The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has impacted just about every aspect of our lives, including in ways people concerned about food and toilet paper may not have realized; the legal system, something the average person may not have a use for on a daily basis, has also encountered numerous temporarily changes to procedure due to COVID-19, and this article will do it’s best to lay them out in case this information is needed.
No matter what, in our society the legal system must continue forth in some manner. However, many necessary changes have been implemented in order to slow and eventually halt the spread of the conroavirus. Court house access has been greatly curtailed, with many pending court dates and trials postponed to later dates; if you have one scheduled for the near future, it’s very possible that it will end up being delayed. In addition, other legal proceedings that normally take place outside the setting of a courthouse have or will be postponed as well.
Hearings or depositions scheduled in April will most likely be adjourned to June or later. Your law firm should inform you of the newly rescheduled date once it has been made available. If it is two days before your scheduled court appearance and you have not heard from your law firm, it’s a good idea to call them and confirm if your case is still going forward on that date.
Insurance company physical examinations should be confirmed by calling the doctor’s office one day before the exam to confirm if the exam is still being carried out on that day, or if it has been postponed. Doctor’s officesand medical facilities such as hospitals are considered “essential” services by the government and are permitted to remain open, but more pressing medical cases may end up causing exams for insurance purposes to be rescheduled with little-to-no notice. If your appointment is with a defense doctor – also called a Defense Physical or “Independent” Medical Examination or“IME” – contact your lawyer’s office one day before and on the day of the exam to confirm it is still due to be carried out.
If you have a court appearance – be it a conference, court mediation or jury trial – it is likely that it will be delayed to June or later. Your lawyer should inform you of any scheduling changes in regards to any court appearance dates that you have during the course of the coronavirus pandemic. If you have not heard from your lawyer, you should call them the day before your court date to confirm if it is still taking place.
Mediations or arbitrations scheduled to be held in any non-courthouse setting will most likely be proceeding as planned, or at least conducted via a phone call. Again, you should call your lawyer’s office the day before to confirm that the mediation or arbitration is still taking place as scheduled.
Do not come to your attorney’s office without an appointment, as staffing will likely be minimized and some associates and staff will be working remotely from home to satisfy New York State and local municipality guidelines. Also, do not visit your attorney’s office if you have been exhibiting symptoms related to coronavirus or have visited a region where coronavirus is present, or if you are under official orders to quarantine yourself. If you must travel to a lawyer’s office for any appointment, be sure to avoid using public transportation such as trains or busses to minimize exposure, and if possible conduct any business by phone and send any papers or documents via email or the postal service.
By adhering to this advice, you are doing your part to keep yourself and others safe while helping to prevent the spread of the coronavirus; this will help us all get through this emergency crisis faster and will enable life as normal to return all the sooner.