The novel coronavirus COVID-19 is an interesting beast here in the United States — primarily because we’re not accustomed to the dangers of global pandemics like, say, the Chinese. Our rivals in the East have lived through several already, few of which made much of an impact here in the United States. Because they have experience with dangerous illnesses that are so contagious, they were able to quickly and efficiently prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The Chinese were so adept at this task that it only made a splash in a single province.
Western countries have shown no such ability. The virus will likely continue to spread in the United States and throughout Europe until we take bigger steps to limit interaction between people. Simply saying “don’t go outside” might not be enough to make a difference.
In fact, Italy shut down weeks ago — but has still surpassed China’s case count and number of deaths. The outcome will likely be much worse here in the U.S., which is probably why we’ve received so many emails and calls from people who believe they should be compensated for their financial situation after release from quarantine. No one expected a bill.
Personal injury in such cases is complicated. The short answer is “no,” you probably cannot sue a person or organization because you were infected with COVID-19. This is true no matter what the damages were. Some law firms might be willing to chance a lawsuit against the U.S. government for its poor response to the outbreak, but only time will tell.
How were you infected? Can you prove that an individual purposely infected you with the virus? If you can, you might have a good case. Can you prove that an organization’s negligence caused the outbreak to worsen, resulting in your infection? If you can, you might have a good case.
The problem is, those are difficult facts to prove even when they’re completely true.
One law firm did take the first steps in building a class action lawsuit against the Chinese where the virus was first noticed — and in fact based the suit on the conspiratorial belief that the virus was man-made and allowed to escape from a laboratory because of gross negligence. We wish them luck with that case….
But for the rest of us, relying on government assistance and health insurance are the best options available at the moment. We’re still in the early days of this outbreak, but it’s time to hunker down and wait for more information. Try to stay indoors and away from other people whenever possible!