How will Covid-19 affect my case? Many of our clients and callers are asking this question. Our personal injury clients will be impacted by the novel coronavirus. This especially includes injury clients with work comp claims. Injured workers are especially vulnerable to delays in medical care or claims.
As I wrote in a prior post, the Blackwell Law Firm is open and operational. Our firm has long operated with a system that allows its lawyers to work and prepare for cases remotely across Alabama. We have long-established processes that allow us to work remotely as needed. In normal times, we are frequently working from counties and courts across Alabama. Our established processes will be especially valuable during current events. Within our office, we have taken steps to protect our staff and clients. We continue to help our clients and to prepare their cases. We believe it essential that injured clients have access to needed legal advice. You can read my prior post on our general firm procedures here.
For our work comp clients, I have listed a few of the most frequently asked questions by callers. I hope this information helps. If you have additional questions or concerns, let us know. We are happy to provide information.
- Will my Temporary Total Disability (TTD) checks continue?
If you are injured on the job in Alabama and unable to work while healing, you may be entitled to temporary benefits. These benefits are called temporary total disability or TTD benefits. They are typically provided if your authorized doctor takes you off work (or restricts you so that you cannot return to work) during the time of treatment.
Delays in the medical or legal system due to coronavirus should not change your status as temporarily disabled while healing and receiving medical care. With that said, we have seen many outside factors over the last two decades which insurance companies attempted to use in an effort to quit paying benefits. If you have questions about this issue, you may want to address your specific fact situation with your attorney (or a skilled work comp attorney if you do not have one).
- Can I still receive medical care? Should I attend appointments? Will my medical treatment be delayed?
Medical treatment is an essential issue in work comp claims. The most important goal for injured workers is to receive medical care and rehabilitation when needed. We share this goal. We are concerned that present developments may delay needed care.
We lumped several medical-related questions together because they involve the common concern that care will be delayed. Can you still receive necessary medical care? Yes. However, the full impact of Covid-19 on our hospitals and medical system are unknown. Medical care may be delayed simply because valuable medical resources and personnel must be used to fight the coronavirus. Local officials in Huntsville (and other communities) are working hard to provide all available resources toward the fight against the coronavirus. Some officials have expressed concerns that available medical personnel or resources will be depleted. This may delay needed non-coronavirus care for a period of time.
We advise working closely with your doctor. That includes communicating with your physician’s office. Many medical clinics have provided information to patients regarding treatment during the coronavirus. Some medical offices have partially closed. Others remain open with precautions implemented. Talk to your doctor. We do NOT want the insurance company to argue you neglected care by simply stopping treatment on your own.
- Can I file an Alabama work comp lawsuit at present? Are the courts open for new case filings?
Yes, you can continue to file Alabama work comp claims. In Alabama, lawyers are able to file lawsuits electronically. If you suffered a work-related injury, you should consult a lawyer. You must still file your claim within the applicable statute of limitations. So, it is important that you do NOT delay getting the advice you need.
- Will my case go to trial as scheduled? Will the court hearing move forward?
Many courts have cancelled or delayed trials due to Covid-19. As I write this post, the length of those delays is not yet known. So, no lawyer can tell you when our courts will be fully operational.
Many courts and lawyers are beginning to conduct important hearings via telephone or teleconference. This will keep courts from completely coming to a standstill. However, the use of technology varies significantly between various law firms and courts. While we are operational and can work remotely, many other law offices cannot. We expect significant delays in trial proceedings.
Additionally, delays in medical care will also delay court proceedings. A court cannot reach a decision on your work comp case until you have received sufficient medical care to reach what is called maximum medical improvement (MMI). In short, the court cannot decide your level of disability or benefits until the evidence shows you have reached your maximum recovery. Because of this, delays in medical treatment also mean delays in court resolution.
- Can I still mediate my case?
The short answer is, yes. During the Covid-19 outbreak, we have continued to mediate cases for our injured clients. However, the mediation process has changed in many cases. In a typical mediation, all the parties and their lawyers are gathered at one location. The current health issues from the Coronavirus have caused many mediators and law firms to conduct mediations from separate locations via telephone or teleconference. The concept remains the same — A trained mediator will help the parties by conveying information and offers between them. As with any case, a skilled and prepared lawyer can help. Instead of all parties being in separate rooms within one building, you may now be in completely separate offices. This makes mediation more difficult as people cannot meet or speak together. But, it does not make mediation impossible. We have continued to move forward with mediations for our injured clients using telephone or teleconference means.
- In Alabama, work comp settlements require approval. Can I get my settlement approved with current court and government closures?
In Alabama, work comp settlements are approved by a Circuit Court Judge or by a specific official of the Alabama Department of Labor called an Ombudsman. Our law firm has continued to resolve work comp claims during recent events. We have obtained necessary approval via teleconference with the Ombudsman. The procedure requires a few extra steps to sign and return necessary paperwork. But, the process can be conducted by telephone or teleconference.
Do You Have Questions About Your Personal Injury Claim?
Your questions are important. We are happy to answer them. If you suffered a serious personal injury and need information, let us know. In times of uncertainty, we want you to have access to valuable legal resources.
From its office in Huntsville, the Blackwell Law Firm handles personal injury and workers compensation cases across Alabama. We are here for you. We are happy to answer your legal questions.