ERNST & YOUNG
Let’s face it, we’re all stressed out by the enduring COVID-19 situation. From the government-imposed restrictions to the day-in-day-out fatalities, it’s just too much to bear. But we can’t explicitly blame the government for imposing the restrictions as they’re for our very safety.
Nonetheless, seeking essential services and going about our businesses haven’t been the same since the onset of the pandemic. There are new ways or banking, shopping, schooling, traveling, seeking legal redress, etc.
We’ve created a guide on what to expect if you pursue a medical malpractice claim during COVID-19 restrictions. We’ll discuss the pandemic’s impact on collecting and tabling evidence, attending legal proceedings, potential impacts on the timeline, and many more. So let’s fire away.
Court Proceedings During COVID-19
Presently, we’re at phase five of the Maryland Court Operations Reopening Plan, which began on October 5, 2020. This being the most advanced phase, it requires the following for successful implementation:
- Courts to begin holding jury trials. The District Court, Circuit Courts, Court of Special Appeals, and Court of Appeal are now fully operational.
- Full adherence to safety measures and social distancing guidelines
Safety and Social Distancing Directives
Medical malpractice victims filing for compensation are expected to adhere to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Maryland Department of Health (MDH) guidance. As per the agencies’ recommendations, before entering the court premises, you must:
- Respond to COVID-19 screening questions
- Put on a face mask appropriately
- Maintain social distancing
- Cooperate with court staff to check your temperature (non-contact)
After the assessment, if the officer in charge determines that you can’t enter the court, they will give you alternative ways of seeking justice. And if you fail to comply with the bare minimums above, the court officials are within their rights to deny you entrance or demand that you leave.
If you’re denied entrance due to failure to meet the requirements above, you may opt for remote proceedings.
There’s still room for change if you don’t feel comfortable with the remote hearing; you can immediately call the courthouse to express your feelings. Likewise, you may submit this form to ask the court to change your in-person hearing to a remote hearing.
It is important to note that even if a medical malpractice hearing gets conducted remotely through a telephone or video technology, the process is still similar to an ordinary proceeding. For instance, the court still has the same powers and expect participants to treat it as seriously as the in-person hearing.
The other defining factor of remote hearings is that they always start on time. Unlike the normal hearing where judges often allow lawyers to liaise with their clients before entering the courtroom, there’s no such thing in remote hearing.
If you’d like someone to support your claim during the medical malpractice remote hearing, you should inform the court in advance about:
- The case number
- Who the supporter is
- What their role or relationship is with you (fellow victim, relative, employer, friend, etc.)
- How the court can contact them (email or phone)
The reason for this is to allow the court to arrange for them to join the hearing, whether or not they are in the same location as you. Also, it will enable the judge to determine whether to allow them or not.
What if something comes up (during the hearing) that you’d like to communicate to your attorney or supporter privately? Usually, you’d simply whisper to your attorney inside the courtroom, but in a remote hearing, you can use Email, WhatsApp, phone call, or a separate video link to communicate privately.
Collection and Tabling of Evidence
Courts do not permit gatherings due to restrictions. Thus, prompting litigators to invent new ways of examining witnesses and collecting evidence. Courts have been forced to embrace virtual platforms like teleconferencing and videoconferencing.
In a medical malpractice claim, the witnesses, e.g., your employer, relatives, or close friend, need not come to the court premises to table their evidence. The witnesses can give their side of the story via videoconferencing platforms like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Bluejeans, or CiscoWebex.
Impacts on the Timeline
COVID-19 restrictions interfered with the following trial deadlines:
Rescheduling of Civil Trials to Begin After October 5
All civil trials, including personal injury, negligence, and malpractice that were previously suspended due to health risks, may resume beginning October 5, 2020, or later. This applies to trials that were scheduled to commence on or after March 16.
Conducting Pending Judicial Proceedings
If your medical malpractice proceeding was already underway before Coronavirus, you should be eligible for an extended hearing. Your hearing will take place for an additional 60 days upon resumption, and not the time that passed when the courts were closed, i.e., March 16–July 20.
Dismissals for Lack of Prosecution or Jurisdiction
Naturally, the court may dismiss a civil case because of a lack of prosecution (failure to take action within one year) or lack of jurisdiction (failure to serve the accused within a specified period). However, due to COVID-19 restrictions, the courts may recalculate when a medical malpractice case is eligible for dismissal. Bear in mind the modified deadlines above.
Learn More About Pursuing a Medical Malpractice Claim During COVID-19 Restrictions
The COVID-19 pandemic may have interfered with the regular court functioning, but that doesn’t prevent justice from prevailing. If you or your relative have suffered an injury due to gross negligence or willful misconduct or a health professional, don’t be afraid to pursue a medical malpractice claim.
And if you’re not sure where to begin or whether your case has grounds for a legal claim, you can seek help from a reliable medical malpractice attorney. At WM&W Law Firm, we construct our cases around unbeatable arguments while adhering to statutory and federal laws fully. Having recovered over $600 million in verdicts and settlements, you can rest assured we’re superb at what we do. Contact us today for help with your medical malpractice case.
Who Can You Trust with Your Case?
Have you or a loved one been injured due to negligence? We want to help. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you believe you have a case; time is an important factor. Interested in learning more? Get in touch with us so we can better evaluate and serve your needs in getting the justice your loved one deserves. You may very well be entitled to compensation.
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