Quarantines and social distancing may help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, but these measures can’t prevent all accidents and injuries. If you’ve been hurt in an auto accident, suffered a dog attack, or sustained other injuries because of someone else’s negligence, you may wonder how to pursue a personal injury case when the courts are closed and stay-at-home orders remain in effect.
While limitations on travel and reduced in-person communication have changed some aspects of the process, it is still possible to bring a new case or pursue an ongoing cause of action for personal injury damages in Michigan.
Technology Keeps the Legal System Running
Although in-person meetings with legal counsel and court hearings may be restricted now, Sommers Schwartz and the courts are taking advantage of technological innovations to communicate. Several video-chat programs are simple to use on a computer, smartphone, or tablet, all of which offer security features to protect the confidentiality of your communications. You may also have consultations via telephone or exchange information by email.
In Michigan, nearly all cases can be filed through the online MiFILE system. This portal allows lawyers to electronically file documents in any Michigan court, 24 hours a day, without ever visiting a courthouse. The system not only enables parties to open cases, file pleadings, and securely serve one another as required by the Michigan Court Rules, but it also notifies the parties when documents are electronically filed.
As cases progress, courts are experimenting with options to hold hearings telephonically and through video chat programs. At some point, it may even be possible to conduct arbitrations, mediations, or trials remotely. These options could help cases progress more efficiently than before.
How Safety Procedures May Impact Your Case
If not closed, many law offices and courthouses have reduced hours and staff, which means procedures may be different or some resources may be limited. Online applications and remote working can help keep cases moving forward, allowing lawyers to meet with clients, prepare pleadings and motions, and conduct discovery. Some things may be impossible to do virtually, such as site inspections or product testing, and may be delayed until experts or labs resume operations.
Because of these complications, some aspects of pursuing a personal injury case may take longer than usual. Your lawyer can discuss the expected timeline of your particular case with you and keep you updated on the status, including any deadlines or scheduling issues affected by public health restrictions.
Although shelter-in-place orders may force you to wait to attend outside events and public activities, you should not wait to consult an attorney if you’ve been injured. Michigan law gives an injured person a short window of time to sue. Talk to a lawyer now to preserve your rights and recover the compensation you deserve.