We Are Here For You
We hope you are well. We continue to adapt to the Covid 19 siutation to take care of our clients and help new and potential clients make good decisions on their personal injury, Oregon Workers’ Compensation claims, and Social Security Disability claims.
Here is what we know today, understanding that things are changing quickly.
What We Are Doing
We continue to meet new and existing clients by telephone or video conference. If you need to get in touch to set up a time to talk:
Call us: 503-325-8600 or 1-888-306-6910, or
Contact us through our web portal.
We continue to work remotely with all the capabilities for taking care of our clients except in person meetings. We hope that changes soon.
Video and telephone conferencing is working its way into our day to day practice.
Since the Courts, Social Security Administration and Oregon Workers' Compensation Board have limited in person hearings and court appearances, we have continued to move or clients' cases forward.
Here is the rundown on what is happening in our practice areas:
In person hearings are currently being postponed. Hearings can still occur via telephone, which is temporary, but a lot different from the normal hearing process.
The Administrative Law Judge in your case may grant postponements where appropriate.
The Oregon Workers’ Compensation Board is working hard to develop alternative videoconferencing options for live hearings.
We have conducted some meetings with videoconferencing, and they have worked well.
Social Security Disability
The local branch/field offices are closed to the public. All services are being provided by telephone. One problem with the local Field Office shutdowns is that we are not able to obtain claims files when a case is in the reconsideration appeal process. If a hearing is requested, we are able to eventually download exhibit and claims file through our online portal.
The only services available at local offices relate to severe disabilities, blindness claims, claims involving terminal illness, request for dire need payments and dire Medicare applications.
We are still able help new and existing clients file their appeals electronically. If you have a recent denial and need help with an appeal, contact us to set up a time for a telephone conference. Remember, you only have sixty days from the date on your denial letter to file an appeal.
Hearings at the Office of Hearings Operations are by telephone conference only. If you do not want to conduct a telephone hearing, postponements are being granted “in the normal course.” We do not know the time frame for postponement of hearings, and so far, have conducted a few telephone hearings. Other than a few minor technical glitches, the hearings have gone well.
Personal Injury Cases in Oregon
We handle Oregon and Washington personal injury and wrongful death claims. These cases are typically filed in state courts, although sometimes a personal injury case will be filed in federal court. On May 15, 2020, the Chief Justice of the Oregon Supreme Court issued a new order easing up, just a bit, the restrictions on court operations. This order is tied to the Governor's Phase One re-opening orders. The easing of restrictions applies to those courts in parts of the state that have entered Phase One only. So, access to the courthouse is a local issue.
For our clients with personal injury claims pending in court, no trials are currently going forward. Personal injury cases are one kind of "civil" case, and under the existing order, cases are not going to trial until after July 1, 2020. Even then, allowing jury trials is tied to the Governor's allowance of gatherings of at least 50 people, sufficient staff to hold trial, and appropriate social distancing. Masks, except during testimony, and "vigilance" about cleaning areas in the courtroom, are added requirements.
Although there is no official word, we expect that because of the potential backlog in criminal cases, civil cases may be pushed further out even when the courts get back to "normal." We will continue to monitor the situation.
Criminal trials are moving forward, and provide a good example of what the future may hold. In Clatsop County, jury trials are limited to the largest courtroom on the top floor of the courthouse so that the public gallery can be used to seat jurors, and provide safe distancing. The Supreme Court has also asked for help from stakeholders to raise funds so that masks can be provided to potential jurors.
We are able to file cases in the courts because all court filings have been electronic for some time.
Until recently, serving summons and complaints were an issue, but service processors are starting to get back to regular work getting papers served.
We have found that insurance adjusters (at least most of them) and opposing counsel have been gracious in working through these issues. We continue to move our injury cases forward, starting out with a demand for settlement when necessary. For the most part, everyone seems to know that we are all in this together.
Video conferencing for depositions and settlement conferences is the new normal, and has proven quite effective. We were initially concerned about privacy with some video conferencing applications, but its more an issue with mastering the privacy settings when using these tools.
We are adapting, and learning about new tools to help our clients move their claims forward.
Personal Injury Cases In Washington
Personal injury cases are a kind of "civil" case. Civil jury trials in Washington have been suspended at least until July 6th, and probably will not be occurring for some time. Courts have the option of postponing "non--emergency" cases until after June 1, 2020. However, the Supreme Court Order encourages local courts to employ video and telephone conferencing. If the matter is an "emergency," then the hearing is set, but again only through video and telephone conference and. The injury cases that we handle are not considered "emergency" matters.
The Washington Courts recently put out a report about resuming jury trials in the State of Washington. The primary goal of the report was to provide a means of assuring jurors and other stakeholders that the courtroom was a safe place to be, and to get the message out that jury trials are a key to ensure a fair justice system.
Local courts are issuing frequently asked question guides and other press releases explaining that jury rooms are frequently cleaned, that physical distancing precautions will be enforced, and that face coverings and gloves are permitted. Hand sanitizers and hand washing stations will be available in the courthouse's. However, coffee and reading materials will not be offered to slow and prevent the spread of Covid 19. In some courthouses, jurors are allowed to bring their own beverages.
We are here for you, especially if you need help making important decisions about your case. Please stay tuned for more updates.