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Remote Hearings Begin in Ireland, with Personal Injury Cases

Consideration was given for the editing and publication of this post.

The Coronavirus pandemic has moved a lot of things online, some of which had been planning a transition for quite some time. The virus has been a motivator for businesses to make operations remote, saving overhead costs and travel time. It isn’t only businesses who are forced to look at the world in a new way, it is also government entities like the courts that have to look at how they can make their operations safer. Courts in Ireland have begun remote hearings. After a considerable time planning the transition the pandemic has accelerated the process significantly. One of the topics that courts have covered in remote court hearings are personal injury cases.

Remote Cases in Ireland

The Irish courts have been developing the means to conduct remote hearings over the last few years , but it wasn’t truly put into practice until the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the past weeks, there has been a drastic shift to hold hearings remotely. The infrastructure was up and running in April, which was confirmed by the Chief Justice and the Presidents of all Jurisdictions of the Courts. With the technology in place, the courts have begun conducting their first remote hearings in Irish courtrooms.

How it Works

Remote hearings operate using a video streaming app, with a “statement of case” implemented prior to these remote trials that is issued by the Judges presiding over the case between 10-14 days before the hearing date. This sets out the court’s understanding of the facts and the relevant findings of the courts will be dealt with the case. Any issues that arise on the appeal and positions of those issues as well as where the Court is unclear on any of the matters involved. The courts are hoping that this process will lead to more clarifications. It will most likely mean that substantive appeals may not go ahead for a few weeks to allow statements of case to be prepared.

Personal Injury Cases

According to McGinley, a law firm that focuses on personal injury claims, the first personal injury case had its remote hearing in April. The High Court looked at an ongoing case relating to alleged cancer misdiagnosis. The plaintiff Siobhan Freeney claims that when she got a mammogram in February, she should have been referred to further testing for cancer and subsequent treatment. Justice Niamh Hyland presided over Court 29 in the Four Courts to hear the submissions.

Freeney, a mother of two, attended a mobile BreastCheck clinic in 2015 . She claims that her mammogram was misread, that the clinic should have been highly suspicious for cancer, and that she should have received further treatment. The argument is that she could have been diagnosed six months earlier and gotten ahead of her diagnosis. Freeney’s representation said that had her cancer been detected in 2015, she would not have had to go through radiotherapy or chemotherapy.

While remote hearings are beneficial to personal injury cases, speeding up the process and saving both time and travel efforts, it is also a possibility that personal injuries may make it more difficult to analyze over the internet. Since the transition process has just begun, it will lead to more efficiency and productivity when it comes to court proceedings. It won’t be a straight line of progress, but it will undoubtedly speed up the process.

Spurring Changes

COVID-19 and the lockdowns that have resulted have been a catalyst for overdue reforms in the courts, and going remote is just one of those changes. Courts aren’t the only operational entity that is changing, businesses are going remote and allowing their employees to work from home. Meetings and interviews are being conducted online. The world is changing, and it will continue to change. The courts are one thing that has been facilitated and accelerated by the virus as well as the measures in place to mitigate its spread. The virus isn’t going away just yet, and the transitions into remote and virtual options for operations we used to conduct in person are continuing to shift. However you look at it, COVID-19 is changing the way we live and accelerating long awaited changes to the court system and other areas of our government and our lifestyle.

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