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Courtroom Catchup: How They’re Surviving Coronavirus

Courtrooms Catching Up after Coronavirus

Across the country, courts have been working around the clock to modify their operations due to COVID-19. Following a period of widespread court closures, we’ve begun the shift to remote working in order to tackle the mounting backlog of cases.

Today, we’re reviewing how some courts and legal institutions have adjusted to the coronavirus.

Copyrights & Patents

On May 1st, the U.S. Copyright Office extended its emergency relief efforts until July 10th. According to an official statement from the office, this change will impact “certain registration claims, notices of termination, and Section 115 notices of intention and statements of account.”

Similarly, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office will be extending its filing deadline until June 1st. This extension will only impact filings that would have been due between March 27th and May 31st. To qualify for the extensions, documents will need to be filed along with a statement certifying that the delay was related to coronavirus. The office has also waived revival petition fees for applications that were delayed or considered ‘abandoned’ due to COVID-19.

For copyright and patent infringement cases that were already pending trial, the situation is slightly more complicated. Various states have canceled bench trials and delayed pending litigation. It is considered unlikely that cases will be able to come before a jury by June or July while complying with social distancing guidelines.

Family Law

Since we entered quarantine, many states have noted an increase in divorce filings. Experts suggest that this is because quarantine worsens pre-existing tensions. Unfortunately, although the demand for their services has surged, family courts have been forced to reduce their operations. Those that remain open need to prioritize emergencies, such as cases involving abuse or violence. This means that some new cases will need to be postponed, while other hearings are now taking place over videoconference.

One of the most complicated issues to come from this outbreak concerns parents that want to modify existing custody agreements.These schedules can’t be modified without the court’s permission, which is exceedingly difficult to obtain right now. To bridge the gap in demand for court attention, parents can work with mediators. Mediators can help draft a temporary, notarized adjustment to custody rules. The adjustment will not be legally enforceable until a judge has the opportunity to review it. Nevertheless, this temporary solution has broad appeal for parents who wish to reduce their children’s risk of exposure.

Personal Injury

Unfortunately, personal injury incidents are on the rise. While some coronavirus-related cases will likely appear in court, the bulk of these cases concern common injuries such as slip and fall accidents and car crashes. The financial strain caused by COVID-19 has led many people to decrease insurance policy coverage limits to save on their premiums. This may be good for the policyholder, but it also means others are at an increased risk of being injured by someone with insufficient insurance coverage.

Most personal injury cases never make it to trial, but the settlement process has become more difficult recently. This is because settlements rely heavily on evidence that the injured party sought and received medical treatment. Right now, it’s difficult to justify seeking medical treatment in non-emergent situations due to the risk of exposure to coronavirus. This places the accident victim in an unfortunate position – forced to choose between the risk that their claim will be undervalued and the risk to their health by seeking treatment.

Final Thoughts

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