Current State of Personal Injury Lawyer Litigation

Current State of Personal Injury Lawyer Litigation

As we (hopefully) ease out of the pandemic, I have been asked about the current state of the Court’s, trials, and personal injury litigation.

As I look back to March of 2020 through today, there is no doubt that the legal landscape has permanently changed, at least in some ways.

When Covid first started, there was obvious confusion. Most insurance defense lawyers started working from home. In-House counsel for Farmers Insurance, CSAA, etc., were mandated (like employees from many large companies were) to work from home. Many defense firms are still (E.G. Nationwide house-counsel) mandated to work from home, receive legal documents by e-mail as opposed to paper, etc.).

Early on there were concerns that insurance companies would use the closure/limited access to the Courts as an excuse to drag cases out and sit on them, while the injured victim suffered (Justice delayed is justice denied). To the contrary, at least in my practice, I have been pleasantly surprised that insurance companies seem to have tried to push cases along at a similar pre-pandemic speed. Perhaps the fact that most insurance professionals have been working from home as well has helped in a shared “We are all in this together”.

In the end, if a case cannot be resolved informally, your personal injury lawyers’ best tool is a trial. If the Courthouse is closed, we cannot get your case to trial. Thankfully, trials are resuming. For example, as I write this blog, I am aware of two trials currently happening in Sacramento on personal injury cases. One is being tried in front of a jury. The jurors are spread out and everyone wears a mask except when questioning or testifying. The trial is closed to the public, but broadcast on YouTube. The other trial is a court trial via zoom.

The big story (there are many) in personal injury cases post pandemic has been the advent of zoom and tech options such as docu-sign.

For example, at my office we tried (as most businesses did) to keep working on client’s cases and keep signing up new clients that needed help, while at the same time keeping clients safe, our employees safe and everyone socially distanced. Remote signing technology and zoom have been key to continuing to work. For example, I can meet with a new client via zoom, they can see me, talk to me and we stay safe. We can then sign a fee contract or other important document remotely.

Speaking of zoom, the zoom-deposition has changed things forever. I have been practicing law almost 30 years. I was taught that you must go and look at a witness, gage their credibility in person, and that you had to take depositions in person. This sometimes meant a 5 hour drive each way to take the deposition of a marginally important witness. The zoom-deposition allowed the taking of the same witness deposition without leaving the office. Post-pandemic, I think the practice of zoom-depositions will continue. In my practice, there will still be depositions that I prefer to do in person, but plan to utilize zoom for certain depositions even after California fully reopens. Of course, there can always be bad conduct. A large defense law-firm was recently caught texting the answer they wanted their witness to say in a zoom deposition (where a phone or other “cheat device” can be accessed out of visual range of the opposing lawyer’s zoom screen). Other pitfalls are the client who goes on a break during deposition but does not mute their computer and turn the video off, so everyone still on the zoom screen can hear them call their lawyer or talk to their spouse loudly in the other room about how they just messed up in response to that last question. There are always growing pains, but we learn as we go.

The year 2020 and for many 2021 has been a tough time for many. Families lost loved ones, people have not been able to work and pay bills and our way of life has changed, at least temporarily. We do not forget those lost or how bad it was, but I am enjoying Spring and the hope that Covid cases will continue to slow, treatment will improve and save more lives, and we can remember that we are more alike than different from our neighbors.

I am looking forward to the future of our country and the practice of law.

Adam Sorrells
Law Office of Adam Sorrells


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