The Coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc on every person’s life, and has also seriously impacted the court systems. When COVID-19 swept through Canada, the Ontario government decided to suspend all civil lawsuits and the majority of all other court activities. This has put a large burden on those who have filed personal injury claims, as it has become harder to get the compensation they deserve.
With the majority of court proceedings being cancelled, many courts are not accepting new fillings and scheduled trials are being adjourned until further notice. This means people who have a claim are not getting their case heard or receiving their compensation in a timely manner. The court suspensions have also caused a backlog in the Ontario court system so, even when the suspension ends, there will be a wait to get a case heard. These delays can be stressful for the person filing the claim, especially if they were injured and are now unable to work. That puts them at a financial disadvantage and makes them more vulnerable.
Social Distancing and Medical Evaluations
COVID-19 has also required people to be socially distant. Many doctors and physicians primarily only offer virtual care which has also been changing and impacting personal injury claims. When Ontario declared a state of emergency, the majority of non-urgent medical assessments were made virtual and many procedures were postponed. Unfortunately for claimants, this could mean that they were not able to get the necessary medical evaluation, care, or assessment needed to overturn or appeal an insurance company’s denial. If a person is able to go to an in-person appointment they could be putting themselves more at risk for contracting COVID-19, so there is no best way to collect the necessary information and evaluation needed by some insurance companies.
Adaption to These Changes
Personal injury lawyers are also seeing these changes and having to adapt to these unique circumstances. “With all of these new challenges, it is increasingly important to hire a lawyer sooner rather than later if you believe you have a personal injury claim,” says Steve Rastin of Rastin Trial Lawyers. “Although Ontario courts are attempting to be innovative, gathering evidence and proof has proven to be more difficult due to COVID-19 but not impossible.”
Despite the resistance from insurance companies, personal injury lawyers in Ontario are pushing for virtual physician appointments to be accepted. These efforts are not going unnoticed, as some insurance companies have responded and adapted to these changes such as allowing for virtual appointments. The courts system has also tried to adapt and find ways to hear cases during these uncertain times, but there is no clear answer in how the courts will proceed going forward.
Increased Time Frame
There is no definitive answer on how long cases could be prolonged, but one estimate is that plaintiffs could face at least an additional year before they make it to court. This could force plaintiffs into poor, out of court, settlements, especially if their financial situation is worsening. This increased time frame is not a positive, while it could be assumed that more time means compiling a stronger case, it often makes the plaintiff more financially unstable, and their condition could worsen over this time frame.