The principal factor that drives most personal injury cases is the concept of negligence. Proving negligence means you must demonstrate that a business or individual did not exercise responsibility under certain circumstances. The plaintiff in an injury case typically argues that they would not have suffered harm had the defendant acted in a responsible manner.
These cases do not usually involve transmittal of an infectious disease. However, with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are seeing such cases filed and can expect to see new ones arise. One of the issues with claims involving COVID-19 is proving where an individual was infected, and also proving how a defendant was negligent. Below are just a few examples of the types of cases we expect to see in this context.
People who contract COVID-19 while at work, and thereby sustain a workplace injury, may be able to pursue benefits through workers' compensation. Issues here may involve proving the exposure occurred at work. For healthcare workers treating COVID-19 patients in hospitals and nursing homes, this seems reasonable. However, for other trades, such as construction workers, police, and others, proving that the infection occurred within the scope of their employment could be difficult to prove, potentially limiting the availability of workers' compensation benefits.
Older Americans are especially vulnerable to COVID-19 and can develop severe symptoms that can often be fatal. Many elderly live in nursing homes, and the virus has been shown to spread rapidly in these environments. Negligence in this scenario may involve the nursing home failing to take reasonable precautions or safety measures to ensure a patient's safety. For example, cleaning and disinfecting common areas or failure to wear the proper protective gear could constitute negligence. Every situation is unique, and there are many ways in which a nursing home might be found negligent.
We've all seen the news stories involving passengers aboard a cruise ship contracting the virus. In some cases, they were prevented from disembarking from those vessels and have been held in quarantine. Those passengers may be eligible for compensation if they can prove the cruise ship failed to take the necessary actions to protect their safety. Failure to properly quarantine sick people away from healthy people could the basis for a claim. Often passengers on these vessels sign a waiver which purports to limit possible legal action, however enforceability of these documents is not always a clear cut matter.
Medical malpractice can occur when a healthcare professional deviates from the accepted standard of care for their profession. If an individual was exposed to COVID-19 while at a hospital for an unrelated reason and a plaintiff can demonstrate negligence, they may be entitled to compensation. Even if a patient with COVID-19 was admitted to the care of a medical professional and that professional did not act in a responsible way, a medical malpractice lawsuit may be an option.