With the current restrictions put in place by the federal, state, and local governments, it can often feel like the entire world is put on hold.
In accordance with those restrictions or guidelines, and in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, many courthouses are pushing hearings and trial a few months down the road when possible. With all of those changes, it is natural to wonder: how will this affect my lawsuit?
Each court has put in place its own guidelines, and each case may be affected different depending on what stage of the litigation process it is at.
So, it is important to have good communication with your attorney about how the current health crisis affects your individual case. But, on a more general level, the coronavirus does not necessarily affect the general progression of your lawsuit.
A large percentage of what happens during a lawsuit does not take place at the courthouse.
Also, a large portion of what takes place with a lawsuit does not “need to” involve being in the same room with another human. Both Nebraska and Iowa (as I am sure is the case with a lot of other jurisdictions) have electronic filing of court documents, which allows attorneys to submit almost everything to the court without going to the courthouse or even getting out of their pajamas.
Without being in the same room as another human, I can (among other things) draft the initial documents for a new lawsuit; file the lawsuit; submit to have the defendant served; draft and submit discovery requests; discuss settlement with opposing counsel; file motions; etc. As a result, this pandemic does not have to have an appreciable impact on the timing of those portions of the lawsuit.
One area that could be impacted by social distancing is depositions.
Typically, for a deposition there are four or more people in a conference room, asking questions for sometimes a considerable amount of time. That may make some people nervous or may be banned in some areas or circumstances. However, that is not the only way a deposition can be done. While not always the most convenient, depositions can be done on a conference call or video chat.
Another aspect of litigation that could be impacted due to current restrictions is hearings/trial.
At times, a hearing with the court may be needed during a case. Or, if a case does not settle it will eventually need to go to trial. When possible, courts are continuing hearings and trials several months down the road, in hopes that things will get better. The courts do not want twelve jurors sitting elbow-to-elbow for hours, and then deliberating in a small jury room together. However, depending on the nature of the hearing, many courts are still allowing hearings to proceed via audio or video conference with the court.
If you have a potential lawsuit, you might not need to wait for the outbreak to have ended before beginning your lawsuit. If you currently have an active lawsuit, this outbreak might not slow it down too much. Call the experienced attorneys at the Goosmann Law Firm, PLC, in our Omaha, Sioux City, or Sioux Falls offices to discuss how your case may be impacted and what options are available to keep the process moving.