By Pat Monks
I don’t want to brag, but this is my 5th end of the world that I will survive. I have survived two Category 3 hurricanes, one major tropical storm, and one terrible fire. The Hurricanes forced us to evacuate and shut down. The tropical storm flooded the entire city for days and displaced defendants and courts for almost a year. The fire destroyed my office, damaged all my electrical equipment and destroyed records and files. So now a pandemic, I say bring it on.
I serve as a director on the board of the Group Legal Service Association. I’m past president of the Pre-Paid legal Services Institute 2015. I have guest lectured before the International Legal Expense Insurance Association several times in Europe. I’m past president and a founding member of the Traffic Lawyers of Texas. We founded this organization in 1992 as an educational group to network with other traffic lawyers in Texas. We have a lobbyist to organize our legislative agenda before the Texas Legislature. For 28 years, we have conducted Educational Seminars held in late August throughout the State of Texas. This year’s program is still currently set for Fort Worth. We have had past president and Legal Shield’s V.P. Keri Norris and past president Jean Clausen of Arag spoke on legal plans. We have also had past presidents of the GLSA John Wachsmann, Bill Go and Larry Stauhl all speak at the TLOT conferences as well. The best thing about the group is the large network we have developed over the years. We share information and help one another covering cases. More can be found at TLOTonline.org our Facebook page at Traffic Lawyers of Texas.
So, what is the State of Traffic ticket title 2 work today? Well, it’s almost come to a complete stop for now. Since these shut ins began, traffic is down by 30% to 50% in some communities. No one is on the road. New York and San Francisco have reported and even greater that 50% drop as the shut ins continue. There is a silver lining. Commercial traffic is holding up. There seems to be only a 10% drop in commercial traffic because of the necessity to get medical and food goods to hospitals and stores.
Although Commercial traffic has only dropped off little, the feds have relaxed many of the required rules. For instance, logbook rules have been relaxed the first time in 82 years. Also waived is the requirement to update medical cab cards. The Texas DPS has extended the need to renew drivers license. The DPS new design for drivers’ licenses has been extended. Drivers with CDL learner’s permits will be allowed to drive freight during this crisis. Finally, the international Road check inspection blitz that was set for May 5-7 has been postponed indefinitely.
The net result of all of this, is a lot fewer tickets. Many of the members of the Texas traffic lawyers have reported a slow down of business to a complete halt. Business is down by about 80% in some communities. This self-imposed recession is temporary. Through my previous nightmares, I have seen a resilience in the community to get back to normal. The question is WHEN?
Unlike previous disasters, we don’t have the loss of immediate life or property. Court houses do not need to be repaired. Our infra structure is intact. It’s just we are frozen in time. I’m experienced with disasters, but this is my first Pandemic. We haven’t experienced anything like this since 1918. And that didn’t go well with 10% of all mankind died during that year. But there was a definite end to the pandemic and things went on.
Many of the traffic ticket practitioners have immediately laid off their staff in order to keep their respective ships afloat. We have a record number of unemployment applications. Those referral attorneys laying off employees will encompass an increase in Unemployment Insurance rates. And what worse is the mountain of work that will resume through all our offices like a tsunami once the pandemic passes.
Municipal and county governments are biting at the bit to replace the loss of revenue with traffic fine receipts. In the past, courts were shut down until they could set up temporary court rooms to conduct business. Our problem is the opposite, we have court rooms but can’t bring in the people. This isn’t a problem for those practitioners that operate remotely. So, for those courts that conduct deals directly over the phone or by email, nothing has changed. There is a movement to use zoom and skype for hearings. I don’t see this working with volume court management.
The change with the pandemic crises is with those courts still requiring face to face in court contact. Face to face will be necessary in those courts where clients can get their cases dismissed without taking a driving course, or deferred disposition. Most clients don’t want to pay extra for local tickets. Telling a client to take a driving course or deferred without trying to fight the ticket is like asking them not to be your client. These clients need to see the dance in order to appreciate the value of our services.
Commercial drivers in most State have no option other than to contest their cases. CDL drivers are plagued with federal antimasking laws. It’s getting harder and harder to accommodate Truck drivers. I find myself spending more time and capital on dealing with these cases. But there is a silver lining here too.
So, what is the solution to the great tsunami of work on pending cases heading our way when the Corona virus cloud lifts? It’s network, network and network. If you have an existing network of attorneys to cover cases, then get with them now. The double and triple dockets are coming in 60 or 90 days. You will need every staff person you had before the pandemic and more. The calvary is on the way and waiving the Paycheck Protection Program banner. Go to the Small Business Administration website at https://covid19relief.sba.gov/#/. Or contact your bank and apply for that loan today. There is a provision for a $10K advance toward business expenses and payroll. Once the loans are approved you will get funding to keep your staff. And these loans are forgivable once you provide proof of payment for payroll.
Also, CDL tickets will be written once the blitz is declared. The reduced number of referral attorneys will provide opportunity for new attorneys that need to work. Take this time to review all of your files after you reset all your current cases. This is the time to go completely paperless and eliminate paper files and court notices. Systems like Mycase and Clio provide court notices to clients by text and email. Pull any files that haven’t had a recent court date and resolve and close. This is a time to clean your house and prepare for a time of great prosperity. Keep the faith. We are in this together.