Brad Pistotnik Law
Abogado El Toro

What To Expect in the Era of Trial by Videoconference

What To Expect in the Era of Trial by Videoconference

What should plaintiff's expect during a videoconference trial? Are these trials legal, and are they likely to outlive the pandemic? The COVID-19 pandemic has changed so many aspects of our lives, and it's possible that some of these changes will continue long after vaccines roll out and the virus subsides. For plaintiffs in personal injury cases, this means that personal injury trials held over videoconference could become commonplace. Known as "Trial by Skype," it is a hot topic that is important to watch.

General Guidelines

For now, there are no overarching standards for holding trials by videoconference. Instead, the different court systems have developed their own standards. However, the general guidelines are very similar and include:

  • Permission of the presiding judge to hold the trial by videoconference.
  • The use of enterprise-level videoconferencing programs.
  • Established times for holding court sessions.
  • Scheduling and testing period of at least 2 weeks, and up to a month before the trial date. These tests should include all parties to the case.
  • Technical staff must be available throughout the duration of the videoconference.
  • Videoconferences should be open no later than 15 minutes before the scheduled session.

The Legality of Video Proceedings

Public health concerns caused the rapid closure of courts across the country. For criminal cases, this brought up the considerable debate over the constitutionality of such closures, the right to confrontation, and its impact on the defendant's right to due process. Of course, civil cases don't typically have the same protections and standards established for criminal cases.

The reality is that video proceedings are here to stay. As communities grapple with the health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, court systems across the country are looking to clear backlogs of cases quickly and cost-effectively. While there have been some challenges to video proceedings' legality, none have effectively moved the needle against the practice.

Already, there are signs that court systems across the United States are beginning to adapt. As the year moves forward, norms will likely evolve to become established standards.

Videoconferences and Your Trial Lawyer

Your trial lawyer, expert witnesses, court reporters, judges, and plaintiffs will all need to adapt to these changes. This means determining the best ways to deliver questions, the best methods of presenting evidence, and the best methods of preparing plaintiffs for a trial process that may occur within their own home.

For now, there are some things that every plaintiff should know about videoconferencing and their personal injury trial. These include:

  • Be aware that any video deposition is likely to end up before a jury. As with in-person depositions, always act as if the judge and jury will hear every word you say.
  • Rules vary by jurisdiction. Googling the answer may deliver inaccurate results. Thus, always ask your trial attorney what the specific rules are for your jurisdiction.
  • Dress to impress. Whether you are in your attorney's office or in your living room, always dress as if you are in the courtroom.
  • Set the background. It's best to conduct your videoconference trial in an office. Make sure that the background is clean, well-lit, and won't distract other participants in the videoconference. Further, make sure that there will be no distractions during the trial.
  • Be Present. Make eye contact with the camera. Address the court with the proper respect and follow the guidance of your trial lawyer. Assume that everything you say and do will be heard and that your tone, words, and body language will influence how the judge and jury perceive your case.

Contact Brad Pistotnik Law at 1-800-241-BRAD or call us on our local line at 316-684-4400. Brad Pistotnik is a trial lawyer in Kansas. We represent clients pursuing personal injury settlements in Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, and Texas. You can call Brad Pistotnik on his cell at 316-706-5020. You can reach Tony Atterbury on his cell at 316-617-9237.