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Written on 21st April 2020 by

As COVID-19 impacts businesses around the world and our own private lives, we look at the impact that it is having on the Courts and how claims for compensation for personal injury are currently being treated.

HM Courts & Tribunal Services (HMCTS)

Are the Courts continuing to operate as normal due to COVID-19?

Whilst the current social distancing measures remain in place, HM Courts & Tribunal Services (HMCTS) are consolidating the work of the Courts and Tribunals into as few buildings as possible.  This is in an effort to limit the contact of individuals and therefore some Court buildings are temporarily closed.  HMCTS has published a tracker for those Courts which remain open, staffed and those which are suspended during the Coronavirus outbreak and this can be found here.

In addition the Courts have listed those matters which will be given priority in the Civil Courts during the Coronavirus outbreak.  Priority work includes any Applications in cases listed for trial in the next three months, any Applications where there is a substantial hearing listed within the next month and all multi track hearings where parties agree that it is urgent.

The High Court is continuing to conduct civil hearings remotely wherever possible and is utilising telephone and video hearings.

It is important to note that the Government considers that the running of Courts and Tribunals remains an essential public service and therefore the utilisation of audio and video technology to continue the running of the justice system is encouraged.  Remote hearings remain subject to protocol in accordance with CPR Part 39.

What changes have been brought into place to take consideration of the difficulties faced with Coronavirus?

The dealing with civil cases is governed by the Civil Procedure Rules whose overriding aim is to enable the Courts to deal with cases justly.  A number of additional rules have been put in place to allow for difficulties which may be encountered as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic.  This includes Practice Direction 51Y for video or audio hearings, Practice Direction 51ZA for extension of time limits and clarification of Practice Direction 51(y). 

Practice Direction 51Y came into force on 25 March 2020 and will no longer have effect when the Coronovirus Act 2020 section 75 no longer has effect. The practice direction enables the Courts to hold hearings which would normally be in a public, to be held remotely in private to allow the hearing to continue.

Practice Direction 51ZA now allows for an extension of 56 days to be agreed between Claimants and Defendants for Court directions.  Previously this was governed under CPR rule 3.8 which allowed a 28 day extension to be agreed without the permission of the Court.  If an extension beyond 56 days is required then an Application for permission must be made to the Court and this must be done on the papers, again taking consideration of the difficulties faced due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

 Are you able to still issue cases?

We are still able to issue cases electronically through the Court’s CE e-filing system in the High Court, Queens Bench Division. 

The County Court was running a trial for the electronic issuing of proceedings prior to the pandemic. This trial has now been extended and Boyes Turner’s personal injury team are able to issue proceedings in the County Court electronically.

What if limitation expires in my case soon?

Under CPR Practice Direction 7A paragraph 5.1, it is confirmed that for limitation purposes a claim is considered to be issued on the day that it was received by the Court, even if this date is earlier than the date on which it was issued by the Court.  Therefore, even if County Courts Money Claim Centre are unable to formally issue the claim at this time as received in paper format, it will be considered to have been brought within the Limitation Period if it was received by the County Court Money Claims Centre prior to the limitation date. 

In addition, a COVID-19 personal injury protocol has been agreed between the Association of British Insurers (ABI) and a number of Claimant solicitors firms, of which Boyes Turner are a signatory, which agrees that all limitation dates in all personal injury cases are frozen.  The protocol also allows for an escalation should a party fail to act in accordance with the agreement. Details can be found here.

The protocol was originally put in place for a minimum of 4 weeks. This has been extended to 20 May 2020.

Your Claim

What if I have just had an accident?  Am I still able to instruct solicitors?

Boyes Turner’s Personal Injury team are continuing to work throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and are able to do so remotely.  We are still accepting instructions from new clients.

We are utilising the use of video and audio technology wherever necessary and appropriate to comply with social distancing measures, whilst enabling us to continue to effectively run our client’s cases.

What about examinations with medical experts?  What is happening?

It is important for the process of a personal injury claim for an examination to be undertaken by a medical expert to establish the extent of any injuries and the cause of any injuries as a result of a personal injury claim.

Due to social distancing, it is not possible for medical experts to examine clients face to face and therefore, where possible and appropriate, video conferencing is being considered and utilised.  In some circumstances, it will not be appropriate for video conferencing or telephone calls to take place to prepare a full and complete medical report and therefore there may be some delays in obtaining expert opinions.

Needless to say, a number of experts are also working on the frontline in the NHS, meaning that their availability is much reduced.

For Medco, the ban on remote video medical examinations for the purposes of Medco reports is suspended until further notice in light of the COVID-19 situation.

We are also likely to see delays in obtaining medical records from hospitals and GP surgeries in light of COVID-19 which may also delay some claims.

What charities might be able to help me in light of Coronavirus?

A number of the charities which we work closely with have produced Guidance to assist in the current situation this includes: