We’re all in this together.
Almost every state has issued restrictions related to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, which has presented a variety of challenges for everyone, whether it’s staying healthy, staying employed, or knowing where to turn if you need help.
Primarily, state and local leaders are asking everyone to “flatten the curve,” which you’ve probably heard almost daily over the past few weeks.
But what does that mean exactly, and what are you allowed (and not allowed) to do?
Restrictions placed on non-essential businesses
Since COVID-19 is believed to be most contagious through person-to-person contact, officials say that the best way to reduce the spread of the virus is to limit people from being in contact with each other. Most state officials and the federal government have advised people to stay at home and spend time only with those who live in your household.
This is more than a recommendation or suggestion in many places. Most states have mandatory restrictions on any business that’s not “essential,” indicating how (and if) employees are allowed to go to work, and whether you’re allowed to leave your home.
However, we still need certain services aside from medical care and groceries — including legal services.
What if you need a lawyer? Is your law firm considered an essential business? How do you reach them, and what can they do for you while the nation is struggling through the coronavirus?
It’s important to note that the orders requiring businesses to close is to protect their workers and the public from exposure to other people. This means that any business that’s able to have its employees work from home is able to stay open — and that includes your law firm.
In fact, many law firms across the country are still functioning at full or near-full capacity, thanks to technology that allows attorneys and legal teams to continue handling cases and other legal matters from their homes.
Therefore, when you hear an official say that “only essential businesses may stay open,” they are strictly referring to businesses that, by their nature, require people to be physically present in order to operate. For example, a hair salon cannot function without both staff and clients being on site. Therefore, since a salone is not an essential business, it must close. The same is true of movie theaters, restaurants, bars and many other businesses.
A law firm, on the other hand, can stay open as long as the staff is set up to work remotely and without being in the same place as their clients (or each other).
What should I do if I’ve been injured?
If you already have a lawyer, visit their website to see how to contact them during this time. They might only be checking emails, or they might have calls forwarded or be responding to voicemail.
There could be some limitations on what your lawyer is able to do for you during this period of time. Some courts are closed, but others are accepting electronic filings and have other ways of handling legal proceedings remotely.
Ultimately, it depends on the individual court. Whether your case is being handled in state or county courts will affect your proceedings. Your lawyer will know whether a claim can be filed, whether deadlines have been extended, and what your options are during this confusing time.
Here at Enjuris, we were curious how the pandemic is impacting law firms around the country, so we interviewed several of our partner lawyers to see how the shutdowns are affecting their clients, their team and their cases.
Check out their responses in these Featured Attorney Interviews:
- Ben Gerber Describes How Coronavirus Has Impacted Workers’ Compensation Benefits (Atlanta, Georgia)
- George Lorenzo Breaks Down Whether Law Firms Are Essential Businesses (Tampa, Florida)
- Mack Babcock Shares How Coronavirus Is Affecting His Law Firm (Denver, Colorado)
- Tom Murphy Urges Accident Victims to Seek Legal Help, Even During a Pandemic (Great Falls, Montana)
- Bob Wisniewski Answers Questions About Coronavirus & Workers’ Compensation (Phoenix, Arizona)
Stay tuned to our blog as we add more Featured Attorney Interviews to see how lawyers are handling business during the coronavirus and what’s available in your state or region.