It would be accurate to say that the coronavirus pandemic has put our lives on hold. A global pandemic, it has taken the world by storm and near about changed our perception towards everything we called “normal”. Schools are shut, offices and homes have merged into one, and we all know the hit to our social lives.
Sadly, the USA leads the world in terms of the cases. From the looks of it, the pandemic doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon. However, it is now time to reopen and rebuild the losses to the economy. As we crawl slowly towards the “new normal”, it is pertinent to take care of yourself and your family.
But there is a need to focus on the small and local businesses as they have borne the brunt of the virus the most. As the country attempts to reopen and bring the economy back to life, the contribution of local businesses needs to be immense; for the economy and themselves. At the same time, local businesses need to remember that the pandemic has opened doors to many liabilities. Personal injury claims are on a rise and businesses need to be prepared to protect themselves as they reopen for people amidst the pandemic.
If you’re a business and attempting to open your services to the public, and want to know what could make you liable to a personal injury claim in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, read on:
First and foremost, we recommended you reach out to a top personal injury lawyer to know how to go about reopening which is safe for all your customers and protects you from any liabilities and personal injury claims. Ask for tailored guidance best suited for your business. Taking preemptive steps is the best way to avoid any claims.
What could put your business at risk?
If we think about COVID-19 and personal injury, the first thing that emerges is the possibility of a business getting sued due to negligence. It basically means that the onus of ensuring that all safety measures are in place lie with the business in order to protect their customers. For instance, if you’re a restaurant and don’t provide a place for people to wash their hands, you could be liable to a personal injury claim due to negligence.
While a business owes due diligence to all their visitors, the highest priority are the licensees – visitors who ensue financial gain to the business, for example, diners in a restaurant, shoppers in a mall etc.
What are the potential personal injury claims?
- Negligence due to lack of reasonable care: While the virus is still evolving and governments, even the medical fraternity is grappling for information, the businesses should ensure that they the premises are in reasonably safe, example, have sanitizers handy for customers, keep the premises clean and disinfected, etc. If not, you could become vulnerable to a personal injury claim.
- Risks not minimized: A personal injury claim could be your way if a visitor is able to show that you were aware of a risk and did not avert it. Hence, ensure that you talk to your visitors, get their feedback, and constantly monitor if there is anything you can do to make your premises safe from the virus as far as possible.
- Multiple aspect of “injury”: A visitor may sue you far causing injury. But what does injury mean in the context of COVID-19? It could mean any of the following – costs borne due to the illness, physical impact of the illness, or even emotional distress.
- Other possible claims: Apart from negligence, a visitor may also file a claim against you for negligent infliction of emotional distress, which would mean that the visitor, a reasonable person, would show they have suffered emotional distress (loss of sleep, depression etc.). You can ask a personal injury attorney.
Protecting yourself from a COVID-19 personal injury claim
Here’s a few simple steps to ensure that your business is safe for its visitors:
- Remain updated on information, including risks of transmission, recommended ways to avert risk etc.
- Have reasonable safety protocols in place, such as, screening visitors for temperature, provide masks and sanitizers, put information and the risk of COVID-19 on the walls etc. of your premises, provide markers to ensure social distancing. Regularly visit the CDC website to know the latest safety protocols.
- Share information with visitors about the coronavirus by implementing a comprehensive plan, which includes displaying information and the potential risk as well as constantly remind visitors that while you’re taking all possible precautions, there’s no 100% way to ensure that a visitor may not contract the virus by coming in contact with another visitor.
- Implement contract tracing so that in case of an adverse event of a visitor getting infected, you’re able to warn the relevant people so that they are aware of the risk and take the necessary steps.
What happens if you get sued?
The above being said it is important to note that if you’re sued for personal injury due to any of the above reasons mentioned, it will be validated by a personal injury attorney to check all the facts. Most likely, a business would be made liable under the Tort Claim. Hence, it is important you get to a personal injury attorney first and minimize as many risks as possible.