We have been getting a lot of questions from clients about how the novel coronavirus has or will affect personal injury claims and lawsuits. The short answer is that we do not fully know the scope of the impact, but we do know that the limitations on business and Court interactions have and will continue to slow down the timeline of claims and litigation.
Kentucky Supreme Court Orders
On March 13, 2020, the Kentucky Supreme Court entered an Order mandating that “All civil trials, hearings, and motions shall be postponed and rescheduled for a later date.” That Order was amended on March 26, 2020 to add that “Judges may use available telephonic and video technology to conduct hearings in a civil case if the judge determines in his or her discretion that the matter merits prompt attention.” As of now, these orders are in effect through April 24, 2020, but that date may be extended.
What does this mean for personal injury cases filed in Kentucky Circuit Courts? Until the orders are lifted, most, if not all, personal injury motions, hearing and trials are indefinitely postponed. Simply put, litigation is on pause for now. This does not mean, however, that filing deadlines have been extended. We must still file your case within the applicable statute of limitations (generally 1 year from the time you were injured or 2 years if you were injured in a motor vehicle accident), and we must still meet civil procedure deadlines such as responding to discovery within 30 days.
Governor Beshear’s Executive Order
On March 25, 2020, Governor Beshear entered an Executive Order which mandates that “Professional services, such as legal services, … must implement telecommuting and remote work to the fullest extent possible and should only use in-person interaction to support Minimum Basic Operations or where telecommuting is impossible.” Minimum Basic Operations is defined as “the minimum necessary activities to maintain the value of the business’s inventory, preserve the condition of the businesses’ physical plant and equipment, ensure security, process payroll and employee benefits, facilitate telecommuting, and other related functions.”
Roberts Law Office has implemented a work-from-home policy. Attorney Tyler Roberts and staff will continue to answer phone calls and emails and generally carry out day-to-day operations through telecommuting. All in-person meetings have been postponed and rescheduled. However, we are continuing to work cases and move forward with litigation in all possible ways. For now, mediation and depositions have been postponed, but the Kentucky legislature passed a COVID-19 Relief Bill which states “For purposes of complying with any law, rule, order, or other requirement relating to the receipt of testimony or signature from any party or witness, or the acknowledgement or notarization of any document, for any legal purpose: (a) Individuals, whether acting for themselves or in a representative capacity, not in the same physical location shall be considered in the presence of one another if the engrossed individuals can communicate via a video teleconference in real time to the same extent as if they were physically present in the same location.” This means that depositions can move forward using videoconferencing. Mediation may move forward in the same way.
Other Effects of COVID-19
The primary effect of the work-from-home directives is the decrease in productivity and general slowing down of business processes. Many people have young children at home and are unable to put in the same number of hours as they would otherwise. We have received notices from medical providers informing us that medical records requests will not be fulfilled within 30 days. We have also experienced longer lag times in communications with insurance adjusters. All these factors will increase the amount of time that it takes to resolve personal injury claims. Please be patient and understand that all these things are temporary and if you have any questions or concerns about your case, please do not hesitate to contact us. We appreciate our clients and hope that you all stay safe and healthy.