Lessons learned from remote personal injury hearings in Ireland

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.

Accidents at work when at home, who is liable?

The coronavirus crisis has seen more and more of us are working from home. This raises the interesting question of what happens if you have an accident at work while at home, what duties do employers have and who would be liable if you have an accident?

What are an employer’s duties?

Employers have a duty to ensure their employees’ health and safety is protected. This applies to whether you are working on a building site, in the office or at home. However, when working from home your employer’s responsibility would be limited due to the lack of control they have over your home.

The level of your employer’s duty would largely depend on the type of work you are carrying out. An employer would have to carry out a risk assessment and consider whether the type of work carried out would be suitable to be carried out at home, such as is there enough space and would there be a risk of an employee tripping over? The employer also has a duty to provide the correct equipment that is in good working order and ensure it is maintained.

What about an employee’s duties?

People working at home should also carry out their own assessment of their home. All employees have a duty to take reasonable care of their own health and safety and must report any employment-related hazards to their employer. Your employer should inform you of their health and safety policies and then it is incumbent on you to ensure those policies are applied correctly.

If you have an accident at work whilst working from home would an employer be liable?

As you have control over your home you would have a large degree of responsibility to look after your own safety. The main thing that employers are responsible in this scenario is to ensure that you have the tools and skills to do the job and that they maintain that equipment.

Consequently, if you were to suffer an accident at home then your employer would probably only be liable if they did not give the proper training or equipment provided was not maintained properly. The employer would only generally be responsible if the accident was due to their negligence meaning that they failed to take reasonable care for your safety.

How to cope with a brain injury

Suffering a brain injury can be one of the most debilitating things that can happen to a person, whether this be because of an accident, blow to the head or medical negligence. Brain injuries can happen at any stage of your life and can have a devastating impact on yourself or those who may have to care for you. We spoke to leading medical negligence legal firm First4Lawyers about what should you do if you have suffered a brain injury?

Seek support

There are a host of organisations that offer support to people who have suffered brain injuries or to the people who support sufferers. Charities like Headway and the Brain Injury Trust offer invaluable support to you and your family. In addition, you should ask your doctor or neurological team what therapies are available and would be suitable for yourself. It is important to talk about what you are going through with friends and family even if you are struggling to come up with the rights words. Make sure they know if you are struggling to communicate.

Adopt strategies to cope

If you suffer a brain injury you may find that you have developed memory problems. It can make a real difference if you adopt simple adaptations to your home. For example, you could label kitchen cupboards to help you remember what is in each one. Following a daily routine can help as well as setting reminders on your phone for daily events. It is not unusual for people who have suffered brain injuries to get frustrated and lose their temper. If you do, try find a technique to calm you down, such as removing yourself from the situation and going into another room.

Make sure your employer knows

Your employer has a duty to support you if you have suffered a brain injury. If they aren’t aware of what has happened to you then they may think you are slacking or a troublemaker. It’s a good idea to seek the advice of the Citizens’ Advice Bureau or ACAS to find out what reasonable adjustments can be made for you that may help you cope.

Be realistic about what you can achieve

Fatigue is common after a person suffers a brain injury and you may find that you aren’t able to do as much as you did beforehand. As a result, set achievable targets for each day and ensure you have time in your schedule to relax. Don’t be hard on yourself if you get tired more easily than before your injury and if you need to have a sleep during the day, have one.

Additionally, if you suffered your brain injury as a result of medical negligence you may want to consult a specialist lawyer as you might be entitled to compensation.

While suffering a brain injury can be extremely difficult to deal with, if you follow these steps it will help you cope.





Making a personal injury claim during the pandemic

Suffering a life-changing injury can be devastating for the individual involved and those around them. Many situations, where the victim suffered their injury as result of somebody else’s negligence, will often result in them making a personal injury claim. This can be to cover the victim’s loss of earnings, compensate for the injury suffered and ensure they get the care they need in the future.

But with the coronavirus pandemic still affecting all of our lives there were fears that personal injury claims may not progress. However, a recent announcement by the Association of Consumer Support Organisations (ACSO) revealed that law firms, insurers and key suppliers have agreed to continue progressing claims despite the health crisis. Importantly, this means that there is nothing to stop people from bringing a new personal injury claim or an existing claim from progressing.

The agreement between ACSO and the Association of British Insurers allows for temporary measures to ensure claims are still possible despite social distancing measures.

It allows for personal injury medical examinations, which are usually carried out in person, to be undertaken via video. Some claims for rehabilitation, both physiotherapy and psychotherapy, can be carried out remotely.

Medco – which oversees whiplash reporting – already allows video consultations, but this agreement has extended this to other types of personal injury case.

While this is only a temporary measure, it does mean that personal injury claims can continue to progress while social distancing measures are in place.

So, what should you do if you want to bring a personal injury claim? All of the rules that are in place for personal injury claims remain the same and there is nothing to stop people from making a claim. One of the most important things to remember is that there is a three-year time limit to making a claim. People are allowed to bring claims for personal injuries suffered before the pandemic.

While it may not be possible to meet legal representatives in person during the health crisis, lawyers are still working and can be talked to over the phone or virtually. All documentation can be shared electronically to keep the touching of physical paperwork to a minimum. Claims can still go to court during the pandemic through ‘virtual’ courts and joint settlement meetings, where settlements are agreed, are still taking place.

While coronavirus has affected the way we all live it has not stopped the wheels of justice from turning. As a result, there are no barriers from individuals making new personal injury claims or from existing ongoing claims from being progressed or resolved.

What should I do if I’m worried about accidents at work during the coronavirus crisis?

The pandemic has seen many workers across the UK working from home to help maintain social distancing rules. But as lockdown restrictions are eased more and more of us are being asked to return to the workplace. It is understandable that some people may be concerned for their safety and that accidents at work could happen when they return.

Accident at work specialists, First4Lawyers say if you are concerned about this the first thing to remember is that it is the duty of your employer to put safety measures in place to protect their employees and ensure accidents at work do not occur. In fact, business owners have been warned by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) that they could be prosecuted if they don’t stick to safety rules.

As a result, you have the right to report your employer to the HSE if you feel unsafe and think there is a chance that accidents at work could occur. The HSE has the power to inspect workplaces and order them to take immediate action. In really extreme cases they can even ban certain activities if there is a risk of serious injury. Failing to comply with the rules is a criminal offence so your employer could face prosecution.

So, what should you do if you feel that there is a risk of accidents at work? Although it is possible to report your employer to the HSE, the first step should be to approach your boss informally to raise your concerns. Don’t be afraid to ask them to provide their response in writing to you. Always remember, your employer has a duty of care to protect you at work.

If you don’t get the response you would have hoped for you can raise a formal grievance or go to the HSE. Many would ask if they have a right to refuse to work if you feel unsafe? The answer is that you do. The law states that you have the right to refuse to attend, or leave if you have just arrived. The law protects you when it comes to your safety and states that you should not receive any unfair treatment as a result.

While returning to work in the current climate is understandably stressful it is important to remember that your safety is protected by law. Don’t be afraid to speak up, as doing so could prevent you or one of your colleagues from being involved in an accident at work.


Accidents at work: what are your rights?

Accidents happen, but it a perfectly reasonable assumption for employees to expect that their workplaces will be safe. After all, it is an employer’s duty to protect the health, safety and welfare of their employees.

Yet the most recent Government statistics from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) looking at accidents at work show that workplaces can be dangerous places:

  • 6 million workers sustained a non-fatal injury in 2018/19
  • 69,208 non-fatal injuries to employees reported by employers in 2018/19
  • 147 fatal injuries to workers in 2018/19
  • 2 billion is the annual cost of workplace injury in 2017/18
  • 2 million working days lost to work-related ill health and non-fatal workplace injuries in 2018/19

Your employer must:

  • tell you how to do your job safely in a way that you can understand, and tell you about the risks to your health and safety from current or proposed working practices;
  • tell you how any risks will be controlled and who is responsible for this;
  • consult and work with health and safety representatives and employees to protect everyone from harm in the workplace;
  • tell you how to get first-aid treatment and what to do in an emergency;
  • provide, free of charge, training to enable you to do your job safely;
  • provide any equipment and protection necessary for you at work (such as clothing, shoes or boots, eye and ear protection, gloves, masks etc) and ensure it is properly looked after;
  • provide health checks if there is a danger of ill health because of your work;
  • provide regular health checks if you work nights and a check before you start.

Your employer must also display or make available the following information:

  • the health and safety law poster (www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/books/lawposter.htm), which must be displayed in a prominent place, or as an alternative, they can provide each worker with a copy of the equivalent pocket card. This should give the contact details of people who can help;
  • a copy of their health and safety policy statement;
  • an up-to-date Employers’ Liability (Compulsory Insurance) certificate (www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/hse40.htm) visible in your place of work

Of course, it’s not all one-way traffic and employers have certain responsibilities too, aimed at minimising the risk of any accidents at work. Employees must be sure to cooperate fully with their employers and colleagues to help everyone meet their legal requirements.

As an employee you must:

  • Follow the training you have received when using any work items your employer has given you.
  • Take reasonable care of your own and other people’s health and safety.
  • Co-operate with your employer on health and safety.
  • Tell someone (your employer, supervisor, or health and safety representative) if you think the work or inadequate precautions are putting anyone’s health and safety at serious risk.

If in doubt, or if you have any concerns, then you should talk to your employer. If after doing so you are still concerned, then contact the HSE for advice.

Should lawyers consider MBA degrees?

The two educational qualifications, Master of Business Administration (MBA) and Bachelor of Legislative Law (LLB) seem so unrelated from the outset, but in today’s world, they have almost become inseparable from each other as mutually supportive disciplines. What this means is that lawyers do have a lot to gain from completing an MBA, but whether they choose to do so or not should depend primarily on their own career prerogatives and aspirations.

For those that are interested in finding out more about why lawyers should consider completing their MBAs, the following brief pointers should help shed some more light on the matter.

Law firms need lawyers with MBAs

Perhaps the simplest and the most valid reason of them all is the fact that all top law firms actually need lawyers with MBA degrees. This means that if you are a lawyer looking to grab a lucrative position in a top firm, or in your current one, your chances will increase if you have an MBA to back up your LLB/LLM qualifications. To understand why that is indeed true, check out this link to Aston University which discusses exactly how beneficial an MBA degree can be today in any industry.

A law firm is a business first, and just like every other business across all industries in general, businesses need to grow sustainably and intelligently in order to stay relevant. However, given the legal nature of law firms, it would be difficult for a regular entrepreneur without intricate knowledge about legal jurisdictions of the UK to make it happen.

On the other hand, even a veteran lawyer of significant repute will find it increasingly difficult to manage all major and minor business aspects of the firm without possessing a solid background in business education and sufficient experience. It shouldn’t be too difficult now to notice why law degrees and MBAs were cited as mutually supportive professional qualifications in the beginning. Those that run law firms need MBA lawyers on their payrolls to help them expand their firm’s business strategically and sustainably, so if you are an MBA, LLB/LLM, you are more likely to enjoy better employability rates, higher pay grades and increased job security.

Understanding business intricately is a necessity for corporate lawyers

Let’s break down the job description of corporate lawyers here first:

  • Evaluating and suggesting in regard to present and potential business partnerships
  • Preparation and drafting of contracts, agreements, and other legal documents
  • Designing and drafting of company policies
  • Analysing, predicting and protecting the clients against legal loopholes and possible violations
  • Guiding with legal compliance and managing violations of compliance, if and when they occur
  • Carrying out business negotiations on behalf of their clients
  • Helping small businesses manage better and grow sustainably

These are just a few broad categories under which the responsibilities of a corporate lawyer can be placed, but they are not even close to being the full list of responsibilities by any means. Moreover, brand new ones will constantly emerge in accordance with the situation at hand, giving them a dynamic nature.

As should be easy to imagine, unless a lawyer or practicing attorney has a complete and clear understanding of how business works in intricate details, they just simply cannot be corporate lawyers. Therefore, if you choose to pursue a career in corporate law, which is the highest paid section of the legal profession, having an MBA on your resume can be considered almost a necessity. Do understand that Corporate Law itself is a course that will teach you the basics, but consider an MBA to be that advantage which you need to get ahead of the competition.

The professional advantage

Lawyers and stockbrokers are often considered to be some of the most competitive professionals, and that’s for good reason. There is competition in every field of work of course, but the law is where it all reaches a summit.

Landing and retaining clients, maintaining relationships with them, and helping them grow is no easy task, even for a talented legal professional. Mix in the competition in the field which is continuous, while often surpassing the borders of legal ethics, and we have a pressurised, hyper-competitive industry! Therefore, any advantage that a lawyer can have to get ahead of the curve should be pursued with intent. Given that the Master of Business Administration degree prepares all its students to face, counter and manage these exact facets of the industry, it once again feels like an obvious choice for anyone looking to pursue a career in corporate or business law.

New gaming regulations – a few considerations

For as long as we can remember, mankind has been entertaining himself in his free time in a whole variety of different ways. Fairly recently, however, how we spent our free time changed dramatically thanks to the invention of games consoles.

Ever since the days of Pong, Frogger, Space Invaders, and other classics, we’ve found ourselves spending more and more time and money on gaming. Thanks to the invention of the internet, however, we’ve gone one step further and have adopted online gaming.

Online gaming is generally a very good thing, as it allows children and adults, the opportunity to hop online, enjoy their favourite game, and play against opposition from all corners of the globe.

As beneficial as online gaming can be, though, there is also a dark side which is why new laws, rules, and regulations have been enforced, will be enforced, and may be coming into force in the near future.

Here are a few important things to know.

Age-rating systems

Remember how, years ago when you were a child, how seriously regulated age-ratings were for films and TV shows? Well, the powers that be want this type of seriousness to once more be a part of everyday living, especially when it comes to online gaming.

Certain game titles that you can purchase from supermarkets and games shops for example, have age-ratings and if you want to purchase them, you need to provide proof of your age. With online games, though, there are no enforced age-ratings and restrictions, and that is what experts want to change.

Experts are calling for legally enforceable age-rating systems to help ensure that children aren’t accidentally or intentionally, spending their parents’ money, or their own for that matter through the various places to bet online.

Clearer warnings

Another potential new regulation would be for online games to have explicit warnings that ‘in-game spending’ is involved with certain titles.

This would help to ensure that parents are fully aware that online games do indeed have in-game spending which would then ensure that they took necessary measures to help prevent their children spending money without asking, even if it simply means a firm talking to beforehand.

Digital citizenship programs

Another suggestion is that schools and places of education hold digital citizenship classes which would basically help to teach children about the potential dangers associated with online gaming, as well as helping to teach them how to conduct themselves online.

Experts are calling for more education with regards to the potential risks and dangers associated with online gaming, and so far, this looks like a very strong possibly. This is especially true due to the fact that in-school workshops on this very subject, are now being run up and down the country.

Detailed spending tracking

Finally, another possibility would be for games to include a detailed report which would track exactly how much players have spent (if anything) and on what. On top of that, people are calling for a maximum daily spend limit, which would help to provide parents with peace of mind.

Optician negligence and the effect on your eyesight

Your eyes are one of your most important organs. When they’re damaged, you can suffer severe consequences.

If the damage was the result of negligence on the part of an optician or optometrist, it is perhaps even more devastating than if it was the result of illness or an accident.

When this type of medical negligence affects you, it’s a frightening time. You may not know how you might end up affected in the long term or what the legalities surrounding such an experience are.

How could you experience harm by an optician?

Visits to the optician are meant to be simple and painless. You’re supposed to just get your vision checked and to have any visual aids upgraded or altered. For a typical visitor to an optician, it shouldn’t involve anything more taxing than this.

However, this isn’t always the case for everyone. There are occasions when things go wrong and you end up suffering physical harm from the negligence your optician has shown. This could be the result of a misdiagnosis of an eye condition, which is then left to deteriorate, therefore causing you to suffer more harm to your vision.

You might also receive the wrong prescription for your glasses’ lenses, which can have a degenerative effect on your vision. Delayed diagnosis and treatment is another concern. If your optician or optometrist does notice that you’re suffering from an eye condition, but doesn’t act swiftly enough, you could suffer from irreversible sight damage.

The effect on your sight and life

After an experience such as this, you could suffer from any number of physical and psychological symptoms. It is important to recognise what you could find yourself going through so you know what your optician may have caused.

You could find yourself suffering from blurred vision or a decrease in sharpness. You may experience double vision, which could result in trouble reading or viewing certain forms of content. Problems with your eyesight can also cause significant headaches and migraines, as well as neck and shoulder pain.

The worst symptom resulting from substandard optical treatment, however, is partial or full loss of vision. This could be irreversible, so it’s vital to take action as soon as you notice any changes to your sight.

These physical symptoms can have a resulting impact on your mental and emotional health. You might find that you become more anxious and nervous about leaving the house if you can’t see as well as you once did. This could result in a drop in confidence and self-esteem.

You could also find yourself suffering from depression, which could then impact on your family life. Your relationships with your loved ones could become strained and difficult to manage.

Meanwhile, if you are struggling to see properly, you could find that you can no longer drive. This could have an impact on your work, if you’re no longer able to get there or carry out necessary duties behind the wheel. This can have real financial implications.

Your quality of life can be affected in so many ways after suffering from vision damage. It just emphasises how important proper optical treatment is.

If you have not received this level of care, you can take legal action. Optician negligence is something to take seriously. It has far-reaching and long-term consequences, so don’t assume there is nothing you can do about it.

Image copyright: PHOTOCREO Michal Bednarek

What to do after a faulty product injury?

When a product – whether new or old – causes you a personal injury, you might understandably be confused about how it was allowed to happen.

The UK was recently made aware of just how dangerous faulty products can be. When the new year began, Whirlpool began a nationwide recall of washing machines that had been found to be a fire risk.

This is a particularly worrying form of product fault as it can cause physical harm as well as potentially completely destroy a property and all possessions inside it.

So if you’ve been the victim of a faulty or defective product accident, what should you do?

Injuries after these accidents

As there are so many ways a product can malfunction, there are many ways you might be injured in such an accident.

The types of injury you might suffer include:

  • Electrical shocks or burns from defective electronic items
  • Rashes or scratches from fabrics, including furniture
  • Faulty prosthetics and hip replacements that break easily
  • Skin irritations or rashes from faulty cosmetics
  • Falls or other injuries from defective sporting equipment, such as treadmills
  • Injuries from defects in cars, such as faulty brakes
  • Illness caused by contaminated or poisoned food

Who is responsible?

In the majority of cases, the responsibility for a faulty product injury lies with the manufacturer. They are responsible for ensuring that every item they produce works effectively and safely. If they have not done so and a product is then found to cause harm to a person or to their property, this could show neglect on the part of the manufacturer.

If they do discover that one of their products has a fault, manufacturers are legally required to notify consumers of it, as well as recall any items that have been sold. Therefore, if a manufacturer does not issue a recall, despite being aware of an existing fault, they could be liable for any damage and harm caused.

In some cases, you may be required to prove that your item caused an injury. This is particularly true when something has only revealed itself to be faulty after six months or more. You will have to show that it was not misuse or accidental damage that caused the fault.

What to do

If you’ve been the victim of a defective item injury, you could find yourself out of pocket. This could be the result of damage caused to your other property, including clothing, as well as the medical treatment you may need. And in many cases, this can run up large bills, particularly if you need private or ongoing treatment to recover.

The Consumer Protection Act 1987 allows people who have suffered an injury as a result of a defective item to recover compensation. This can cover the suffering you experienced through sustaining an injury and any other losses you sustain, such as replacing or repairing damaged property.

This is why it is important to keep any receipts from purchases you make. This can help to form the evidence for any legal action you take against the manufacturer responsible. Keep any other documentation that comes with the product. This can help to prove that the manufacturer did not make you aware of any fault.

As soon as you discover the fault, it is important to report it to both the manufacturer and retailer. The length of time you have owned the product will dictate their course of action – whether that’s a refund or a replacement.

However, if they do not acknowledge your complaint or refuse to accept their liability, this could mean that it’s time to seek out the services of a qualified personal injury solicitor.

Image copyright: Markik