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As crazy as it seems, we are nearing the two-year anniversary since the covid-19 coronavirus disease was declared a global pandemic. So much has happened since then and many lives have changed permanently as a result. We have seen waves of high viral threats where each person has had to take precautionary measures in their personal and professional lives. We have also seen waves of calm, where the infection rate is very low along with high immunity from vaccines, and during those times a lot of our lives were seemingly back to normal.
We’re in an interesting time right now where we are seeing higher infection rates than ever before with the omicron variant, but the effects of this variant are less threatening than ones we’ve seen in the past. Because of this, things aren’t necessarily closing down like they used to, but precautionary measures are being taken. This affects many facets of life. For those pursuing a personal injury case on Long Island, the process to resolution is being affected for a number of reasons.
The biggest factor affecting personal injury cases in Suffolk County are court delays for cases going to trial. Less courts are open than usual because of covid. Only one or two courts are open per floor in order to maintain social distancing. So while trials are happening now, they are happening at a reduced rate.
In the beginning of the pandemic, all trials came to a complete halt. Fortunately, this isn’t the case anymore. While the courthouse was open after only a month of lockdown, trials were still suspended until April of 2021. So on top of having less trials happening at once, there is a yearlong waitlist that is still trying to catch up.
Aside from trials being pushed back, everything else in the litigation process is taking longer to happen. For example, decisions on motions and requests for conferences are taking longer to get a response. The courts are extra busy because of how much everything has been pushed back. On top of that, people who have the virus or have been exposed are quarantined at home, reducing the staff at the Suffolk County courthouses.
To try and combat the backup, the courts have started a mediation process to try and get more of the cases settled faster. This has helped to a degree. For more straightforward cases, a mediation procedure can be resolved through this process without needing to go to trial.
There are many instances where this route is not possible. So ultimately, a plaintiff should expect a delay of several months (around 6 to 12 months) for a trial as a result of covid. Cases are being settled. But in the cases where a trial is needed for an adequate resolution, there will be a delay.
Steven Palermo is the managing partner for Palermo Law, Long Island’s Personal Injury Law Firm. He has been helping people receive compensation for their injuries for over 21 years. He focuses on cases involving car accidents, truck accidents, construction accidents and slip and fall injuries.
His book The Ultimate Guide to Handling New York Car Accident Claims details the ins and outs of a car accident claim in a simple, easy-to-read manner.