COVID-19 has moved a lot of things formerly that were formerly conducted in person onto the internet. While many transitional moves to the web were inevitable, it greatly accelerated the process. In Ireland, courts have been developing technology to facilitate hearings by making them remote. This process has been significantly changed by the pandemic and has made remote hearings an imperative in the last few weeks.
The infrastructure was under development to facilitate remote hearings, which was confirmed by the Chief Justice and the Presidents of all Jurisdictions of the Courts, who confirmed that this technology was in place in April. Mock trials will be conducted to determine the viability of remote courtrooms. The first remote hearing was conducted on April 20th for a case-management hearing related to a number of cases. In a statement to the Supreme Court, Justice Frank Clarke outline mock trials that have been conducted, which indicates that the courts are ready to gradually move towards conducting trials virtually.
How does it work?
Remote court hearings operate by using a video streaming app that enables the people involved in the court proceedings attending a court date online. Justice Frank Clarke suggested that issuing a statement of case that would be implemented prior to remote trials. Over the case some 10 to 14 days before the hearing, it will set out the court’s understanding of the facts. All of the relevant findings of the courts that deal with the case, the issues that arise, and where the court is unclear on any of these matters are deliberated beforehand.
While many hope that new clarity will come from preparing in advance and reduce the need for interventions from the court, this most likely means that substantive appeals will not go ahead for a few weeks to allow for the statements to be prepared. This delay is temporary, however. When the courts catch up and complete the transition process, it will likely move faster than ever.
How this will impact personal injury hearings
Since personal injuries are physical, it remains to be seen how these examinations of injuries will be dealt with in remote court. Still the first hearing for a personal injury was conducted remotely in April. The High Court took an ongoing case relating to an alleged cancer diagnosis. In this case, Justice Hyland presided over Court 29, which is a part of the Four Courts. The judge heard submissions from counsel on both sides of the case remotely. They spoke with Siobhan Freeney over a video link in the courtroom.
While this case was opened in February, the hearing lasted 12 days before the High Court. Siobhan Freeney claims that her mammogram taken in 2015 was read incorrectly. While Freeney alleges that the mammogram should have been studied more closely for signs of cancer, the clinic failed to do so. She also says that she should have been referred to someone for further assessment and whatever necessary treatment she needs for cancer.
Freeney was diagnosed with cancer six months after the mammogram. They found cancer in Freeney’s right breast. She claims that she should have been diagnosed earlier. She alleges that she was misdiagnosed, with an alleged failure to ensure any proper treatment. Her earlier claims were denied.
This reveals that past failures of the court can be looked at again and corrected. According to McGinley Law, a firm that focuses on personal injury claims, the time-saving ability or virtual and remote court proceedings. With more time, the courts can look at cases more thoroughly. However, it remains to be seen whether the lack of physical interaction will lead to people faking injuries in order to win a court case and obtain a settlement.
So much is changing in the wake of COVID-19. Many areas of life will be facilitated by making the inevitable move to remote and virtual operations, whether it’s in courtrooms, meetings, interviews, or something else. Other areas are hindered by it. People are out of work and have more time on their hands. This free time can be implemented in positive, encouraging ways while pursuing a safe, just, and productive transition into a world after Coronavirus. Personal injury court cases are just one of the areas that can be improved by remote hearings while walking the fine line that this new normal has created.