COVID-19 makes tough situation even worse for Personal Injury plaintiffs: Herscu
By Kirsten McMahon
As the novel coronavirus continues to disrupt and devastate the everyday life of Canadians, Easy Legal Group of Companies President and CEO Larry Herscu says COVID-19 poses extra challenges for personal injury plaintiffs as well as their counsel and service providers.
“Under the best of circumstances, it can take two to four years, or longer, to settle a personal injury case,” he says. “With civil courts in Ontario adjourned until further notice and physiotherapists and other treatment providers operating virtually, some personal injury plaintiffs may face an exacerbation of their symptoms as well as financial ruin.”
“The pandemic and the measures governments have taken are, of course, necessary to stop the spread,” Herscu says. “However, it’s devastating for plaintiff personal injury lawyers and the service providers who are supporting those who are injured.”
Lawyers and paralegals are deemed essential workplaces across the country. Although most are operating virtually, Herscu notes many have responded to COVID-19 in innovative and creative ways.
“We’re seeing firms adapt their practices to ensure continued access to justice for their clients, which is incredible,” he says. “I think the impact is quite pronounced in the legal community and they’re doing their best to work within these challenges.”
Herscu says treatment providers, such as physiotherapists, are also trying to adapt to the “new normal” by providing virtual care in non-urgent situations.
“It’s positive to see firms and facilities continue to function in these unprecedented times,” he says. “But with courts at a standstill, personal injury victims are facing further delays in receiving both treatment and compensation for their injuries. When the civil justice system is up and running again, many are predicting increased backlogs.”
Herscu says it’s encouraging the Chief Justice of Ontario announced the courts will soon be expanding to videoconferencing services but notes it will be an uphill battle for an institution that has been slow to utilizing technology.
Earlier this week, Ontario extended a state of emergency for an additional 28 days. Herscu stresses that while these measures are important for health and safety, there is a pronounced effect for those who are injured and unable to work.
He points to a recent report that found that about half of Canadians surveyed are now on the brink of insolvency, saying they are $200 or less away from not being able to meet their debt obligations each month.
“This highlights how vulnerable Canadians are to an interruption to their income,” Herscu says. “If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident, for example, it is a triple whammy. You aren’t receiving income to provide for your family, you may not be receiving the treatment and care you need to get better, and there are further delays to receiving compensation for your injuries. Without funding, many people are forced to ignore their injuries or, in some cases, face financial ruin because there is no income stream to help them.
“It’s truly devastating.”
He adds it’s also an extremely difficult time for plaintiff personal injury lawyers who only get paid when a personal injury file is successful in court or the claim settles.
“COVID-19 has made what was already a tough situation even worse,” Herscu says.
The Easy Legal Group of Companies is a Canadian litigation financing firm. Its lending solutions service the personal injury sector including plaintiffs with pending injury claims, their legal representatives and the service providers involved in their cases. The firm is registered to conduct business in Ontario, B.C., Alberta and the Atlantic provinces. Services are delivered through two brands: Easy Legal Finance Inc. and Rhino Legal Finance Inc.