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What Happens If I’m Physically Incapable of Appearing in Court?

If you have experienced an injury, illness, or economic loss because of the actions of a third party, pursuing a personal injury lawsuit may be one of the few ways you can recoup your losses. Court proceedings can be lengthy, and you may not always be able to physically appear in court on your own behalf. This article will explain what can happen in cases like this, and what discussions you will need to have with your personal injury attorney in Houston, TX. 

Your Court Appearance May Be Rescheduled

If you know in advance that you are physically unable to appear in court, it may be possible for your appearance to be rescheduled. This is often your best course of action if you know that your inability to appear is only temporary and you will soon be capable of attending in person. Your attorney or a clerk of the court may be able to help you select a new date and time that will allow you to attend your court proceedings. 

Many courts will require appearances to be rescheduled at least a few days in advance. There may also be forms that you or your attorney must complete to officially make this request. Keep in mind, however, that most court calendars are full year-round and any rescheduling may cause significant delays in your proceedings.

Proof May Be Required

Most courts will allow cases to be rescheduled if it is for a good cause. The court may ask you to provide proof that you have a substantial need for the delay to occur before agreeing to reschedule. In this case, you may be asked to give concrete evidence for why you are physically incapable of appearing for your court date.

Serious medical issues, planned surgeries, or other significant health factors may be accepted as valid reasons for requesting a new court date. Similarly, critical illnesses or deaths in your immediate family may also be valid reasons for a delay. The court will also consider extenuating circumstances on a case-by-case basis that may prevent your appearance, such as natural disasters or if you are being held in custody for an unrelated issue.

Virtual Appearances May Be Possible in Houston, TX

In recent years, some courts in Houston, TX have begun holding hearings virtually using videoconference programs like Zoom. Appearing virtually can allow you to be present for your court proceedings from anywhere you have a reliable internet connection. The courts have strict expectations for conduct during these sessions, so you’ll want to talk to your attorney to ensure you adhere to any rules.

Bear in mind that virtual appearances may not be an option for every case or in every courtroom, so discuss this with your attorney in advance if you feel that you will not be able to appear at the courthouse. Your attorney will need notice ahead of time to have the best chance at arranging virtual court proceedings. Otherwise, the court may default to in-person appearances.

Your Personal Injury Attorney May Appear on Your Behalf

If your personal injury attorney is agreeable, they may be able to appear in court on your behalf which won’t require you to be physically present. Your attorney would be acting as your representative and can make filings, statements, and objections for you. This may make it possible for your court proceedings to continue even if you are unable to physically appear. 

It is worth noting that it can often be to your benefit to appear yourself, especially since it allows you to offer your own descriptions of events. The opposing parties do have the right to ask questions of you, and your attorney as a third party may not be able to give the same level of detail that you would be able to. Because of this, your attorney may only choose to appear on your behalf for individual missed appearances in the pre-trial or post-trial proceedings. 

Consequences of Failing to Appear Without Notice

If you cannot physically appear in court yourself, it is important that you notify your attorney as soon as possible so that they can take the appropriate steps. Unless you have experienced a significant emergency that can explain your absence, you should expect negative repercussions for failing to appear without warning. As the plaintiff, consequences generally include the dismissal of your case, having to restart the court process, and incurring higher court costs.

Cases May Be Dismissed

If you are the plaintiff in a personal injury case and fail to appear in court without warning, the judge may consider your case abandoned and dismiss it altogether. This can happen regardless of whether the opposing party attends the date. If you as the plaintiff are not present or don’t have a lawyer there acting on your behalf, it is likely the judge will proceed with the dismissal.

It is unlikely that a dismissed case can be reopened after this decision has been made. It is for this reason that you should always try to give as much advanced warning as possible if you are incapable of appearing. Re-scheduling, appearing virtually, or having your attorney act on your behalf are all possible ways to avoid this scenario.

Re-Filing May Be Necessary

If your case has been dismissed due to your own lack of appearance, you will need to re-file it to start the process over again from the beginning. This will require you to resubmit all of your petitions to the court, and you may have to pay the required filing fees a second time. It will likely be the case that the opposing party will have to be formally served again before your trial can be officially scheduled.

If you have to re-file your case and start again, you can reasonably expect this to delay the process by several months or even years depending on how the opposing party responds. Keep in mind that civil cases do have statutes of limitation, which may make you ineligible to file a case if too much time has passed since the incident occurred. It is in your best interest to complete the court process as quickly as possible the first time you file.

Increased Court Costs

Generally speaking, the longer your court proceedings take the more court-related costs you will be responsible for. If you fail to appear in court and your case gets dismissed, you are almost guaranteed to see an increase in your expenses as you take the steps to re-file your case. These expenses are easily avoidable if you act early and make arrangements in advance with the court and your attorney.

It is in your best interests to do what you can to speed the court proceedings along. Be open and communicative with your attorney throughout the process and give them as much notice as you can if you are physically incapable of attending your proceedings. They may be able to offer advice and intervene to help prevent your case from dragging out longer than it should.

The personal injury court process can be intimidating, regardless of your situation. If you are physically incapable of attending your court day, you’ll need to reach out to a reliable attorney to discuss your options and make necessary arrangements. Contact Houston Injury Lawyers, PLLC today to discuss your personal injury claim and to schedule your free case review. 
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