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The Impact of COVID-19 on Personal Injury Cases

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed many aspects of our everyday life.  Some things have been put on hold or delayed.  While we continue to navigate the difficult circumstances and delays caused by precautions in place to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, people are continuing to suffer injuries in car accidents, in pedestrian and bicycle accidents, due to slip-and-falls, due to defective products as well as many other accidents caused by the fault of another.

Injured parties can bring personal-injury claims to seek compensation for their injuries even during the COVID-19 outbreak. After a period of closure, the Pennsylvania courts have re-opened. As part of a coordinated response to the COVID-19 pandemic, courts, insurance entities and attorneys are practicing social distancing and conducting their work by telephone, video conferences and emails.

Tips to remember if you sustain an injury due to the fault of another

COVID-19 has changed the environment for handling personal injury claims from the scene of the accident to the courtroom.  At the injury scene, it is still essential you gather information to assist with your claim, but because of social distancing and the risk of catching the virus, this is more difficult.

Fortunately, cell phones make it possible to capture details on the camera while maintaining social distancing. If you are involved in an accident and need urgent medical attention, it is important that you do not delay seeking treatment.  It may be possible to have your injuries assessed by a medical professional through a telehealth visit.

Holding a virtual consultation by videoconference with your medical professional will allow you to obtain an injury report and a treatment plan.  However, if you have been seriously injured, it is imperative that in person medical help is sought.  Although we are living in unusual times, the basics of making a successful claim for personal injury have not changed.  You should remember the following tips:

  • Document and gather as much evidence as possible at the accident scene.

Unless you need immediate medical attention, you should still try to gather the information you will need to pursue a claim when your accident happens. If you are in a car accident and do not need immediate medical attention for your injures, use your cell phone to take pictures of the accident location and the damage to the vehicles involved. Take pictures of the other driver’s contact information and insurance details or write this information down.

If there are witnesses to the accident or people who stopped to help, have them provide you with their names and phone numbers via a text message or email.  Gathering this type of information is not just important for automobile accidents, but also when you suffer injuries from a slip or trip-and-fall, a pedestrian or bicycle accident, motorcycle accident, or due to a defective product.

  • Seek medical attention quickly.

With the COVID-19 outbreak, you may be hesitant to go to the emergency room or seek treatment from a healthcare professional. Failing to seek treatment could have a long-term impact on your health. When you seek treatment, you should keep a list of the medical facilities and medical providers you have seen and the treatment that has being recommended. While you might have gone to an Emergency Room for an acute injury your PCP may be able to see you the same day due there being less urgent appointments any given day for a doctor’s office due to Pandemic.

  • Discuss your case with an experienced lawyer.

An experienced personal injury lawyer will be able to assess the impact of your injury on your life and work.  He or she will be able to investigate all sources of potential recovery to compensate you for the injuries you have sustained.  Retaining an experienced lawyer will ensure that your case is presented in the best possible way and that you obtain full value for your claim.

  • Do not delay in pursuing your claim.

It is still important to not delay seeking legal advice from an experienced personal injury attorney if you sustain an injury due to the fault of another.  Delaying a consultation with an attorney can have a detrimental effect on the outcome of your case.

The dedicated and experienced attorneys at Caroselli Beachler & Coleman are committed to helping you with your personal injury claim during these trying times.  The personal injury attorneys at Caroselli Beachler & Coleman are available conduct a virtual consultation to discuss your claim over the phone, by a video-based call or by email.  We are committed to complying with all state guidelines and taking precautionary steps to protect our clients and our staff.

COVID-19 and the restrictions that are currently in place due to this pandemic should not affect your right to claim compensation for personal injuries which may be an integral part of maintaining your financial stability during these uncertain times.  The attorneys at Caroselli Beachler & Coleman are committed to working with you to obtain a successful outcome. Contact our firm today at (866) 466-5789 or through our website contact form.

Pittsburgh Attorney Kelly Enders Discusses Legal Concerns with COVID-19 Reopenings

Although all counties in Pennsylvania are currently under the green stage of reopening phases, Governor Wolf, on July 15, 2020, imposed additional restrictions on bars and restaurants and has requested that businesses require workers to telework unless it is impossible to do so. For those that cannot telework, returning to the workplace may create an increased risk of being exposed to COVID-19.

If you are someone who has returned to the workplace you may have questions about what might happened if you need to take time away from work due to COVID-19. Are there benefits available if you have to miss time from work because you contracted COVID-19? If you believe you contracted COVID-19 at your workplace, can you make a claim for workers’ compensation? Will you be eligible for any benefits if you miss time from work to care for a relative who has COVID-19 or because you need to stay home to look after a minor child whose school or daycare is closed? These are all important concerns for individuals as they return to work.

There are certain programs in place already to help workers who have to miss time from work due to COVID-19.  These include:

Family First Coronavirus Response Act

Under the Family First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), most employers with 500 or less employees must provide 80 hours of paid sick leave for employees sick or quarantined due to COVID-19. The FFCRA provides:

  • full pay for sick or quarantined employees for 80 hours;
  • 2/3 pay if caring for another;
  • paid sick leave is capped at $511.00 per day, and $5,110.00 total per employee;
  • sick leave caps at $200.00 per day and a total of $2000.00 per employee when leave is taken to care for a family member in quarantine or to care for child while that child’s school or daycare is closed.

The benefits will only be payable if the employee:

  • is subject to a government quarantine or isolation order;
  • has been advised by a healthcare provider to self-quarantine;
  • has symptoms of COVID-19 and is seeking a medical diagnosis;
  • is caring for a relative who is quarantined or in isolation; or
  • is unable to work because his/her child’s school or childcare is closed or unavailable due to COVID-19.

An additional 10 weeks of paid family medical leave at two thirds (2/3) of the employee’s regular pay can be available if the employee cannot work because his/her minor child’s school or childcare is closed due to COVID-19 precautions.  To be eligible for this benefit, the employee must have been on the payroll for 30 days.  An employee who was laid off after March 1, 2020 but returns to work is eligible for the emergency family leave under the FFCRA without having to again meet the 30 days requirement after returning to work. The benefit is paid at 66% of the regular earnings but is capped at $200.00/day and $12,000.00 total.

Sick leave benefits are available until December 31, 2020.

 Unemployment Benefits

If you use your 80 hours in sick leave and do not qualify for the emergency family leave then you can apply for assistance under coronavirus unemployment laws.  Under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program (PUA), employees will receive a minimum benefit that is equal to one half (1/2) of their state’s averaged weekly unemployment benefits.  They will also be able to receive an additional six hundred dollars ($600.00) a week until the week ending July 26, 2020 through the Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (PUC) part of the law.  The U.S. Congress is currently working another package that will replace the PUC part of the law.

Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation

Employees who contracted COVID-19 on the job would also have the ability to file a Workers’ Compensation claim because the workers’ compensation system provides medical treatment and wage loss benefits for employees who suffer a work-related injury or disease.  A work-related COVID-19 injury could be regarded as a traumatic injury or as an occupational disease under Pennsylvania’s Workers’ Compensation Act.

There are steps that a worker will need to take in order to seek workers’ compensation benefits if exposed to COVID-19 in the workplace.  The employee must notify the employer to file an injury claim and that will require the employee to provide medical evidence that they were exposed to COVID-19 in the workplace.  Potentially employees who contract COVID-19 in the workplace could file an occupational disease claim which would require the employee to establish that COVID-19 is occurring more in his/her occupation and industry than in the general population.

The Pennsylvania Legislature has passed laws which provide automatic entitlement to benefits for law enforcement officers diagnosed and quarantined due to COVID-19 regardless of the source of the COVID-19 infection.  The Legislature has also considered creating a presumption of a work-related hazard for employees in life sustaining businesses and occupations such those in the medical field, restaurant industry and retail fields.  To date this legislation has not been enacted into law.

Talk to a Knowledgeable Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Attorney Today

Kelly Enders is an attorney at Caroselli Beachler & Coleman, and she is available to discuss and assist employees who are faced with workplace injuries due to COVID-19.  An initial consultation can occur over the phone or by a video-call. We have decades of experience handling routine and complex work-related injury and disease cases. Contact one of our experienced Pittsburgh Workers’ Compensation attorneys at (866) 466-5789 or through our website contact form.

Can You Collect Workers’ Comp if You Contract COVID-19 as a Hospital Worker?

People seek treatment at hospitals when they are in need of medical care for an injury, illness, or other serious condition. As an employee, you have the right to expect that a hospital is a safe work environment. But, what about in the middle of a global pandemic?

In the best of times, hospitals can be breeding grounds for germs and infections. The Centers for Disease Control reports that roughly 1 in 648,000 people in the U.S. develop infections in hospitals annually, leading to about 75,000 deaths.

But what if you work for a hospital and contract the virus? If you have contracted COVID-19 at a hospital, you may be able to collect workers’ comp, and our experienced Pennsylvania workers’ compensation attorneys will be happy to review your case.

COVID-19 in Hospitals

The coronavirus was declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organization (WHO) on Jan. 30 and named “COVID-19” on Feb. 11. Not everyone trusts this information, but it’s there for those who do.

According to the CDC, there are higher rates of hospitalization with COVID-19 among older adults. Unfortunately, the CDC also reports that the virus can be transmitted to others while a person is presymptomatic or asymptomatic, meaning they’ve been exposed to COVID-19 but don’t feel sick.

Lawsuits by Hospital Employees Who Contract COVID-19

If you are a hospital employee that has tested positive for COVID-19, you likely won’t have a personal injury claim. But, you do have the right to claim benefits under workers’ compensation. Even so, you may face an uphill battle collecting the benefits you need and deserve.

Some employers might allege that you were just as likely to contract the virus in your ordinary activities as you were at work. This will be a tough argument for many to win if recommended safety protocols weren’t followed, or healthcare staff didn’t have access to the right kind of PPE to keep them and others free from harm.

Workplace injuries are not uncommon in a healthcare setting, but COVID-19 has made going to work each day particularly hazardous. If you’ve been infected with this virus, our knowledgeable workers’ compensation attorneys would be happy to explain your rights under the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act.

Speak with an Experienced Pittsburgh Injury Lawyer

If you or someone you love has contracted COVID-19 in a hospital, you may have the right to pursue legal action against the facility. While some patients recover quickly from this virus, there is still much we don’t know about it, and it can be deadly for many who are infected.

At Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, we have been protecting the rights of the injured and their loved ones for over two decades. Whether you contracted this virus as a patient or an employee, our seasoned accident attorneys can protect your rights and help you get the compensation you deserve.

Contact our office today at 412-391-9860, toll-free at 866-466-5789, or message us online to schedule a free case evaluation. Our office is following social distancing guidelines but remains available to provide the high level of service our clients expect.

COVID-19 – Related Changes in Trucking Regulations Could Result in More Truck Accidents

The coronavirus has caused numerous businesses to close, but in industries that are considered “essential”, demand has skyrocketed. This is particularly true with groceries (toilet paper and hand sanitizer in particular), medical supplies, the raw materials needed to manufacture these supplies, and many others. The need to transport essential goods throughout the country has also placed a major demand on the nation’s truck drivers.

With the increased need for goods and materials, truckers are under immense pressure to deliver their loads on time. The federal government has responded by temporarily easing many of the long-standing trucking regulations that are designed to make the industry safer.

Here are some of the recent changes that have happened:

Hours of Service Regulations Lifted for Some Truckers

Since the 1930s, Hours of Service regulations have been in place to protect American truck drivers from driving too long without a break. In an unprecedented move that has never been done in the 80+ years since these regulations were enacted, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association (FMCSA) eliminated many of these protections for truckers that transport essential goods.

Normally, truckers are only allowed to drive for 11 hours within a 14-hour period before they must take 10 hours off duty. They are also prohibited from working more than 70 hours in an eight-day period. Now, truckers that bring essential goods and supplies can exceed 11 hours of consecutive driving and they can exceed 70 hours of work over eight days, although they are still required to take 10 hours off after delivering their loads.

Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance International Road Check Postponed

The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) normally conducts a 3-day blitz inspection of commercial trucks in the US and Canada each year. Tens of thousands of vehicles are usually checked to uncover safety problems with the vehicles and issues with drivers. This year, the CVSA postponed their international road check, which was scheduled for May 5-7, until further notice.

Truck Driver Trainees Can Operate without a CDL

In an effort to prevent a shortage of truckers and keep the supply chains moving, the government is allowing new truck drivers to operate a vehicle without a commercial driver’s license (CDL). There are a couple requirements that must be met, however. The driver in training must have already passed their CDL driving test, and there must also be a CDL-holding driver in the truck with them. This still puts a lot of new and inexperienced truck drivers on the roadways during this time.

The Dangers of Truck Accidents During COVID-19

The government lifting regulations on the trucking industry may have been done with good intentions (i.e., to keep our supply chain going), but it has created a more dangerous situation for motorists. Even during normal times, truckers are under great pressure from trucking companies that impose unrealistic deadlines. But at least these drivers had Hours of Service regulations in place to protect them. With these regulations temporarily lifted for some drivers, there is very little to stop companies from forcing their employees to work for far longer than it is safe to do.

When a truck driver is on the road for too long, there is an increased risk of getting tired or sleepy behind the wheel. To help cope with the situation, some drivers turn to alcohol or other substances to take the edge off. But this only makes the situation worse, because we all know that chemical impairment generally results in the reduced ability to focus and poorer driving decisions.

Another potential problem that is caused by the rush to deliver goods and supplies is speeding and aggressive/reckless driving. Knowing that the government wants truckers to do anything they can to keep our supply chain moving, drivers are more likely to feel justified in exceeding the speed limit and cutting whatever other corners they can. Although this behavior may not be explicitly encouraged, the implication is that it is acceptable because of the extraordinary situation we are dealing with.

All of these factors have heightened the risk of trucking accidents – this is one of the countless unintended consequences of our response to COVID-19. And sadly, these accidents often result in severe and catastrophic injuries and fatalities. We hope that as our country emerges from this pandemic, the trucking industry regulations that have been loosened will be put back into place. If this does not happen, the roadways will be less safe going forward.

Injured in a Commercial Truck Accident? Contact Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman for Assistance

If you or someone close to you suffered injury in a trucking accident was caused by another party, you deserve to be fully compensated. Truck accident cases are typically very complicated, however, and there are numerous potential contributing factors and several parties that could be responsible. For this reason, it is very important to work with an attorney who has extensive experience with these types of cases.

At Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, we have successfully represented countless individuals who have been injured in truck accidents, and we are not intimidated by large trucking companies and their vast resources. For a free consultation with one of our attorneys, message us online or call us today at 412-391-9860 or toll-free at 866-466-5789. We look forward to serving you!

 

 

Can I Receive Workers’ Compensation Benefits if I Test Positive for COVID-19?

The coronavirus has impacted every area of society. More than 1.5 million Americans have tested positive to COVID-19. Even though many of those tests have been shown to be false information, many citizens have died from the virus, and many others have become ill.

One area where a lot of people have questions with COVID-19 is regarding workers’ compensation claims. For those whose work requires them to interact with other employees and/or the public, there is a risk of exposure to the coronavirus during the course of their job. And since the virus is highly infectious and we do not have a vaccine or proven treatment for it yet, testing positive would mean having to miss work for at least a few weeks, but more likely longer as it can take months in some cases to recover.

Many individuals who test positive for the coronavirus wonder if they are eligible to collect workers’ compensation benefits for the time they are required to miss from work. The best short answer we can give to that question is “maybe”.

If the coronavirus is caused by work exposure, it should be considered a workplace injury, and for some workers (such as those who work in healthcare), it could even be considered an occupational disease. That said, a worker who contracted the illness might have difficulty getting approved for benefits, because an employer may claim that they did not contract the virus at work.

This is an emerging area of workers’ compensation law, and as such, not everyone is on the same page with regards to how the law applies to COVID-19 cases. An employee is supposed to receive workers’ comp benefits if they suffer an illness or injury that arises out of their employment or occurs during the course of their employment. But how does an employee show that their exposure to the coronavirus happened at work?

Without a national contact tracing infrastructure in place, proving that an employee contracted COVID-19 from their job can be a major challenge, and approvals and denials are likely to vary widely depending on the circumstances of each case. For workers in some industries, such as first responders and other healthcare workers, there is likely to be more of a presumption that the illness is work-related. The same would probably hold true in workplaces where there are major outbreaks, such as nursing homes/assisted living centers and meat packing plants.

Some states have stepped in to provide additional guidance on COVID-19 related workers’ comp claims. For example, the governor of California recently enacted an executive order mandating that workers’ compensation “presumptively applies” when an employee worked at an employer’s place of business within 14 days of testing positive or being diagnosed with the coronavirus. An employer can dispute the presumption, but the burden of proof would be on the employer to show that the illness was not work-related.

As more and more businesses begin to reopen, contracting the coronavirus at work might be a concern for many returning workers. Proper workplace safety measures will be all the more important to prevent outbreaks in newly opened facilities and establishments. These may include daily employee temperature checks, wearing masks and gloves, regular use of sanitizer, frequently disinfecting surfaces, 6-foot or more distances between workstations, the use of plexiglass to separate employees from customers, and other appropriate measures.

What Should I Do if I Contracted COVID-19 and I Believe it is Work-Related?

If you have been exposed to COVID-19 on the job or have been diagnosed with the condition, you should report your illness to your manager/supervisor. From there, the employer is required to report the illness to their insurance company.

In the meantime, follow your doctor’s orders, and speak with an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer. Even during normal times, many workers’ comp claims are wrongly denied; and with coronavirus-related claims, there is even more uncertainty about whether or not your claim will be approved. By working with a skilled and knowledgeable attorney from the start, you have a much better chance of getting your benefits approved without having to go through denials, appeals, and all the red tape that is associated with that process.

Contact Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman for Help with Workers Compensation Claims

If you need any type of assistance with workers’ comp claims, Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman is here for you. We are taking all the precautions and following all of the appropriate safety protocols as our state and nation continues to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak, but we remain fully operational and ready to serve your needs.

For a free consultation with one of our attorneys, message us online or call our office today at 412-391-9860 or toll-free at 866-466-5789. We look forward to serving you!

 

 

How the COVID-19 Pandemic may Impact Personal Injury Lawsuits

The coronavirus has impacted every area of our society. Thousands of businesses have closed, and millions have lost their jobs at least temporarily. Most states implemented “stay-at-home” orders with social distancing guidelines that are designed to “flatten the curve”, and those who are still working are usually doing so from home unless they are an essential front-line worker.

COVID-19 has impacted the legal system as well. There is limited access to the courts, and the wheels of justice are turning much more slowly. That said, Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman is still open and equipped to serve your legal needs. We are taking all of the necessary precautions and following all of the social distancing guidelines, and like everyone else, we are doing most of our work remotely these days. But in spite of these challenges, we have the technology and resources to provide the same level of service our clients have received from us for the past several decades.

How Personal Injury Claims may be Impacted by the Coronavirus

Medical Treatment

For personal injury victims, their health needs to be their number one priority. This means getting immediate medical attention for the injury and following through with all follow-up visits and treatment recommendations. This helps ensure that they are on the fastest road to recovery or to reaching maximum medical improvement.

Getting the proper medical treatment is not only a physical (and in many cases emotional and psychological) issue, it is also a legal one. Those who are injured by the actions of another party have a legal duty to mitigate their losses by getting the medical care that they need. Full treatment is also necessary in order to obtain the medical documentation needed to prove the extent of the injuries.

COVID-19 has created some challenges for those who need medical treatment after being injured. First of all, some patients are having their appointments canceled and rescheduled, and important treatments are being put on hold. This of course makes it more difficult to get treatment in a timely manner. These are extenuating circumstances, but it is important to do your best to keep the appointments you have and follow your doctor’s orders.

Another issue for some personal injury victims is apprehension about going to the doctor with the possibility of getting exposed to the virus. This is an understandable concern, but it is important to realize that the hospitals and clinics are taking all of the necessary precautions, such as keeping patients distanced from each other, sanitizing surfaces, etc. Although there is still always a risk, it is very minimal, especially compared to the health risks you would take by not following through on your treatment plan.

Court Schedule

Because of COVID-19, the Pennsylvania courts are closed except for emergency hearings, which could be conducted at the court’s discretion. This means that personal injury lawsuits will move more slowly through the court system, at least for the time being. But even with limited court access, much of the other work that goes into personal injury cases continues unabated. In addition, we are confident that once things get back to normal, the courts will resume their regular schedule and get caught up on their backlog of cases fairly quickly.

Personal Injury Settlements

Because personal injury victims do not currently have access to a jury trial, they are likely to feel more pressure to settle their case. With so many people having lost their jobs, finances are much tighter, and a lot of people may be motivated to take a quick settlement offer from the insurance company, even if it is for less than what they had hoped for.

While it may be tempting to accept a quick settlement from the insurer, this could be a very big mistake. The goal of the insurance company is to pay out as little as possible for a claim, and they understand what is happening right now. They know that lawsuits are not moving forward very quickly, and they are likely to try to take advantage of the situation. This means that the offer they give you will probably only be for a fraction of what your case is worth.

Times are tight, we understand that. But still, it is not worth it to let the insurance company take advantage of you. The best thing to do if you are in this situation is to get an experienced attorney involved as soon as possible. Having strong legal counsel by your side puts you in the best possible position to secure full and fair compensation for your injuries.

Now More than Ever, Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman is Here to Help

If you or a loved one suffered injury at the hands of another party, Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman is here to serve you, even during the midst of the COVID-19 crisis. Call our office today at 412-391-9860 or toll-free at 866-466-5789 or message us online for a free consultation with one of our attorneys.