In response to the safety and practical challenges created by the coronavirus pandemic, the All-Scotland Sheriff Personal Injury Court (ASSPIC), as well as the Court of Session and Sheriff Appeal Court, are conducting hearings virtually where possible – and it is likely digital ways of working, to some extent, are here to stay.
If you are considering making a personal injury claim or have recently started the process, there is a good chance that if your case ends up with a court hearing, this will happen remotely. In this article, we explain how virtual personal injury hearings work, focusing on the ASSPIC’s current procedure.
For specialist legal advice and support with making a personal injury claim during COVID-19 and beyond, please do not hesitate to contact our experienced team.
If your hearing is to take place remotely, this will be done using WebEx (a video conferencing system). There will be several participants – including the sheriff, legal representatives for both sides and witnesses – who will be given the ability to speak or listen as appropriate by the host of the session (usually the sheriff clerk).
The court will send you and all other parties to the virtual hearing instructions on how to join and guidance on how the hearing will be conducted. We are here to answer any questions you have about the process, and we will support you throughout.
Limited internet connection, outdated technology and any other issues should be identified early as part of the assessment of whether a remote hearing is suitable or not. If a technical problem arises once a virtual hearing has started, the court can use its telephone conferencing system instead.
ASSPIC’s current position is that all proofs will be conducted remotely unless the court decides on the individual circumstances that it is unsuitable. A virtual hearing may not be appropriate if, for example:
If we believe for any reason your case is not suitable for a virtual hearing, we will ensure this is communicated to the court.
If a remote approach is unsuitable, other options include:
The best approach will depend on certain aspects of your claim and your own circumstances. We will advise you on which route is safest, most practical and is likely to secure the best possible outcome for you.
Medical examinations and reports are an essential component of personal injury cases. Under normal circumstances, these would take place in-person and involve a full physical assessment of your injury. The healthcare professional who conducts the examination prepares a report including their opinion on the severity of the injury and the impact it could have on your ability to work, as well as on other aspects of your life.
Social-distancing and self-isolation rules have meant that some, mainly urgent, medical examinations have been able to go ahead virtually. However, where this is not possible, your hearing is likely to be delayed to allow time for a face-to-face assessment to take place.
Using technology to improve the efficiency of Scotland’s court system has been on the agenda for a while, yet progress has been slow. This year, however, has seen significant and rapid changes made to digitalise court operations in response to the challenges posed by COVID-19.
The Lord President, Lord Carloway, Scotland’s most senior judge, is keen for the court system to embrace these changes in the longer term: “This is not the time for a defence of tradition…We have to seize the momentum and opportunity to respond to the particular challenge”.
Progress has been significant, and there are clear benefits technology offers to all those involved in personal injury cases. However, the experience so far has shown that not all claims will be suitable for digital means. The more complex the case is, the more difficult it is to have a virtual hearing. Further, it is important that the risks of remote hearings on the quality of justice, such as any improper influence of witnesses, are fully assessed and addressed if digital ways of working are to continue and expand.
Suffering an injury that was not your fault is confusing at any time but particularly right now. Our lawyers are here to advise and support you, and to remove any uncertainty you have about the claims process – whether virtual or conventional.
We understand there is much more to deal with following a personal injury than just the claims process. Our team can also guide you on accessing the right care and rehabilitation during the pandemic.
If we take your case, you will get 100% compensation with our no win no fee policy. We look forward to hearing from you and to helping you claim the maximum amount of money you deserve.