As people across Ohio try to stay safe by practicing social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic, we all have a lot of questions about how best to handle certain activities without putting ourselves at risk. This is especially true for people who have been victims of accidents and need to file a personal injury claim or lawsuit but are unsure how to take care of the issue safely.
To get some answer to readers’ questions about how to approach personal injury claims while staying safe, we talked to one of Ohio’s leading law firms, Kisling, Nestico & Redick (KNR). For over 15 years, KNR has been successfully handling personal injury claims and helping Ohioans get the justice they deserve. They have a lot of valuable information you can use to ensure that your claim is taken care of while you stay healthy.
COVID-19’s Impact on Accident Rates
Ohio has been on stay-at-home orders for over two months, and while it may seem unlikely that accidents are happening while people are staying home, Kisling, Nestico & Redick notes this has been far from the truth in the state of Ohio. Essential workers are still commuting to and from work, people are still driving to get groceries, and some employees are still going into the office. This means that in some places, accident rates have not fallen as much as we may have imagined they would, the firm says.
From a numbers perspective, when we compare accidents that occurred between January and May of this year and those that happened in the same 4-month period of 2019, we saw over 4,500 more crashes in 2019 (according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol). But when we zoom in on specific cities, things look a little different. In urban areas like Hamilton County in Cincinnati and Franklin County in Columbus, accidents have decreased somewhat significantly during COVID-19, with between 60 and 110 fewer accidents happening this year. However, in other Ohio cities, including Cuyahoga County in the Cleveland area, crashes have only gone down by around 23 when we compare this year to last, from 265 to 242. Kisling, Nestico & Redick say that we’re seeing similar numbers in the Akron area, which saw only around 20 fewer accident investigations this year when compared to last.
Drunk driving arrests, which cause many Ohio car accidents, have dramatically decreased across the state, down from 8,312 in 2019 to 5,297 in 2020 (according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol). Yet distracted driving, which has become one of the leading causes of accidents in recent years, has actually increased during COVID-19, by nearly 1,000 cases. In other words, when we are talking about accident statistics, the numbers are not necessarily predictable, and in many places motor vehicle accidents are still a serious problem.
Since car accidents often result in serious injuries, Kisling, Nestico & Redick say, they also result in far more claims than other types of accidents such as slips and falls, so claims are still being submitted in large numbers. Unfortunately, some accident victims are still left in a serious bind if they have sustained injuries that resulted in expensive medical bills and need to be compensated in order to pay.
The good news, according to Kisling, Nestico & Redick, is that there are many ways to put a personal injury claim in motion even as we social distance. If you have been in a car accident, KNR says that you should discuss your case with a personal injury attorney as soon as possible.
COVID Impact on Insurance Claims
The most important thing you can do right now, say Kisling, Nestico & Redick, is to avoid dealing with an insurance claims process alone, even if the idea of arranging to meet with a lawyer during the pandemic is stressful.
Many members of KNR’s legal team worked in the insurance industry prior to joining their firm to fight for people’s rights, and they understand how insurance companies operate, especially in times of financial uncertainty. They point out that companies are more eager than ever to offer unfair settlements during the pandemic as they face pressure to secure their bottom line. When we consider the fact that many accident victims are facing unemployment and are in dire financial need, Kisling, Nestico & Redick says, insurers become even more likely to extend lowball offers, hoping that people need money badly enough that they will accept a low dollar amount.
For all of these reasons, KNR says that having an experienced lawyer on your team is one of the best ways to ensure that this doesn’t happen to you. Even if you have successfully negotiated with an insurance company on a previous accident claim, don’t assume you will be successful this time.
How to Negotiate a Claim During COVID-19
The good news about working with a lawyer during COVID-19 is that just as schools and businesses have turned to technology for communication during COVID-19, law offices have done the same. Many are taking cases and talking with clients on video conferencing software or practicing social distancing in their offices. Kisling, Nestico & Redick also points out that even if you are facing financial difficulties, nearly all personal injury firms offer free consultations and work on a contingency fee basis. This means you don’t have to pay upfront and that you will pay nothing unless you win your case.
As far as handling your claim, the process during social distancing is in many cases not that different than it was before the pandemic. If your insurance company is unwilling to negotiate, your attorney can discuss negotiations with the claims adjuster and their attorney over the phone, send medical bills and other proof of losses incurred to the insurance company by mail or email, and essentially work on your case just as they always have. If a mediation that you are a part of is required as part of negotiations, you can easily attend it via online conferencing or telephone.
Often a combination of communication avenues is used in these cases, says Kisling, Nestico & Redick, and cases are moving along smoothly. They have personally been able to successfully resolve many cases during COVID-19 and only expect the process to improve over time.
How Claims Are Handled After an Agreement is Reached
In an ideal scenario, an agreement will be reached with the insurer without having to go to court, says Kisling, Nestico & Redick. If that happens, your attorney will send your compensation to you as they typically would, after deducting any legal fees and expenses.
If an agreement is not reached, the lawsuit may have to go to court. Again, you could see delays here but your lawyer will do as much as possible to arrive at an agreement quickly so you can be compensated.
About Kisling, Nestico & Redick
Kisling, Nestico & Redick recently celebrated their 15th anniversary of fighting for Ohio accident victims’ rights. As one of Ohio’s largest law firm with offices across the state, they pride themselves on working hard for their neighbors in the communities they are part of. This includes not only their record of success in court, but in their many charitable giving initiatives across Ohio.
Many of their lawyers and support staff have extensive experience working in the insurance industry, and they leverage their unique knowledge of how insurance companies operate to help their clients.
If you need help for a personal injury claim during COVID-19, contact them at 1-800-HURT-NOW. Consultations are free and they only recover payment if you win your case.