We are living in unprecedented times. Amidst the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, much of the world has come to a standstill. And yet, people are still getting injured at work, at home and elsewhere every day. When they do, they are often confused about what steps to take next in this chaotic and confusing time.
For example, one question we here at Enjuris have been wondering is: Are law firms considered essential businesses?
To get to the bottom of this question and more — and to help better understand how coronavirus shutdowns are impacting the legal sector and injury plaintiffs in various states — we asked each of our Enjuris Premier Attorney Members a few questions about how their team and their clients are coping during the pandemic.
Here’s what Florida personal injury attorney Peter Tragos of Tragos, Sartes & Tragos had to say.
Q: Are law firms and legal services considered “essential businesses” in Florida?
A: Yes, learned professionals such as lawyers and accountants are essential businesses as long as they are accomplishing a legally necessary task. Because our clients are injured and have medical bills to pay, our work is essential to produce the result they are legally entitled to. They need the medical treatment to restore their health, and we help ensure that they receive the care and financial award they need.
Our criminal clients need our immediate care due to the fact that many of them are wrongfully accused and their liberty is restricted based on these charges. We will not stop fighting to protect their constitutional rights during this time.
Lastly, our clients that are due unpaid wages and overtime need the utmost care during a time filled with unemployment, layoffs, and downsizing. They need these unpaid wages to feed their families and continue living their lives.
We are here to help all of our clients every way we can.
Q: How has coronavirus affected your law firm and your clients?
A: We were already set up to work remotely, so the transition to remote work was not as difficult as it may have been for others. We haven’t missed a beat. We’re still taking calls 24/7 and assisting clients in every way we always have.
One difference is that initial client consultations are all being done by phone or videoconference right now, and all of our initial paperwork is reviewed and signed electronically. We provide a full service for clients and make it easy for them during their time of need to do everything from the comfort of their living room or hospital bed.
We work in an emergent industry. Many times, clients call us during the worst time of their life. Our firm has always been set up to ease the burden and stress of a situation — COVID-19 has just made these remote situations more commonplace.
Q: What top concerns and questions do your clients have right now regarding their case?
A: Many of our clients are concerned about 2 major questions:
- How will they continue to receive medical treatment?
- Do they have to go to work if their boss says so during this time of quarantine?
The answer to the first question is a testament to many of the great doctors in our network who are providing telemedical and video-medical appointments. Many of our clients can continue receiving medical evaluations and doing their home exercises without ever leaving the house. Additionally, many of the more invasive procedures and treatment are still being done as an essential activity.
We have spoken to many of the doctors we regularly work with on cases and they have put into place sanitizing, testing, and distancing procedures to ensure that the safety and well-being of their patients (and our clients) is of the utmost importance.
The answer to the second common question is more complicated.
If you work for an essential business, there’s nothing illegal about your boss making you come to work. However, your boss is required to follow CDC guidelines and local rules of social distancing, sanitizing, etc. Additionally, if someone in your office tests positive or is exposed to coronavirus, it may become REQUIRED that some or all of the employees be put on a 14 day quarantine.
Unfortunately, this answer may vary on a case-by-case basis. We’ve spoken individually with many of our clients who own businesses or are employees still working to advise them during these difficult times.
Q: What would you like prospective clients to know during this crisis?
A: Call, email, or reach out to us on social media anytime, anywhere and with any question. We are happy to help in any way we can. Even if it’s an area of law we do not practice, we will connect you with someone who can help.
We are fully functioning and that isn’t going to change.
Unfortunately, people aren’t going to stop driving carelessly during this time. We know people will be injured or have circumstances they can’t deal with on their own, and they should seek experienced legal help when they need advice. We are just a phone call or email away.
Q: What’s the best way for people to reach you during this time?
A: Phone, email and social media channels are always open for us. We have people available on all mediums at all times. And when you call, you will speak to an actual lawyer about your case — not an assistant or paralegal.
Our entire staff is top-notch, more than capable of gathering information and supporting the attorney handling your case. But we feel it is so important to have a lawyer speak to every prospective client before they decide to accept a case and work with a client.
Q: Do you have any other resources or information that you’d like to share?
A: In addition to our law firm’s blog, I host a weekly podcast series called Peter’s Proffer where I discuss the biggest topics in the “courtroom of current events.” This podcast is specifically geared towards Florida residents, but we often provide legal information and context that is applicable wherever you live.
In particular, we invite your readers to check out our recent coronavirus-related episodes:
- Episode 116: Paycheck Protection Program
- Episode 115: Florida’s Stay At Home Order
- Episode 114: Support Local – Interviews with Local Restaurant Owners
- Episode 113: Families First Coronavirus Response Act
- Episode 112: Presidential Emergency Declarations