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CAN A PERSON BE SUED FOR TRANSMITTING CORONAVIRUS?

The world has been hit by a pandemic, COVID-19. The cases of coronavirus first appeared in the world in late 2019. Since then, it has significantly harmed the world by crushing the economy and shutting down the operations across all countries. Businesses are closed, and people have been asked to stay at home to observe ‘social distancing.’ Despite imposing strict lockdowns, the cases around the world are not dropping; instead, they are increasing at a fast pace. During this pandemic, some personal injury attorneys are being asked to answer the question, “can a person or company be sued for transmitting coronavirus?”

As the number of cases is rapidly increasing, the same question is being asked by personal injury law attorneys all across the globe. The people concerned about this issue must receive a proper answer to it.

CORONAVIRUS AND PERSONAL INJURY LAW

Stories have been circulating the internet about how some people are not respecting social distancing. Moreover, these people are not wearing masks or using sanitizers. Many people have reported that people are coughing and sneezing on their food and personal belongings, which becomes a source of transmission. It has given rise to concern among people as the transmission of this virus puts their life at risk. People are eager to know if they can file a lawsuit against a person or a company that is spreading the virus by violating rules and regulations?

The answer to this is complicated. Lawyers do not have a straight answer to it as there are several complexities attached to this matter. While some attorneys say that it is a valid lawsuit, there are others who think it is not a valid case, and winning it would be a challenge.

When the situation is evaluated by looking at the bigger picture, it is safe to say that person-to-person spread of COVID-19 is not a viable basis for a lawsuit in comparison to car accidents or slip-and-fall accidents. A lawsuit against a person, who allegedly spread the virus, has close to zero chances of succeeding. To understand this situation, one needs to have a basic understanding of personal injury law.

UNDERSTANDING PERSONAL INJURY LAW

Personal Injury Law, also known as the Tort Law, falls under the umbrella of civil law. It revolves around cases where a person incurs loss or damage, physical or mental, as a result of the negligence of another person. The party at fault can be a person or even a company. It is that part of the law which ensures that the person at fault accounts for their mistakes and negligence. The Court allows such victims or plaintiffs to receive compensation for their loss, from the person at fault.

To file a successful personal injury law, the plaintiff needs to fulfill some requirements. Without fulfilling these requirements, it is nearly impossible to win a personal injury lawsuit. There are five elements of negligence.  If a Plaintiff has proof of all of them, the lawsuit becomes viable, and chances of success increase significantly.

ELEMENTS OF NEGLIGENCE IN TORT LAW

In Court, a plaintiff is required to prove the negligence of the party at fault. There are five elements of negligence.  These include duty, breach of duty, cause in fact, proximate cause, and damages. The Court uses these elements to assess whether a defendant is liable or not.

DUTY

The first element is ‘duty.’ It is an element that determines whether the defendant owed a duty to the victim or the plaintiff. The first question that the Court discusses is whether the party at fault had a relationship with the victim that required them to exercise reasonable care in the circumstances. It is up to the Judge to decide whether a defendant owed the victim a duty of care or not.

BREACH OF DUTY

The second element that the Court addresses is ‘breach of duty.’ It is when the defendant owed a duty of care to the victim but was unable to exercise reasonable care. After the Judge declares that the defendant owed a responsibility of care, the jury decides whether there was a breach in the duty or not.

CAUSE IN FACT

Cause in Fact, which is also known as Causation, is the third element of negligence in personal injury law. It is an element that governs the actions that led to the damage. It is where a Court determines if the actions narrated by the victim were the actual cause of the damage or not. Here, a plaintiff has to prove that the damage they incurred was the result of the defendant’s negligence. It involves proving the Defendant's breach of duty actually caused the injuries.  Many times this involves ruling out the other possible causes of damage.

PROXIMATE CAUSE

The fourth element is the ‘proximate cause.’ It determines the most direct cause of the damage or loss. Again, the plaintiff is required to provide sufficient proof that the defendant’s action foreseeably caused the injuries or damage. A plaintiff needs to understand that the act that caused damage should have been foreseen.

DAMAGES

The fifth and last element of negligence is ‘damages.’ It requires the plaintiff to show that the harm they incurred was a form of personal injury or property damage.

These are the five elements of negligence a plaintiff has to build their case on when filing a personal injury lawsuit. In a coronavirus-based lawsuit, the victim has to prove that an identifiable person passed the infection to the victim due to negligence. It is essential to understand that the element of fear is not enough and will not help one win a lawsuit. Practically, generating this kind of proof is close to impossible, even if a person is sure that the infection was transferred to them by a known person because there are so many possible way to have contracted COVID-19.

On many levels, the case is similar to a lawsuit about the transmission of a sexually-transmitted disease. Even in these cases, proof of an intentional act, intentional misrepresentation, and failure to disclose key information can still be easier than proving how the infection was transmitted. However, it does not mean that negligent people during this pandemic are safe from consequences. Things could work in a plaintiff’s favor if the defendant violated laws or duties that were meant to protect the public and causation can be established to a reasonable degree of medical certainty. For anyone who has proof that the laws regarding the conduct in this pandemic were violated, and it directly and proximately caused them to become infected, it could possibly be a successful personal injury lawsuit.

FREE PERSONAL INJURY CONSULTATION

Need help with your personal injury case in this pandemic? Contact Underwood Law Office  toll free at 844.UNDERWOOD and get in touch with the most experienced personal injury lawyers in town. You can get a free consultation to discuss your case, where you get to know if your case is worth your time and effort.

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