The COVID-19 pandemic will without doubt give rise to numerous claims across a variety of legal areas.
The adaptation of legal practices to online systems as a result of the lockdowns puts clients in a much better place to resolve their disputes in a less time consuming and costly manner.
Alternative dispute resolution and, if necessary, court hearings are consequently becoming more accessible to resolve disputes.
Alternative Dispute Resolution
We have seen how the pandemic has considerably benefited working individuals by imposing a culture of working from home. Many businesses are operating just as effectively with employees working from home or operating a hybrid model of part-office/part-home working. The benefits of this can be carried over to resolving disputes in a time-saving and cost-effective manner.
The advantages of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) were clear to see before COVID-19 took hold. The idea is that parties arrive at a compromise without incurring spiralling legal costs as a result of issuing lengthy court proceedings that may be caught in a bottomless backlog in a winner-takes-all battle. Online platforms, such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Skype, will promote more expansive and productive use of ADR methods such as mediation by removing the time, hassle and costs elements of booking and attending a venue requiring the physical presence of all parties involved. Time and money is saved in two respects: by simplifying the ADR administration process and, as a result, making it less appealing for disputing parties to issue court proceedings.
If, despite attempts to resolve disputes using ADR, court proceedings are issued, hearings themselves can, with increasing possibility, be conducted remotely without all parties being present at the hearing. As an example, proceedings issued at a court in Tyneside involving a party from Truro may well be competently conducted remotely, rather than parties having to travel the length of the country to resolve a dispute that can be resolved as effectively via a telephone hearing or hearing through an online platform.
The conduct of hearings remotely during the pandemic gives just a taster of how the administration involved can be simplified further.
What Types of Claim Can We Expect?
We are likely to see a wide variety of claims brought as a result of the impact of COVID-19 for the foreseeable future. Such claims could range boundlessly from the cancellation of contracts that cannot take effect as a result of the imposed lockdowns, to claims from tenants threatened with eviction in times of COVID-related financial hardship, to disagreements between employers and employees over COVID-related health and safety. The legal uncertainties arising from the pandemic are, however, in a better place to be dealt with as a result of the more efficient methods mentioned above for resolving disputes.
If you have legal issues arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic, please contact our dispute resolution team who will be more than happy to help.
The author of this blog is Chris McCormick, a graduate paralegal, presently working with the Dispute Resolution team.