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Running a Personal Injury Law Practice with COVID

In March 2021 my daughter tested positive for COVID. She contracted it simply by going to school. She was asymptotic, but the positive test certainly impacted her mindset.

At the time she tested positive, Toronto Public Health had some pretty strict quarantine mandates for people who tested positive, or for people who had close connections with people who had tested positive. The result for my family amounted to a 31 day quarantine/isolation period. I have never been on home arrest, but I can imagine that was what it would feel like.

Earlier this week my son tested positive for COVID. I tested positive for COVID the same day.. Thankfully we are both doing fine in the circumstances. Raspy voice, cold like symptoms, body aches. Nothing terrible and we hope these symptoms don’t worsen.

For most parents with children under the age of 10; the most difficult thing about living with COVID isn’t the COVID itself. It’s having to watch and engage with the children while everyone is isolated at home. It sounds easy; but it isn’t; particularly after a long 2 years of on again, off again lockdowns. It hasn’t been the COVID that’s scared me. It’s the isolation and quarantine. While the quarantine times have shifted from 30 days, down to 15 days, down to 5 days; those days of quarantine add up and remain hard for parents with young children. There is only so much children can tolerate being on lock down inside of their homes. It’s not natural for kids or parents alike.

Balancing all of this becomes even more difficult trying to manage a busy personal injury practice at the same time.

Some client are understanding. Some are not. For those clients who don’t understand, they have a hard time humanizing their lawyer despite best efforts by the lawyer to connect.

I can say that the insurance defence bar has been understanding for the most part. There are some exceptions but from what I’ve seen we’ve all been fairly decent with one another trying to navigate this unprecedented mess. At the beginning of the Pandemic lawyers who I normally couldn’t reach all of the sudden wanted to talk my ear off over the phone about cases, changes to the law and life in general (likely because they couldn’t bill like they once did so they needed to find a way to bill different. Call to Plaintiff’s counsel seemed like a good way that insurance auditors would have a hard time challenging). While the Plaintiff and Defence bars have gotten along during the Pandemic, I cannot say the same thing for insurance companies themselves.

Some insurers have been understanding and accomodating. Others are the total opposite. I cannot begin to tell you the amount of insurers who have insisted on original signatures during the Pandemic as more and more, digitized signatures have become the norm. Had I personally met with all of my clients and prospective clients over the course of the Pandemic, I would have likely caught and certainly transmitted COVID to an unfathomable amount of people; many of whom are vulnerable and disabled to begin with.

Some insurers have not only insisted on in person meetings, discoveries etc. but they have demanded them.

The very fact that in 2021 and today in 2022 that I have either been living with someone who tested positive for COVID, or have COVID myself is evidence enough that in person meetings during the Pandemic should be option #2 where a virtual option is available.  Virtual options are not only safer, but they are also faster and more economical saving all of the parties travel time, mileage expenses, parking expenses or other expenses like having to book a meeting space/room.

Some insurers have made onerous requests to our law firm about getting medical records and other documents with ridiculous timelines given that the whole world had shut down.

Other insurance companies have wanted to transport accident victims hundreds of kilometres at the height of the Pandemic in a small taxi to a medical clinic for insurance examinations which could have otherwise been done virtually. The thought of a person being stuck in a taxi for hours, then stuck in a small waiting room, then stuck to see an insurance examiner (who has likely seen dozens of other people that day) is anxiety inducing. There were better ways for the insurance industry to do things but many insurers and actors around the insurance industry failed to pivot. The health and safety of an “insured” and their family meant little to the almighty dollar of billing the old fashioned way.  At the sametime, I would not be so trusting of an insured to attend at a clinic symptom free for an insurance examination. They may haver so much spite against the insurer that they would not respect the safety or wellbeing of the employees at these insurance assessment centres either. It’s a loose/loose for everyone involved.linkedin-2-300x300

But there is some silver lining towards the Pandemic. E-filings have now become the norm. This has made filing legal documents with the Court fast and easy. It has also saved the public money because lawyers no longer need to either stand in line to have documents filed with the Court, or no longer need to pay a process server to do so on their behalf. This change brought by the Courts was long overdue. But it’s here and it looks like it’s here to stay.

Virtual meetings, discoveries, mediation and Pre-Trials have all been a welcome change as well. These virtual hearings are more cost effective and use less judicial resources than in person sessions. They keep costs down for all of the litigants and for the Courts too. No more travelling for 2+ hours for a 10 minute hearing. A large part of litigation used to be “hurry up and wait“, just like they say in Hollywood. While that same maxim still applies, there is a lot less waiting around and a lot less travel time associated with Court hearings these days because the bar and the Courts have embraced virtual attendances.

Some insurers and lawyers are still insisting upon in person everything. Just be careful what you wish for. You never know who has COVID or how you may get it.


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