Personal Injury Lawsuits Over COVID-19 Safety
By Space Coast Daily // July 2, 2020
As life returns to normal after the COVID-19 outbreak, some are concerned about one thing: liability. For those who contracted the coronavirus, life has been difficult and perhaps miserable while fighting infection in a world ruled by a pandemic. Still, filing a compensation claim could be their only option to partially recover.
Liability issues can emerge in different situations. For instance, some may choose to file a lawsuit against a local business where they contracted the coronavirus.
Others may sue their employer for inadequate safety precautions. Additionally, customers who bought personal protective equipment (gloves and masks) may consider defective product lawsuits.
Time will tell how liability protection and cases are handled, but COVID-19 complicates the traditional personal injury lawsuit process.
Business Protections vs Employee/Customer Protections
The Coronavirus outbreak has left many businesses in the dark. With economic trouble, many businesses feel the need to return right away to cut major losses.
Still, even with government relief packages, a lawsuit could ruin a business’s chance to ever recover. So to protect economic rebuilding and maintain essential services, some businesses and facilities (like medical practices and grocery stores) have coronavirus liability immunity.
Conversely, these protections may limit or prevent COVID-19 transmission victims from earning fair compensation. Since COVID-19 presents a different set of circumstances, states and courts may strengthen the requirements for filing a coronavirus personal injury case.
While coronavirus victims may still file a case, new business protections may make winning compensation difficult.
Still, this immunity has limitations. Businesses cannot commit acts of recklessness, gross negligence or intentional infliction of harm. Moreover, typical regulatory, criminal and workers’ compensation statutes remain in effect. Although businesses may be safe from low-evidence lawsuits, strong claims from immunity limitations can bring a case forward.
How to Build a COVID-19 Liability Case
Despite the aforementioned challenges, COVID-19 transmission victims may still have a strong case to earn compensation. While there are no guarantees as to what currently constitutes a COVID-19 liability case or how the courts will evolve with the situation, there are some factors that may make negligence easier to prove.
Filing a Case as an Employee
Ever since late March, many workers have been filing coronavirus injury cases against their employers. Here are some common claims:
• The employer failed to provide proper personal protective equipment (PPE)
• The employer failed to sterilize the business to prevent infection
• The employer failed to quarantine sick or possibly-infected employees from the business grounds
The employer failed to follow basic Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards to prevent infection
Employees who contracted COVID-19 may have a better chance of earning compensation when they can prove employers failed to make those accommodations, which subsequently resulted in transmission.
Although those guidelines and precautions are not required for every business, failed adherence may constitute gross negligence or violate workplace protocols. Such circumstances can help build a coronavirus worker’s coronavirus personal injury case.
Filing a Case as a Customer or Consumer
Regardless of business immunity protections, customers may find it difficult to prove COVID-19 contraction that occurred at a particular time and place. To build a case, they would not only need to do so, but also prove the business did not implement appropriate measures to prevent coronavirus infection. That lack of precautions would then need to be the likely reason for the infection.
For consumers who are filing suits against manufacturers, some may face an even harder uphill battle. Some manufacturing plants shifted their efforts to making protective equipment, like respirator masks, in an effort to help keep people safe. As such, manufacturers acting in good faith to address a public health demand may also earn immunity.
Conversely, manufacturers who falsified their products’ standards and put individuals at risk, perhaps in an effort to capitalize on the coronavirus outbreak, could face liability penalties.
This proof, combined with outstanding reports of product users becoming sick, could build a COVID-19 product liability claim.
Finding a Coronavirus Personal Injury Lawyer
With more than 1 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 100,000 deaths in the U.S. alone, the virus disrupted life as we knew it.
Given this undeniable impact, many coronavirus victims are considering compensation lawsuits. Consequently, more and more lawyers are trying to jump on this bandwagon for coronavirus cases.
But with stronger standards for evidence and new immunity clauses, it may be more important than ever to consult a knowledgeable personal injury attorney.
“With an influx of inexperienced personal injury lawyers trying to get COVID-19 cases, victims need to find a dedicated lawyer,” said Attorney Robert Whitley of the Whitley Law Firm.
“The courts may get packed with cases, so you want your claim to stand out. Victims should look for an attorney who focuses on you and can investigate your case, calculate losses and find expert witnesses, if needed.”
So although there are new limitations and protections against personal injury COVID-19 claims, courts are preparing to hear many cases across the country.
While it is uncertain how these immunity clauses will evolve, coronavirus transmission victims still have options to file a personal injury lawsuit against businesses for compensation. Despite a perhaps difficult standard to meet, considering a lawsuit may be worth a shot.
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