Coronavirus Updates, Resources, and Legal Issues
During this time of uncertainty, we at Munley Law want you to know that we are here to support you. Just like many of you, we are working from home in order to help “flatten the curve” and keep our staff and community safe. But we remain just as dedicated to serving our clients as we have been for over 60 years. We promise to do everything that we can to make your life easier during this difficult time. And that includes providing you with relevant information that you can use.
As your trusted legal team, we want to make you aware of the ways the coronavirus may impact you, and what your legal rights are in this unprecedented time. Read on for information on workers compensation, employee rights, updates on legislation pertaining to COVID -19 and more. If you are a business owner looking for assistance with a business interruption insurance claim, click here.
See Also: COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions
COVID-19 and Your Legal Rights
The novel coronavirus has rapidly changed our way of life. As the world faces this new territory, we are sure to face a host of legal challenges for individuals, businesses, employers, and workers alike. We at Munley Law are already examining the existing legal protections that will apply, as well as novel legal theories that will be tested as this unprecedented situation develops.
Negligence and the Coronavirus
“Negligence” is the failure to exercise reasonable care. As our entire nation works to stop the spread of the coronavirus, those who fail to exercise reasonable care and cause others to become infected may face legal repercussions. For example, if a business manager knew that their employee was sick with the coronavirus and allowed that person to continue interacting with customers, the business could potentially be held responsible if a customer became infected by that employee. In a case such as this, it will be necessary to prove causation, which may be difficult. An attorney would review each unique situation individually to determine causation.
In situations involving large groups of people, or populations who are especially vulnerable, negligence may be a critical factor. For instance, if an assisted living facility fails to implement appropriate protections, elderly residents, who are considered high-risk for developing serious or fatal complications from COVID-19, may be infected and become gravely ill. If you suspect that your loved one suffered or was put in harm’s way by the negligence of nursing home staff, you may be able to take legal action. A nursing home abuse lawyer at Munley Law can review the details of your situation and explain the next steps.
Wrongful Death and COVID-19
The coronavirus is one of the most formidable adversaries we have ever faced. Failure to take proper care and heed warnings can result in the loss of life. If negligent, reckless behavior results in another person’s death, the negligent party should be held accountable. If an employer ignores an employee’s reports of infection, or a nursing home fails to meet certain standards of care, the consequences can be fatal.
In Illinois, a Walmart employee’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit alleging that the retailer failed to enact adequate safety measures and that this contributed to the man’s death from coronavirus complications.
If you believe that someone else’s negligence is to blame for the death of a loved one, a wrongful death lawyer can explain your legal rights.
Workers’ Compensation and COVID-19
If you contract the coronavirus from a coworker or a member of the public while performing your job duties, you may be able to file for workers’ compensation. COVID-19 can be considered a work-related illness or an occupational disease, depending on your job and level of risk. See more information below regarding workers’ compensation and your rights as an employee.
Class Action Lawsuits
Unfortunately, this time of uncertainty has led to some misleading marketing and even outright scams by those intending to take advantage of the fear and confusion that many are experiencing. For example, there have been reports of people falsely claiming to offer testing, or selling products claiming to prevent or cure the disease. This kind of dangerous, predatory false advertising could result in a consumer class action lawsuit. A class action lawsuit allows a large group of people who have been similarly wronged by a single entity (often a company or organization) to seek compensation for their losses.
The coronavirus has forced businesses to close, required some employees to work from home, and put essential workers on the front lines of the pandemic, introducing a host of employment issues. Unemployment claims have reached a record high, and lawmakers have passed emergency legislation changing the landscape for both employers and workers.
All this change will inevitably create some difficult situations as we navigate uncharted territory. New protections under the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act, including paid sick leave and family and medical leave, have been created to reduce the spread of the virus as well as to mitigate the economic strain on workers. Employees who are not appropriately compensated or who are wrongfully terminated for taking protected leave during this time may be able to bring an employment lawsuit.
Cruise Ship Litigation
Passengers suffered infection and even death from COVID-19 outbreaks on board cruise ships. Litigation against cruise lines may focus on the failure to enact adequate safety and sanitation measures, and failing to respond accordingly to the risks associated with a global pandemic.
Nursing Homes and Coronavirus
Munley Law is currently investigating multiple claims involving COVID-19 outbreaks at long-term care facilities.
The coronavirus has spread rapidly throughout nursing homes all over the country, with tragic consequences. Inadequate testing, data, and protective equipment along with an already-strained system has created a highly dangerous situation for staff and residents alike. If you or a loved one suffered because a long-term care facility failed to implement appropriate protections, or failed to notify family members of an outbreak or health risk, we can help you hold that facility accountable. Call or chat live today for a free consultation.
Coronavirus Business Interruption Insurance Claims
The coronavirus pandemic forced non-essential businesses to temporarily close their doors in response to statewide orders. Many business owners experiencing a loss of revenue amid the closures have turned to their business interruption insurance policies. Business interruption insurance allows a business to recover certain losses in the event that the business suffers damage or is otherwise prevented from operating. However, some insurers are denying the claims and refusing to pay. For those whose policies do not specifically exclude coverage for virus outbreaks, a legal fight may be the only way to get the payment they’re due.
Munley Law is currently handling cases involving denied business interruption insurance claims.
For essential workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic
Right now, essential workers in various industries – healthcare, law enforcement, trucking and delivery, grocery stores, pharmacies, fulfillment centers, and more – are putting their own health and safety at risk for our well-being. At Munley Law we have always stood up for the rights of workers in these industries, and our commitment to them has never been stronger than it is now. If you are a worker who becomes hurt or ill (including contracting the coronavirus COVID-19) performing your job duties, we are here to help you secure the maximum benefits you’re entitled to.
Healthcare facility liability and worker protections
Healthcare workers, hospital staff, skilled nursing facility and nursing home facility caregivers are putting their lives on the line to care for our loved ones. Unfortunately, the coronavirus crisis has illuminated the lack of personal protective equipment – N95 face masks, shields, gloves, and other measures – to keep these workers safe. It has been reported that shortages led to rationing, reusing contaminated equipment, dangerous exposure to infected patients, and even workers being terminated for speaking out against unsafe conditions. If healthcare workers and caregivers suffer COVID-19 infection due to sub-standard working conditions, facilities that failed to provide adequate protections maybe held accountable.
Does workers’ compensation cover the coronavirus?
Generally, the answer is yes. If you believe you have contracted COVID-19 while performing your job duties, you may be covered by workers’ compensation. In Pennsylvania, you may either:
- File a “disease as injury” workers’ comp claim, requiring evidence that you were exposed to the illness in the workplace, or
- File an “occupational disease” workers’ comp claim, which means that your industry or occupation is more at risk for the disease than the general population (ex: nursing).
You should report your exposure or illness to your supervisor as soon as you know that you have been exposed, ideally within 21 days since the date of exposure or the date you became aware of it.
If your claim is denied or you need assistance navigating the claims process, we can help. Call, chat, or fill out our contact form 24/7. The consultation is free, and there’s no fee unless we win your case.
What should I do if I believe I contracted COVID-19 from a coworker?
If one of your coworkers has tested positive for the virus and you became ill a short time later, you should report your illness to your employer as soon as possible. Inform your employer that you would like to file a workers’ compensation claim. If your claim is denied, a workers’ compensation attorney can help with an appeal.
Will COVID-19 closures affect my current workers’ comp case?
In Pennsylvania, all state offices were ordered to be closed by Governor Wolf. However, petitions and answers will still be processed electronically. As for existing claims, the Department of Labor and Industry will allow for telephone hearings to reduce personal contact. Your attorney will be advised of the future hearing procedures. Your claim won’t be dismissed, but hearings may be delayed as we navigate emergency procedures.
To learn more about COVID-19 and workers’ compensation in Pennsylvania, visit the COVID-19 Workers’ Compensation FAQs from the Department of Labor and Industry.
Coronavirus Legal Updates: How new laws and stimulus programs may affect you
Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)
Covered employers are now required to provide their employees with paid sick leave, expanded family or medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19. Certain employers are covered under this act while others are exempt: see a more detailed explanation here.
The Act will remain in effect until December 31, 2020. See The Department of Labor for additional details.
Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES)
The United States Congress passed the CARES act to offer economic relief to individuals and small businesses, and address the needs of specific industries most affected by the pandemic. The economic stimulus plan includes benefits for employers, laid off workers, student loan borrowers, individuals and families.
Click here to learn more about who is eligible for a stimulus check and how to get yours.
COVID-19 Resources for Employees, Businesses, Individuals
We have compiled this additional list of resources providing guidance for businesses, employers and employees, social security beneficiaries, and more. The resources all come from official sources so you can get up-to-the-minute guidance and avoid misinformation.