached has been changed by this new reality. Clients may be wondering “Could my settlement be larger during this pandemic?” The answer will likely depend on how your damages were affected by the pandemic.

What Does the Term “Damages” Mean?

For practical purposes, damages are monetary compensation for the injuries a person suffers. Damages typically fall into two categories, economic and non-economic. Economic damages, like their name implies, cover economic losses that were caused by the injury. This will primarily be wages lost from missing work but can also include copays and other medical expenses.

It’s important to note that missing work isn’t enough to earn economic damages. You need to get a note from your healthcare provider, who knows your occupation, that states that you can’t work for a specific period of time. When that note expires, if you’re still unable to work, it’s your responsibility to obtain another. This makes sure that your lost wages will still be eligible for economic damages. If you’re thinking about working through the pain or returning to work early to make ends meet, it’s critical to tell that to your doctor. At very least there will be a record, in the charting, which backs up your story. That’ll be very helpful if your case goes to trial, when the other side tries to argue that you weren’t really that injured if you returned to work.

On the flip side, there are non-economic, or as they’re commonly known, “pain and suffering” damages. This category of damages is less tangible than their economic counterpart because it deals with people’s individual emotions and pain. Because pain and suffering damages are based on such personal experiences, they typically require more proof than economic damages. It’s common for people to experience anxiety, depression, or even post-traumatic stress disorder after a serious injury. While it’s always important to go see a health care provider when you suffer an injury, it’s even more important for this type of damages. Because this type of damages requires more proof, going to see your doctor isn’t enough. Doctors alone aren’t able to diagnose the kinds of conditions that are usually considered “pain and suffering” damages. However, they can refer you to a psychologist who can use a set of standardized tests to diagnose things like PTSD. A diagnosis from a psychologist helps bring pain and suffering damages “out of the mist” and makes them scientific. Corroboration from a psychologist helps courts objectively recognize the non-economic damage you suffered from your injury.

The Effects of the Pandemic Can Cut Both Ways

With an increased strain on the healthcare systems and providers reducing appointments to protect their employees, people face reduced access to healthcare. Being unable to seek care immediately or as frequently as they would prior to the pandemic could have a substantial impact on their settlement. There’s a very real possibility that this reduced access to a doctor’s office could increase healthcare expenses. This could also potentially increase the severity of the injury or the pain and suffering related to it. When considering a person’s heightened expenses and suffering, they may be entitled to a larger settlement.

On the other hand, reduced access to healthcare can work against a person’s injury claim. The inability to seek immediate medical care during the pandemic could actually reduce your damages. Less access to doctors means less access to a plaintiff’s best resource; someone who can verify the legitimacy of your injury. Prioritizing coronavirus cases means providers are charting less and in less depth. It also means less tests, like MRIs or X-Rays, which can strengthen an injury claim and help prove your case. While you’re certainly telling the truth, the defense attorney will try to weaken the credibility of your story. If your case goes to trial, during your deposition the defense will point to the lack of charting or testing which corroborates your story. In short, the new reality of a pandemic highlights the importance of documentation to preserve your case.

How Do You Preserve Your Personal Injury Case?

Preserving your case during this pandemic is going to require people to be their own advocates. Unfortunately, a person’s word alone is not enough to win their case. In personal injury cases, the burden of proof is on the plaintiff to prove their version of events is the truth. One option is journaling, so you have a written record of what happened in real time. The best option to preserve your case is to document events, as they happen, with a healthcare provider.

While it’s true that getting a traditional doctor’s appointment is harder during the pandemic, many healthcare providers are trying to provide alternative ways of seeing patients. With various providers offering virtual appointments via Zoom, or other forms of telemedicine, the hassle of actually going to the doctor’s office has been reduced. The most important thing to do is to see a doctor, in whatever way available, to help document your injury and what you’re experiencing.

Another way that people need to be their own advocate is taking a more active role in communicating with your doctor about the injury. While virtual appointments do allow for us to see doctors during this pandemic, there’s a reason that in-person appointments are preferred; small details, body language, and non-verbal communication are often lost when communicating virtually. Without some of these sources of information, the charting could be less thorough and less convincing if it was used at trial. It’s on the patient to fill the gaps created by virtual medicine by telling the doctor how the injury has affected your life in ways that may not be obvious. Whether it’s not being able to walk your dog or an inability to sleep, these little details are crucial for painting a bigger picture of how this injury has disrupted your life.

Count on Rizk Law Lawyers to Pursue Your Personal Injury Claim

It’s never easy to pursue a personal injury claim considering so much of your livelihood is tied to its outcome. Our Rizk Law personal injury lawyers understand how challenging the recovery process can be when you’re hurt due to another’s carelessness or recklessness, and we strive to clearly represent the obstacles you have faced when representing your claim. Regardless of your cause of injury, you may find some answers by seeking a free consultation with the Rizk Law legal team. Call (503) 852-5761 or fill out our contact form today.

Author: Rizk Law

Were you injured in an accident that was not your fault? Are your bills piling up while your pain and suffering seem to never end? Is an insurance carrier standing in your way of the money you need to get your life back on track? Then you need a lawyer who knows how insurance carriers think — and can fight them for the maximum compensation you deserve. You need Rizk Law.