It’s 2020… We no longer record evidence using quill and ink.
—Mr. Justice F.L. Myers, Ontario Superior Court of Justice
Time to take that paper trail into cyberspace. Justice Myers had some strong thoughts recently on the new reality of virtual communications that the field of law has now entered in the pandemic age. He continued:
“We now have the technological ability to communicate remotely effectively. Using it is more efficient and far less costly than personal attendance. We should not be going back.”
Justice Myers is not alone in this belief. In an online chat with the Advocates Society, Ontario Chief Justice Geoffrey B. Morawetz said: “If there is one positive that’s going to come out of this crisis, it’s that we have been forced, and the ministry has been forced, to accelerate its plans and to move into electronic hearings and also into electronic filings… We cannot go back.”
So what does this ride on the virtual train mean for personal injury lawyers, and for your case? In almost all instances: a speedier and more efficient path to justice. And that’s always a good journey for the plaintiff.
Remote access to justice
As the coronavirus crisis continues to put a stranglehold on nearly every aspect of our lives in Ontario, justice must continue to be served. Court closures and the suspension of jury trials, due to the pandemic, have further contributed to an access to justice crisis in our province, as the backlog for trials has grown exponentially.
This has all brought on an increased pressure to modernize court systems to accommodate this remote technology. This has led to the reality of virtual court hearings, and it’s apparent that many are hopping on board. Judges and lawyers alike are becoming comfortable with the use of virtual Zoom hearings, and many other new remote technologies:
- Court secure portals where a statement of claim can be filed digitally
- Document signing can now be witnessed virtually
- Remote-based discoveries and mediations are now commonplace
- ‘Caselines’: There is an effort to introduce this cloud-based system to assist with document filing for use at hearings
The greatest benefit of remote court proceedings and these associated technologies will almost always be for the plaintiffs, and none more so than the personal injury victim in dire need of compensation to help them address medical stressors, rehab bills, other therapy, and simply their new normal. The inordinate delay of waiting for an in-person jury trial date can cause significant financial hardship and suffering.
Still not remotely onboard?
Arguments against using virtual proceedings include:
- A client’s desire to be with counsel to assist with documents
- The difficulty in assessing a witness’s credibility remotely
- Solemnity and personal chemistry could be lost remotely
- Risk of abuse – having another person or computer screen out of camera view
Justice Myers finds that many of these concerns can be resolved as litigators become more and more familiar with the technology. As for the risks of abuse, Justice Myers notes that cheating in court is not unheard of either, and warns, “Regulated professionals must maintain professional ethics and have their licenses at risk. I do not think an amorphous risk of abuse is a good basis to decline to use available technology.”
Yes, there will be some virtual speed bumps along the way, but the road ahead for remote court hearings ultimately means that personal injury cases can reach a much quicker resolution.
And it’s not just senior judges onboard. Lawyers who embrace this new tech are high-performers for their clients. “Using this remote technology has saved an incredible amount of time and has allowed us to move our cases forward through the system without further delay,” says Brian A. Horowitz, a personal injury lawyer with nearly 35 years’ experience.
“Zoom pre-trial conferences, motions and Civil Practice Court are now commonplace. Remote virtual trials are now underway in most jurisdictions and the feedback from counsel has been very positive. These proceedings are very efficient and one wonders if it will ever make sense to go back to the way it was. A system of in-person proceedings, for even the most routine matters, was unduly expensive and wasted so much time and valuable resources. It is truly exciting to be living the future of the civil justice system in Ontario.”
If you or a loved one have been seriously injured, call Horowitz Injury Law immediately for a free consultation — 416-925-4100. Even in a world of virtual technology, Brian A. Horowitz will ensure you get the compensation you deserve. And that’s the reality.