There is no doubt that our “new normal” is rapidly changing. In an effort to keep all New Yorkers safe, there have been a series of orders issued by the Governor and the courts. These new rules keep lawyers from their offices and have effectively shut down courts for the near future.
It’s important to understand what these COVID-19 orders mean to your personal injury case.
“New York State on PAUSE”
Governor Cuomo recently signed the “New York State on PAUSE” executive order. The order directs that all non-essential businesses must close in office personnel functions effective March 22, 2020. https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-issues-guidance-essential-services-under-new-york-state-pause-executive-order
Pursuant to the order, lawyers are not essential businesses.
What this means: Your lawyer is not legally allowed to go to their office. In order to work on your case, your lawyer must be able to work remotely.
3 things your lawyer must have in place to effectively work remotely
1. Have all of your legal documents scanned into their system;
2. Be able to access your legal documents remotely; and
3. Have all phone calls forwarded to their personal cell phones.
Having remote access to all your legal documents will allow your lawyer to continue to work on your case as if they are still in the office. Having all phone calls forwarded gives you peace of mind to know that you can reach your lawyers anytime AND that all other calls on your case – by insurance adjusters, defense lawyers, medical offices, etc. – will be answered promptly.
Not all law firms have the infrastructure in place to work remotely
Scanning your legal documents is not something that can be done now because your lawyer is not allowed to go to the office. The scanning must have been something that was done long before the COVID-19 orders went into effect.
Being able to access your documents remotely and the ability to receive calls require specific systems and programs. Many firms are scrambling to put such procedures in place now.
Faruqi & Faruqi has had the system in place to work remotely for years
Our firm has been in business for 25 years. During that time, we have developed a solid infrastructure for our lawyers to work remotely. Every document on our clients’ cases have been scanned in; we have a system in place to access those documents away from the office; and our calls and messages have always been forwarded to us when we aren’t in the office.
We have the ability to work remotely and have been doing so for a long time. We don’t have to spend our time developing a system and working out the kinks. Instead, we can focus our time on working on our clients’ cases.
Unified Court System Order
The Chief Judge of the State of New York issued an order postponing all non-essential court functions effective March 15, 2020, until further notice. https://www.nycourts.gov/whatsnew/pdf/Updated-Protocol-AttachmentA3.pdf
What this means: all court appearances and trials are postponed until further notice. Court appearances and trials are important to help your case move towards a successful resolution. Court appearances help your lawyer get documents, testimony, and evidence to support your claims. And most cases resolve as the trial date nears.
However, just because the courts have effectively shut down, that doesn’t mean that your lawyer should shut down work on your case – quite the opposite.
Your lawyer should still be intensely preparing your case, researching the applicable law, and obtaining evidence. That kind of focused preparation will allow your case to move forward full steam ahead once courts open.
Additionally, if your lawyer is an experienced trial attorney, they will likely be able to set up mediations by video in order to obtain a successful resolution on your behalf.
In order to accomplish any of these goals – preparation or resolution – your lawyer must be able to effectively work remotely.
That’s why it’s important to reach out to your lawyers and make sure they have a protocol in place to work on your case, even though they can’t go to their office and the courts have shut down.
The lawyers at Faruqi & Faruqi are able to use their well-established protocols to work remotely to effectively represent their clients despite the COVID-19 orders.