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The Scottish Courts have moved online during the COVID-19 pandemic: What does this mean for personal injury claims?

Since March this year the Friends Legal team, like much of the country, has been working from home.

And with the courts initially closed for all but urgent business, we have focused our efforts on progressing our clients’ claims without the need for a hearing.Our ethos has always been to negotiate claims early, to reduce stress, and ensure that our clients are properly compensated for the losses that they have sustained. During the peak of the pandemic, we worked with insurers and their solicitors to ensure that we could resolve claims with as little disruption to our clients as possible. Where we could not, we made sure that their interests were not compromised by the lack of court time available. Through membership of national organisations such as the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, we signed up to best practice agreements that furthered our clients’ interests. As court restrictions lessened, we embraced moving claims forward through virtual or remote hearings.

Courts in Lockdown: What was happening?

In the early stages, the Scottish courts sought to take advantage of technology to ensure they did not grind to a complete halt. Through the use of electronic documents and telephone conferencing, both the appellate courts were kept open. Any hearings that involved witnesses, however, were immediately paused. Over the last five months, the courts have been moving progressively to virtual working, and they are now all set up to hear cases through video conferencing systems. This means that although there can be no civil jury trials yet, all other hearings involving witness evidence can, and are, proceeding where appropriate.
Indeed, the first multiple-day evidential civil hearing took place in the Court of Session on 18th June 2020, involving eight witnesses in different locations. The lower courts have been a little slower to introduce similar measures. However, evidence hearings began to take place via video conferencing from 3rd August 2020.

What now?: Respond, Recover, Renew

Now we are easing out of lockdown many of us are looking forward to life returning to normal. For the Scottish courts, however, this means a continued drive to embrace the virtual world.
The body responsible for organising the courts in Scotland has recently published their roadmap for the future. For personal injury claims, that map is clear – the majority of these cases will continue to be conducted remotely. For the Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service this represents an opportunity to fulfil its long-stated ambition to use digital means to reduce the pressure on courts and increase access to justice.

Virtual Hearings: What this means for you.

New hearing dates

If you had your court hearing cancelled at the beginning of lockdown, this should have been, or will shortly be, rearranged. New hearings for cases are also now being fixed. Hearings are likely to be arranged for early next year. In anticipation of this, we will consider your case and its suitability for a hearing conducted online.

New Technology

New rules and practices are developing to ensure that these hearings are conducted smoothly and fairly. We will need to find out from you whether you have access to the technology you will need to enable you to participate. We will also be making these checks with all your witnesses. If you, or a witness, does not have the required technology, or a good enough broadband connection, we will either make alternative arrangements or inform the court that your case is not suitable for a remote hearing. We will do everything we can to avoid your case being postponed further.

New Practices

In the lead up to a case, you will be sent any documents that you might be asked to look at while giving evidence. These will arrive in a sealed container and must not be opened until your hearing. You will need to provide an undertaking to the court that you have complied with this requirement. All contact with others either in person or via a device, while you are giving evidence, is also strictly prohibited. We will, however, be able to speak with you before and after to answer any questions you may have.

Your Friend in Adversity

Through this pandemic, we believe that you need players on your team who are both experienced but not afraid of change. Friends Legal is built by people who have the flexibility to thrive in these changing times and positively embrace technology – building it into our everyday practices. Switching seamlessly to home working in the early stages, we are now focused on adapting our practices to the ‘new normal’ to put our clients in the best position to succeed. In the long term, remote hearings provide an opportunity for all to access the judicial system quickly and efficiently. By reaching resolutions faster; stress is reduced, compensation is paid, and your life put back on track.

Contact Us

If you have any questions about how to process your injury claim during the coronavirus pandemic, then please get in touch with one of our team. We’re here to help.
From the minute you contact our team, we start working hard for you. We have years of experience in dealing with insurers and will fight to get you the maximum compensation you are owed. To get started with your claim today, contact us today by calling 0333 3580 583 or complete our online enquiry form and a member of our dedicated team will get back to you right away.

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