Florida Court Proceedings During Stay-at-Home Order
Governor DeSantis has issued a stay at home order for the State of Florida. Although the practice of law is still considered “essential” under the Governor’s executive order, the stay at home order has affected court proceedings, including depositions, mediation conferences, and jury trials.
Jury Trials for Personal Injury Cases
Due to the Governor’s stay at home order, the Florida Supreme Court entered an order suspending all jury trials in State of Florida, including Seminole County, through May 29, 2020. If your personal injury claim is scheduled for trial between now and May 29, 2020, it will be rescheduled for a later date. At this point, it is hard to predict when trials will be rescheduled. It will depend on the county in which your case is pending as well as the particular judge assigned to the case. Aside from jury trials, most other court proceedings are going forward.
Depositions for Personal Injury Cases
Depositions can still go forward under the Governor’s stay at home order and the order issued by the Florida Supreme Court. However, depositions may have a different feel and slightly different approach with preparation prior to the deposition. Most depositions are taking place during this time by telephone, zoom, or some other virtual program that enables attorneys, parties, and court reporters to attend within the parameters of the Governor’s and Florida Supreme Court’s order. Attending a deposition by telephone or zoom creates a different feel or may create discomfort due to not being able to have your attorney by your side during the questioning. If you have a deposition coming up, make sure that you have an opportunity to speak with your attorney before your deposition. It is essential that you do a test run with the medium you will be using for the deposition. For example, if you are attending your deposition via zoom, have your attorney prepare you for your deposition by zoom as well. This will help get you comfortable with the process and how it works. Make sure that you and your attorney have discussed a plan if you need to take a break during the deposition or ask your attorney a question. Remember, once the depositions begins, anything you say on zoom or via telephone, the other attorney and court reporter will hear. Keep in mind that even though you are not attending the deposition in person, you are still being evaluated as if you were in person. The other attorney can see how you present, they can observe your body language, they can hear the tone of your voice. It is important to present well during your deposition and this is even more true when attending a deposition by another medium. To that end make sure you do not have distractions in your home or have anyone interrupt you during the deposition. Also, an attorney may get an idea for a specific line of questioning based on the room you are sitting in while your deposition is taking place. Make sure you speak with your attorney about what to have in front of you, behind you, or around you prior to the deposition beginning.
Mediation Conferences in Personal Injury Cases
Similar to depositions, mediation conferences are still going forward in personal injury cases. The mediator will determine how the mediation conference will take place. Most mediators in Orange and Seminole County are conducting mediation by telephone or zoom. Regardless of the medium your mediator selects, make sure you are prepared by your attorney and know what to expect. Make sure that you and your attorney have a plan to discuss your case in a confidential manner. Mediation involves a lot of back and forth with the mediator and confidentiality between you and your attorney when the mediator is not present in your conversation is of the utmost importance. Similar to the deposition process, it is important that you are prepared for what to expect at mediation, how it will work, and how you will speak privately with your attorney during the process.
If your mediator selects to utilize zoom or some other virtual meeting room, make sure you know how the break-out rooms work. After opening statements are conducted, the mediator will create break-out rooms for the parties attending the mediation. The break-out rooms are controlled by the mediator and are in essence, a virtual room where you can speak privately with your attorney. Each party will be given their own break-out room. Although these break-out rooms enable you to speak freely with your attorney, when the mediator enters back into your break-out room, there is no warning. Make sure you understand how the break out rooms work and when and how you can speak privately with your attorney in these break-out rooms. There also may be occasions when the mediator will want to speak privately with your attorney or all the attorneys. This occurrence may also not provide any warning and your attorney may disappear from your private break-out room. It is important to know that the mediation is still occurring, but your attorney was taken out of your break-out room and taken into another break-out room for a private discussion with the mediator and/or the other attorneys.
Although COVID-19 has affected how court proceedings occur, personal injury cases are still moving forward. Being prepared is key. Snedaker Law is still open for business and assisting its current clients. If you have a potential personal injury claim or have been involved in a car accident, the attorneys at Snedaker Law are available to assist you. We have put into place measurements to protect our clients and staff and we are complying the Governor’s stay at home order. We are 100% open for business and available to our current and future clients. Our staff and attorneys are 95% working remotely until COVID-19 is behind us.