How has the coronavirus pandemic impacted Georgia’s legal industry overall?
Just in general, the coronavirus has made people aware of simple things, like how often they wash or sanitize their hands, how close they stand to people, or whether they shake hands with someone.
For the legal industry, the Georgia Courts have started to implement some changes on the administrative side. For example, we can now have our socially-distanced clients complete docu-sign forms (e-forms), which we then file electronically. Or, Georgia Courts have implemented a procedure in which we can verify and notarize documents over a video conference. It’s important to note, though, that these legal documents will, at some, point need an original signature from the client.
What about the area of personal injury law?
With 60-70% of drivers not being on the road like they used to be, there has been a huge decrease in the number of auto accidents. Which is a good thing! We don’t want to see anyone hurt or have anyone face the costs of property damage. You may have also seen some insurance agencies offering to refund premiums to customers, because of the drop in accident numbers.
Do you have any predictions about the types of cases we’ll see, related to the coronavirus and personal injury law?
I could see litigation coming from a situation where a consumer enters a business (say, for instance, a nail salon), and they contract the coronavirus from an employee there. The sick consumer could track their illness back to a specific time, place, and person.
With personal injury cases, you have to look at two major aspects: liability and damages. For liability, you need to prove that someone else is liable for the harm or damages you’ve incurred. For damages, for it to make economic sense to pursue a case, you have to prove significant damages, such as long-term health effects. That’s something we may hear more about in the future, the long-term effects of the coronavirus after someone has recovered. Until there are more studies and medical data, we just don’t know yet about long-lasting health issues.
You may also start to see cases in which employees return to work, but the employer is lax on the health guidelines, and as a result, the employees contract the virus. The employees would be able to prove how and when they contracted the virus, as well as show that the employer did not have sufficient health protocols in place. This could lead to a workers’ compensation claim.
How has the coronavirus impacted Burrow & Associates?
Everyone at the firm has been hypervigilant about health and safety. Early in the pandemic, we sent about 70% of our team home so they could work remotely on secure channels. The staff that remained, we spaced them out between our six offices so that they could maintain a safe social distance.
Our law firm is comprised of individuals. And just like any business or family comprised of individuals, we all have different ideas and approaches about personal safety. But our top priority is protecting our clients.
What provisions do you have in place to protect your clients?
Almost immediately after Georgia announced the public health emergency, we changed our meeting structures to better protect our clients. We began offering meetings via Zoom and GoToMeeting – which we’re still continuing to do. Clients can request a meeting over the phone. (We’ve been doing free initial phone consultations for more than 20 years).
In our main office in Duluth, we installed large monitors and computer systems in our conference rooms, so that our teams can meet with clients via video conference. Having that technology in place helps make our client meetings so much more impactful, and you accomplish so much more. With the monitors, you can see a person’s body language and facial expressions. You know for certain that they understand everything you’re discussing. It’s a great option for anyone who has a smartphone, a desktop computer, or even a tablet device.
For clients who want an in-person meeting, we have several safety provisions in place. We encourage both our legal team and our clients to wear masks if they’re comfortable doing so. Our firm has several large conference rooms; the attorneys and clients are able to sit more than six-feet apart. We also have staffers who are responsible for cleaning and disinfecting high-touch areas like the reception desk and the conference rooms. We want people to be comfortable coming in, and we also take the CDC guidelines very seriously.
If someone is dealing with a personal injury case related to coronavirus, what should they do?
If someone is dealing with a personal injury case related to the coronavirus, they should absolutely reach out to us. We would want to detail their history, record the facts of the case, research exactly how they contracted the virus and any potential long-term health effects.
Each case is different, with unique facts and circumstances. The liability and damages are going to be different for each case. But over the years, Burrow & Associates has put systems and procedures into place so that we can effectively handle all types of personal injury cases in-house – whether it’s a dog bite, car accident, motorcycle accident, truck accident, or a slip and fall. Our team is prepared and ready to handle any viable personal injury case from start to finish.