The past 1.5 years has been difficult for everyone. We have lived through tragedies and war before. But tragedies and war may not impact one’s daily life if they are far removed from the tragedy or war.
The thing with a global pandemic is that it touches everyone’s life; whether you live in a high risk community or not. I can boldly state that your life has changed on account of the Pandemic. Whether it’s children not being in school, retail shutdowns, working remotely or simply going into a public space needing to wear a mask; your life is different.
But, there is hope. We have seen numbers decrease thanks to distancing, masking and of course; vaccines. Better understanding COVID-19 and how it spreads has helped significantly.
Ontario is accelerating its re-opening plans; which if they stick and don’t impact a spike to numbers in the ICU is a great sign. With those re-openings we will see more people out and about; enjoying life instead of being in a perpetual state of lock down.
What does that mean for the practice of personal injury law in Ontario? Does that mean that we will all automatically go back to the way it once was?
While I don’t have a crystal ball; I would like to make a few predictions:
- Zoom, MS Teams and other Videoconferencing applications are here to stay. Whether it’s for an Examination for Discovery, Mediation, Pre-Trial or just a meeting; videoconferencing has proven to be fast, effective and cheaper. It has eliminated travel time altogether. Once logged out parties can instantly get to another task without needing to navigate long distances, be held up by weather delays or simply getting back to a parked car in an adjacent lot. That’s not to say that there aren’t negatives to videoconferencing technology. Poor internet connections, people who aren’t tech savvy may not be comfortable using it; loses some magic of in person meetings. But the rewards of using the technology far outweigh those negatives. Speak with any lawyer or insurance adjuster who travels frequently and they will surely tell you that the travel is a grind.
- Digital Trials and E-Filing are here to stay. Doug Downey is committed to bringing Ontario’s Courts into the digital age. We have seen a real shift by the Court towards not only accepting electronically filed documents, but also moving towards conducting hearing virtually to move matters forward. E-filing makes it more cost effective for all litigants to get their documents filed. Before litigants needed to either line up in person at the Court to file documents; mail them to the Court or pay a process server to get the job done. E-filing doesn’t require any of that and it’s free.
- Civil Jury Trials are out. Ontario is one of the few North American jurisdictions left where there are civil jury trials. They are expensive. They are slow. Jurors aren’t paid and lose an opportunity to earn money while serving on a jury. Do you really think that Jurors want to be hearing a 5 week car accident case without getting paid a reasonable wage for their time? Have we ever considered that the party which files the Jury Notice (often the Defendant insurer) should pay the hourly wage for the jurors time? Courts require that important legal information like the discussion about the threshold and deductible NOT BE TOLD to the Jury at all; so jurors are essentially left in the dark about very important legal issues which are essential to a motor vehicle accident case. Jurors also aren’t told about how collateral benefits and set off work to credit large insurers at trial. I have no inside information on the elimination of civil jury trials. This is just a prediction; but an educated one at that. Eliminating civil jury trials will save litigants and the Court system money. Eliminating civil jury trials will also reduce the backlog we see in Courts because matters will be able to proceed that much more quickly and efficiently. For those which insist that civil jury trials are a necessary right of our justice system; where does it say that? Nobody is going to jail at the conclusion of a civil jury trial. The lone outcome for a personal injury case and in the majority of civil matters is that a Judge/Jury order one party to pay the other party. There are no jail sentences handed out. There is no blemish on anyone’s criminal record. There is no ticker tape parade for the winner. It’s about money and that’s all there is to it. When the life and liberty of neither of the litigants is at stake and all we are talking about is money; there is no provision which demands a jury to decide the issue. Save money. Save time. Eliminate civil jury trials.
- People are going to go crazy once the lock downs end and will have forgotten how to act in public. This is a hot take based on absolutely no evidence other than anecdotal observations of human beings amassed over the years and over the course of the Pandemic. We have all been locked down for far too long doing our best to do the right thing to kill COVID. We haven’t been to restaurants, bars, parks, malls, theater, sporting events etc. We are all going to have a lot of pent up energy to release once this is all over. On top of that, we will likely all have forgotten how to act in public and forgotten how to be courteous and kind to one another. We will have forgotten how to share public spaces with others. I expect to see people doing some crazy things; hot tempers flaring in public places; careless driving and otherwise people acting with complete disregard for their fellow citizens. Basically I am predicting people acting a fool and getting in to lots of trouble. But this is Canada! Surely it won’t happen here. It can’t happen here. We are far too polite, kind and reserved for people to behave so badly. To that I say: just read about what happened in London Ontario yesterday….