When people are injured due to the negligence of another, they have the right to take legal action to seek financial compensation through the courts. This process can take years under the best of circumstances, but the pandemic has led to even further delays.
“Because of COVID-19, the court system has taken measures that have limited the ability for injured plaintiffs to get their personal injury cases to jury trials,” said personal injury lawyer Zach Herschensohn of Herschensohn Law Firm PLLC. “This has made it much more difficult for us to help clients resolve their cases.”
Earlier this year, however, King County Superior Court began holding jury civil trials via Zoom to help people get their day in court while also implementing safeguards to help keep them safe from the virus.
Fighting for clients with the help of technology
Herschensohn Law Firm PLLC participated in one of these trials and as a result, a retired nurse injured at a Barnes & Noble store will receive $150,000 in a settlement reached before a jury considered evidence.
The retired nurse was left with a permanent disability after tripping on a stool at a Barnes & Noble store on July 1, 2016, suffering a meniscus tear and an avulsed hamstring requiring two surgeries, said Zach Herschensohn.
He said the trial took place in a specially constructed courtroom in the Meydenbauer Conference Center in Bellevue, Washington. Jury selection and witness testimony was conducted via Zoom.
Court officials told a reporter at KUOW they consulted public health experts before conducting the trials. Masks were required, while witnesses who appeared in person were provided with clear masks to help jurors assess their credibility. Start times for each trial were slightly staggered to prevent crowding in the building.
Herschensohn said it was one of fewer than 10 cases presented at the time that were tried in King County through video conferencing during the pandemic.
A bailiff managed the Zoom session through a laptop. A camera was located at the back of the courtroom. Another laptop was at the podium and connected to the Zoom session. This allowed lawyers to question witnesses or share digital evidence remotely. A large screen was also set up in the courtroom to display the session.
“It was definitely unusual and took some getting used to for everyone,” Herschensohn said. “But everybody adjusted and we were able to present our case to a jury.”
Getting results under difficult circumstances
The settlement was reached in September after both sides presented their case at trial via Zoom but before the jury was able to reach a verdict.
“We’re proud to have had the opportunity to go to trial even during a pandemic,” said Herschensohn. “This settlement came after a long fight, but we’re happy to finally get our client this well-deserved compensation.”
Zoom trials are continuing in King County and will likely be a part of legal proceedings well into 2021. It remains to be seen if Zoom will continue to be used after the pandemic is under control. In the meantime, Herschensohn said he appreciates the opportunity to move cases forward.
“This pandemic has affected every aspect of our lives and the trial courts are no exception,” said Herschensohn. “The legal system has found a way to continue the business of the courts and we will continue to use this new process to get justice for our clients.”
In our case, ALL of the witnesses appeared via zoom, there were no in-person witnesses, only the lawyers, jurors, and judges were in the same room. We were socially distanced.
About our law firm
Herschensohn Law Firm, PLLC is committed to serving injured people in Kent, Washington and throughout the greater Seattle area. We handle a wide range of personal injury cases such as car and truck accidents, motorcycle accidents, slip and falls, workplace injuries, negligent security, dog bites, and wrongful death. Attorney Zach Herschensohn possesses a wealth of legal knowledge and experience litigating cases. He fights for maximum compensation for his clients. If you were injured, contact us online or call us to schedule your free legal consultation.