Personal Injury, Duty of Care, and Coronavirus

The spread of COVID-19 has caused a wide range of concerns for people everywhere, including worry about what will happen if they get sick. Falling ill with the virus can have a serious impact, and some may wonder if there might be cause for a lawsuit in the event of sickness.

Others may be concerned about the liability they might bear for the spread of the virus. The kind of shape that may take depends on how much of a duty of care will be expected from individuals and businesses when it comes to limiting the spread of the virus.

What Is Duty of Care?

Duty of care is a legal principle in which one party has an obligation to safeguard the well-being of others. In one form or another, most people owe a duty of care toward others at some level, whether it’s a driver who must take care not to injure others on the road or a property owner who must make sure their property is safe for visitors.

In a personal injury case, it must be proved that the defendant (the party being accused of causing an injury) owed a duty of care toward the plaintiff (the injured party) and breached that duty. Without that duty of care, there’s no case.

Duty of Care to Prevent the Spread of Disease

In the case of COVID-19, the duty of care would amount to one party’s obligation to protect others from infection. For instance, someone who boards a plane may have a duty to prevent the spread of the disease to other passengers. If they board while knowing that they are infected, it could be considered a breach of that duty.

In general, businesses, hospitals, and nursing homes are expected to adhere to a higher standard when it comes to fulfilling their duty of care toward others. Standards for sanitization and social distancing are higher than ever, and failure to comply with those standards could expose them to liability.

Future Implications for Individuals and Businesses

While we may see lawsuits in the future regarding breaches of duty to prevent infection, the exact shape those suits will take is still uncertain. How much of a legal duty of care one party reasonably has for another when it comes to containing the virus hasn’t yet been established, and it likely won’t be until we start seeing actual cases.

With that in mind, however, it’s generally best to err on the side of caution. If you’re sick, take precautions to avoid infecting others. If you’re not sick, social distancing is still important to reduce the spread.

Businesses and healthcare providers will be under extra scrutiny in these cases, and they’ll need to adhere to a higher standard than individuals when it comes to sanitation, reducing exposure, and so on. Not only will doing so help limit liability, but it’s also part of being a responsible global citizen.

If you have any questions about a personal injury claim involving the spread of infectious disease, it’s best to talk to an attorney. Hart David Carson LLP can answer your questions and help you determine whether you have a case.

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