The worldwide pandemic has altered the landscape of personal injury trial work and with courts in Maryland contemplating reopening in June, the inevitable question is how are they going to do it? The most prevalent response seems to be videoconferencing.
Trial lawyers constantly seek to contrive the best ways to present their client's cases and the evidence that support it. Use of visual media including, medical diagnostic testing, photographs, Google maps and myriad other items are routinely admitted into evidence at trail and relied upon for eliciting testimony.
So how would this work on a videoconferencing app? The answer is variably.
The number one problem is one of universal access. Many people do not have reliable internet and reliable computers. This issue could potentially create significant due process concerns particularly for less economically advantaged communities. Unequal justice is already a widespread problem and wealthy clients would inevitably be better able to present more consistent, more visually and audibly pleasing cases.
It wouldn't mean that the wealthy were any more injured or any more deserving of compensation, but rather that they would have a much greater ability to illustrate their plight than people who are unable to consistently and dependably access the internet. If you can't do so tell your lawyer and perhaps some accommodation can be worked out.
Similarly, better technology would make introduction of evidence more seamless. So lets focus on some constructive suggestions for optimizing prospective trial presentation on Zoom or other videoconferencing entities.
1. Practice. It may seem simple but if your first Zoom experience is your trial that is potentially dangerous to you and your case. Teleconference with your lawyer, witnesses and friends. Truly practice may not make perfect but it will help avoid unwieldy presentations.
2. Learn to scan your trial exhibits. If a distant judge or arbitrator is going to give credence to your supportive exhibits, you better have them loaded up and available beforehand.
3. Look like you really are in court. The impression your appearance makes on the trier of fact is important. Check with your lawyer on your proposed look.
4. Firm up what your witnesses will say and how they will express it in advance. Have a family member or friend hear them as well. You might understand what they are saying because you have been through the car accident and know the scene, the judge hasn't. Make sure a non-participant understands their explanation.
5. If you are going to use exhibits and ask other witnesses on your side about them, show them to them before so they understand what the exhibit shows and how that is helpful to your case.
6. Understand how your lawyer is presenting your case so you don't contradict them or they you.
7. Have your lawyer observe your Zoom background and approve it. You don't want to have a beer can pyramid and a bong in the background or you may give the judge the wrong impression.