Court is confusing at the best of times. But with major backlogs and new rules following COVID-19 shutdowns, it’s more important than ever to get good counsel to navigate the system.
“Legal services have been continuing ever since the Stay Home order went into effect, because people’s right and access to justice didn’t stop,” says lawyer Ziad Youssef, founder of mytrafficman.net.
The MyTrafficman team provides legal care for victims of serious auto accidents, in addition to DUI and traffic tickets. During the COVID-19 pandemic, they continued to work with clients from the safety of their homes via phone, email and video conferencing. Knowing there would be a backlog when courts resumed, they’ve been pushing harder to get ahead.
“We’ll do everything in our power to make sure there are no further delays in our clients’ cases,” Youssef says.
The new normal
MyTrafficman was already using many forms of technology to serve clients, but the team is excited that the courts have accelerated their transition to digital communications, in reaction to the adjusted schedules due to COVID-19.
“The Municipal Courts around Whatcom County have really stepped up to the plate in embracing technology,” Youssef says.
- Video Conferencing: Superior Court is using Go-To Hearing, and Municipal and District Courts are using Zoom for some hearings. MyTrafficman is also using Zoom for some client meetings, using the app’s screen-sharing function to go over documents. “People feel they have to put on a certain face when they go see their lawyer. Now we get to see people at home and get a different perspective,” Youssef says.
- Phone Calls: For clients who don’t have access to the necessary technology, courts also offer telephone hearings. In-custody clients can review documents and present to court using a simple smartphone.
- Email: Mytrafficman uses email to work through documents with clients, and courts are embracing the technology too. “You can’t start a lawsuit via email, but you can answer and file subsequent pleadings via email. That’s new,” Youssef says.
- Social Distancing in Court: In-person hearings are now taking place, with extra safety measures. The number of people allowed in the courtroom is limited, seats are blocked off to increase separation, and masks are mandatory. Both Mytrafficman and the courts can provide masks to those in need.
Courts and legal professionals are now working through the many cases delayed over the health and safety concerns of COVID-19.
“It’s essential that individuals not get lost in the rush to get things back on track, and seek legal support to get their cases heard in a timely way,: Youssef says. “If you have questions, we’re here to help.”