It should come as no surprise that traffic accidents have declined in the US since the COVID-19 pandemic began. There are several near-term impacts of having fewer cars on the road that firms should consider while preparing for a projected rebound in road traffic.
How are the accidents that still occur handled now? In what ways will insurance companies respond? How will client behavior change? There is reason to believe that drivers will be back on the road in full force—are you prepared? Let’s explore each of these areas and how firms can successfully navigate this period, in anticipation of traffic patterns returning to normal, or even increasing.
A change in accident response
With fewer cars on the road and more help needed on the front lines of the pandemic, responding officers may be handling accidents differently right now.
In New York, the NYPD stopped responding to ‘non-injury’ car crashes due to COVID-19. Certain counties in California have limited responses to emergency situations only.
Without police reports at the scene of an accident, it’s up to your client to do their due diligence. They will need to take photos and provide detailed notes soon after the accident to potentially use as evidence. And since so many people are afraid to visit emergency rooms and doctor’s offices due to exposure to the virus, your clients may not do their part to get medical help.
Speeding, distracted driving, and anxious drivers on low-traffic roads
Those who are still on the road—commuting to essential jobs, picking up food from the store, or taking a drive to keep the car battery running—might adopt new driving behaviors that result in accidents.
While fewer cars are on the road, certain areas have seen spikes in car accident cases due to speeding, distracted driving, and anxious drivers, according to this Law.com article. In the same article, a personal injury attorney in Florida said they received a sharp increase in calls, and many were from drivers who crashed in store parking lots or from drivers delivering food to homes.
After a recent 50-car pileup in Illinois, an Illinois Department of Transportation spokesperson said that “in general, traffic counts have been cut in half over the last month” and that “as a result, speeds on the expressways have been very high and traffic moving too fast for conditions.”
Auto insurers give money back to policyholders
Since COVID-19 is keeping cars off the road, auto insurers are dealing with fewer claims and in an unprecedented move, providing customers with refunds. Drivers are receiving around 15-25% refunds from major auto insurers, mostly in the months of April and May as drivers stay home, skipping commutes and weekend getaways that could result in accidents. State Farm, for example, is offering its customers an average credit of 25%.
This gesture allows drivers to get some relief while auto insurers themselves see profits in the billions. In states like California, insurers are not volunteering but being ordered to cut premiums. In large part due to the decline in accidents.
A new study from University of California, Davis shows California’s traffic accidents, including both collisions and fatal accidents, have fallen by half since the state’s shelter in place order. And a recent study from AutoinsuranceEZ found that COVID-19 reduced more fatal crashes than any other event in US history, with fatal accidents dropping by 100% in Seattle and 75% in Massachusetts.
As time goes on these insurers can expect to see fewer drivers on the road with coverage at all. Personal injury attorneys need to prepare for the possibility of dealing with more clients in the future who get injured in accidents caused by someone without coverage.
Post-pandemic commuting could drive an increase in cars on the road
The post-COVID-19 era has many unknowns, but a Bloomberg Opinion columnist recently predicted that we could have more traffic jams than before as commuters who normally relied on public transit instead opt to drive themselves to work.
In Wuhan, retail car sales have risen since the peak of the crisis in that region as many consumers view personal vehicle commutes as safer than using public transportation.
Whether all commuters return to the same commutes, however, remains to be seen. In offices across the globe, including law offices, COVID-19 has been the impetus for a shift to a digital workplace. This Legal Tech News article discusses how there may be no going back as many firms realize not only that remote work is viable long term but also a cost-effective solution.
Generally speaking, trends indicate that traffic patterns will return to normal or even increase. Firms across the country must be prepared to navigate this period, in anticipation of a potentially significant rebound.
The most successful firms will be those that effectively manage today while preparing for a brighter future ahead. Whatever the new normal may be, now is the time for firms to be there for clients and to run as efficiently as possible.
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