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Christmas time for lawyers – a spike in injuries, disputes and deaths

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Most people think lawyers are taking it easy over the Christmas break, however, this is one of the busiest times of the year for many law firms, with a spike in serious accidents, insurance disputes, family law separations, domestic violence breaches, and deaths. Attwood Marshall Lawyers Legal Practice Director, Jeff Garrett discusses what Christmas time is like for lawyers with Steve Stuttle on Radio 4CRB.

Traffic accidents over the Christmas holiday period

When the announcement came for the QLD-NSW borders to be reopened to NSW and Victoria on December 1, many people took the opportunity to start planning their road trips in time for Christmas.

Each year traffic volumes and congestion spike during the holiday season. With many people determined to hit the road after being locked down during the pandemic, road travel is expected to be a primary choice for anyone heading off on their next holiday adventure. The predicted increase in wet weather and potential cyclones will also contribute to the expected additional congestion on our roads over the break.

Unfortunately, increased traffic volumes tend to transfer to a significant spike in the national road toll and serious accidents. This can be credited to weather and road conditions, people driving fatigued, under the influence of drugs or alcohol or simply being distracted while driving.

For anyone involved in an accident who has been severely injured, they spend the Christmas break coming to terms with their injuries and recovering in hospital. There can be a lot of uncertainty in these situations as people’s lives have just been turned upside down. It is extremely stressful, and particularly when people are grappling with the notion that they are supposed to return to work in the new year. For anyone injured in a significant car accident, their injuries may impact their ability to work and challenge their earning capacity to financially support themselves and their family in the new year.

We understand that for anyone in this scenario, having access to a personal injury lawyer to be able to discuss the matter and what their options are can help them deal with the situation they have found themselves in. It is for this reason we are available 24/7 for any urgent advice needed.

A spike in deaths

As the Christmas season takes over, we are surrounded by Christmas songs on the radio and in our local shopping centres and are delighted by the Christmas spectacle around us. It can be easy to forget that this time of year represents a grim time in terms of health statistics. Several studies show you have a greater chance of dying on Christmas Day, Boxing Day or New Year’s Day than any other day of the year. This is true for people who die of natural causes, which accounts for 93% of all deaths.

It’s quite a bizarre trend, however for many elderly people, particularly those who are very ill, they tend to hold out for Christmas, only to pass away peacefully soon after.

Although it is comforting for families who get to spend one last Christmas with their parent or grandparent, it can also come at the most inconvenient time (not that there is ever a convenient time for death!). This can put additional stress on anyone dealing with the death of a loved one. For the people left to make funeral arrangements and begin the administration of the deceased’s estate, it can be quite challenging, and usually there will be significant delays. Most law firms are closed so you can’t even get a copy of the Will as a starting point.

This is one of the main reasons Attwood Marshall Lawyers remains open during the Christmas period, excluding public holidays. With one of the largest Wills and Estates teams in Australia, we make sure we have experienced lawyers available so that people can get assistance with these types of matters and are able to move forward with their lives.

Unfortunately, there are also many deaths caused through different types of accidents and misadventure over the holiday period which all contribute to a very busy time for our estate administration team. We have found that our grieving clients are so relieved to be able to speak to one of our experienced staff members during the holiday period and not have to wait until the new year.

Work related accidents and injuries

With many businesses closing over the festive season or reducing staff, there can be an increased risk in work related injuries or even “burn out” for those managing business affairs with only skeleton staff on call to support.

Delivery services are one of the main areas finding it hard – if not impossible – to cope with the current increased demand. For most of 2020 there has been a dramatic increase in online shopping driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has only accelerated even more in the lead up to Christmas.

Compared to this time last year, online shopping is up more than 75%. While postal services have hired additional workers to try to cope with the extra load, there are only so many sorting facilities and delivery vehicles available, not to mention hours in the day.

Being overworked and burnout is a risk as couriers work an average of 12 hours a day to try to deliver as many parcels as possible. Not to mention the increased risk of being involved in a traffic accident by being on the road during peak times and potentially driving fatigued.

We have noticed a marked spike in psychological WorkCover claims since the onset of COVID-19 and expect this to continue as the workplace adjusts to life returning to some form of normality.

Family law matters and domestic violence

The frayed tensions in families often unravel over Christmas because everyone comes together. There might be some financial pressures that have been bubbling away, tensions in relationships which have not been dealt with, or parenting disputes over children. Enquiries about divorce or separation tends to spike following Christmas.

The number of domestic violence related cases also surges during the Christmas-New Year period due to a mix of alcohol, stress and more family gatherings taking place.

This converts to more domestic violence orders, and violence related matters where people are charged with assaults and other offences.  These types of matters generally need to be dealt with immediately and people require legal advice to be able to move forward and try to resolve their matter.

Criminal behaviour

For our in-house Criminal Law Special Counsel, Richard Smith, this is one of his busiest times of year. There is an increase in drink driving offences, as well as assault charges for people who tend to have a bit too much to drink only to get into scuffles in the street or on private properties.

If you have committed an offence and have to go to court, you simply cannot wait to obtain legal advice and representation, you should seek advice as soon as possible.

Elderly issues

The elderly can be particularly vulnerable during Christmas time.  After what has been an extremely challenging year for seniors, dealing with COVID-19 restrictions, isolation, and in some cases an increase in elder abuse – more legal issues relating to seniors can arise over the holidays.

There are quite a few cases seen where families use Christmas time as an opportunity to put their elderly parents or grandparents into respite care. This is so they can go away on holiday and don’t have to look after mum or dad, or grandma or granddad, over that period.  There is a horrible term used for this which is referred to as “granny dumping”.

At this time of year, you can see a lot of unhappy elderly people being put into care against their wishes. For many, they would rather be at home enjoying Christmas with their families.

Unfortunately, there is not a lot you can do if you don’t have family members who are willing to take care of you. These are the very issues that need to be considered when you are completing your estate plan and documenting your wishes in your Will and Enduring Power of Attorney or Advanced Healthcare Directives.

Wills, Enduring Power of Attorney and Advance Healthcare Directives

These documents are something everyone should be ensuring are up to date, whether it’s Christmas or not. We all face the prospect of dying or losing capacity and going into care.  It’s integral to have these most important legal documents done in preparation for the unexpected.

Having these documents up to date will ensure your wishes are known and clear instructions are set out for your attorneys to honour if you become incapacitated or need to be admitted to hospital with a serious illness.

Read more: Five reasons you need to have a Will and Enduring Power of Attorney

Transitioning to Aged Care

When families come together at this time of year, it can also be the turning point where people realise their elderly parents or grandparents need that additional care or support that they may not have been getting. The transition to aged care can be a difficult issue to navigate.

It’s important to be able to identify exactly how much care someone needs, what options are available, and their financial position to be able to afford the transition into care.

Christmas time can present an opportunity to talk about these issues openly and start reviewing the options available.

Property transactions

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic contributing to our largest economic downturn since the 1930’s, CoreLogic revealed that Australia’s $7.2 trillion residential real estate market proved remarkably resilient. The real estate market has been running hot with houses being snatched up within 24 hours of being put on the market.

With record low interest rates combined with Government grants and incentives currently being offered, we expect to continue to see a surge in property transactions over the Christmas period and into the new year.

Our experienced property law team ensure first home buyers, investors and sellers receive the most professional property law services so they can make informed decisions and move quickly to take advantage of the current property market.

How can Attwood Marshall Lawyers help?

If there is something urgent that you need assistance with, Attwood Marshall Lawyers will be open over the Christmas period. We have a 24/7 phone line that you can call, leave a message, or you can email us and if your matter is urgent, someone will get back to you, even on a public holiday.

There aren’t many law firms on the Gold Coast or in Brisbane that offer that service, but we understand that sometimes things happen urgently and expectantly.

Our Robina Town Centre office is also open Thursday nights and Saturday mornings for your convenience. You can make an appointment with one of our experienced lawyers any time by calling 1800 621 071. If you are faced with any of these issues unexpectedly, know that there is still someone there to help.

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