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How has COVID-19 Affected my Legal Case?

In times of crisis such as this, the first thing that people focus on is the security and welfare of themselves and their family. How do we protect our health and safety? How do I make sure that we continue to have a roof over our head and food on the table? These are, of course, the most important and essential questions that must be answered. Once these questions are addressed then people can start to think about the other important things in their lives.

For many people one of those things is their ongoing legal case. Whether you are fighting a criminal charge or litigating an important personal injury case, these matters don’t stop in times of crisis like the current pandemic our world is facing. The outcomes of these cases continue to have long-term ramifications to your life and the lives of those closest to you.

Even while travel restrictions and shelter-in-place orders continue to be in effect in cities and counties throughout the country, most courts continue to be open in some form or fashion.

Some important things to remember when thinking about your case:

Court Hearings and Trials are Still Proceeding

Currently, courts are not conducting jury trials or in-person hearings except for essential matters. However, that does not mean that nothing is happening with your case and that you do not need to “appear” for your court setting. There are hundreds of hearings happening in most counties everyday by remote means – such as Zoom – and for many of these hearings you may need to participate with your attorney. Your attorney should keep you informed of whether your participation is necessary and, if not, the results of any hearings held in your case.

Additionally, in both criminal and civil cases, jury trials are often scheduled several months in advance. This means that many people have cases with jury trial settings scheduled for the summer of 2020 or later. These trials remain scheduled and your attorneys are continuing to work and prepare your case for trial. The preexisting deadlines to subpoena witnesses, conduct depositions, respond to discovery requests, and file certain motions and documents remain in effect. Therefore, your attorney is continuing to work your case so that you remain ready for trial on the scheduled date. This preparation puts you in the best position to obtain justice at trial.

Active Participation in your Case Remains Important

Just like before this pandemic it remains important that you continue to maintain communication with your attorney. Failure to do so could have disastrous consequences to the outcome of your case. If you have a personal injury case, your attorney will still need you to timely provide documents and information in response to the other party’s discovery requests. Additionally, your attorney will need to be able to quickly reach you to review aspects of the case, as well as to discuss any possible settlement negotiations. If you have a criminal case, your attorney may need to discuss with you the videos and documents received from the district attorney and any plea offers received. Oftentimes, these plea offers can be time sensitive.

Your attorney is working on your behalf to get the best possible result in your case. You have entrusted the attorney to apply his or her legal knowledge and skill on your behalf, but your actions and assistance can sometimes be the difference maker.

Deadlines to File New Cases Remain in Place

Every civil case has a statute of limitations, which sets a strict deadline that a case must be filed before or else any claims related to the case are waived. With a few exceptions, these deadlines remain in place. If you believe you have a case that you would like to pursue it is imperative that you contact an attorney as soon as possible to discuss. Do not assume that this pandemic allows you additional time to pursue these claims. As always, there are numerous deadlines associated with any case and failure to understand and meet these deadlines can bar you from ever recovering on your claim.

Stay vigilant and stay safe. If you are unsure about anything, contact your attorney immediately.