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Remote Court Hearings in California | What You Should Know

Personal injury cases can significantly affect a person’s physical and psychological health, leading to substantial socioeconomic costs.

In the face of medical treatment, lost wages, and mounting costs, many injury victims feel deterred from pursuing personal injury lawsuits.

The prospect of various personal injury depositions, conferences, hearings, and proceedings can be overwhelming to a victim in the midst of recovery. 

California enacted Rule 3.672, which governs remote court hearings in California to promote consistency in civil court practices and procedures.

The rule should improve access to California courts and reduce litigation costs by permitting parties to appear remotely at various court proceedings.

What Is a Remote Hearing? 

A remote hearing is a court hearing where some or all participants appear in civil court via video or phone. California’s new rule applies in all civil cases. However, there are specific provisions that apply to cases involving juveniles.

Further, nothing in California’s remote hearing rule limits an individual’s legal requirements or rights. Finally, the rule does not modify current rules, statutes, procedures, or case law regarding confidentiality or access to confidential proceedings. 

Benefits and Drawbacks of Remote Hearings

According to court data, approximately 6,000 remote hearings occur in California every day, reducing the need for about 1.5 million trips to courthouses. Proponents assert that remote hearings help preserve equal access while reducing lost wages and expenses related to court proceedings. 

Personal injury victims tend to experience many disruptions in their lives. Video court and remote hearings allow some individuals to avoid driving to court and maintain a semblance of relative normalcy while proceeding through the court process. All the litigant needs to participate in a court hearing is a reliable internet connection.

However, on the other side, some argue that remote hearings increase the divide between those with quality and reliable technology and those without.

Also, many issues with remote hearings stem from the lack of experience with California’s court system, which is also an access to justice gap.

A way to remedy this issue is to work with an experienced California personal injury attorney. An attorney can help you understand the benefits of remote hearings while prioritizing your goals and pursuing compensation for your damages. 

Asking for a Remote Hearing in California

If you are considering a remote hearing, you should work with your lawyer to request one. As a general rule, courts have discretion in whether to grant a request for a remote hearing.

In assessing a party’s request, the court will consider the following:

  • The availability of technology needed to fulfill the request; and
  • Whether an in-person appearance would materially assist in deciding or resolving the case.

Additionally, there may be local court rules that apply, so it is best to consult with a local lawyer who is knowledgeable in conducting remote hearings. 

Can You Attend Court By Phone?

Some courts allow individuals to attend a hearing by video or phone. Video court may entail court connect or Zoom court hearings. However, in cases involving audio only, the court will provide a phone number to call into. 

Many California courts have specific instructions and forms that a party must complete and submit to request a remote hearing. 

Preparing for a Remote Hearing 

Whether remote or in-person, preparing for a hearing in your personal injury lawsuit requires a comprehensive understanding of complex procedural, statutory, and evidentiary rules. Some procedural tips for remote hearing preparation and access include the following:

  • Ensuring a strong internet or mobile connection;
  • Downloading the video conference app in advance;
  • Charging any devices that will be used during the hearing;
  • Securing headphones or earbuds; and
  • Finding a quiet space.

In addition, your lawyer can take any necessary steps to submit evidence and other relevant documents and forms. 

Sometimes, when you first join the remote hearing, you may be waiting in a “virtual waiting room.” When your case is called, the judge will move your access from the waiting room to the “hearing room.” 

It is important to note that remote hearings might be open to the public, similar to in-person hearings. Thus, participants should follow the same rules of conduct they would if appearing in person. 

What Happens If a Tech Issue Arises During a Remote Hearing?

You may miss an in-person hearing for various reasons, including family emergencies, traffic jams or accidents, or simply incorrect courtroom information.

Similarly, specific issues may cause you to miss your remote hearing. For instance, a technological problem or power outage may disrupt a remote hearing. However, California law provides options for those who miss their remote hearings. For example, 

Motion for Reconsideration

In some cases, the court may allow you to file a motion for reconsideration and application for relief under Civil Procedure Section 473.

A motion for reconsideration requires that an absent party make the argument they would have made if they attended the hearing. However, the party must also include an affidavit that explains why they missed the remote hearing. 

Mistakes in Pleadings and Amendments

If the court made an unfavorable finding because you missed your remote hearing, you could also file a Mistakes in Pleadings and Amendments. This filing asks the court to grant relief from the unfavorable finding because there was a justification for your absence. 

An attorney can help you determine the best avenue for relief in these cases. 

Do You Have Additional Questions About Remote Court Hearings in California?

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, remote hearings have become increasingly common—so much so, in fact, that it is important for all accident victims to familiarize themselves with how these hearings take place and what makes them different from in-person hearings.

At Weinberg Law Offices, we believe that it is important for our clients’ peace of mind that they walk into every hearing knowing as much as possible about what’s going to happen. This is why we take as much time as necessary to provide you with the information you need to feel comfortable throughout the process. 

To learn more and to schedule a free consultation, contact us by calling 866-341-9476. You can also connect with us through our online contact form.

We accept all personal injury and wrongful death cases on a contingency fee basis, meaning we will not bill you for our services unless we recover compensation for you. 

Author Photo

As a personal injury attorney, my mantra is that there is no such thing as a “small case”. I will give 100% matter how big or small a case may be. I am fluent in English, Hebrew, and Spanish, languages which I use regularly in my practice.

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