Over a year has passed since the COVID-19 pandemic began sweeping the nation. Businesses and communities – including here in South Florida – are still reeling and just only beginning to fully adapt to the conditions imposed by this deadly public-health crisis.
Aside from the expected shock to medical institutions, government agencies, and small businesses, the legal profession has been impacted significantly. Personal injury and accident attorneys have been among the quickest to react. To understand how things have changed, it is important to understand the legal principle that produces an injured person’s right to recover: the duty of care.
What is a duty of care?
A duty of care is when someone has a duty to act in a reasonably safe manner to prevent harm. Duties exist everywhere. When you enter a business, that business has a duty to remove any hazards that could cause a person to trip and injure themselves. When you go in for surgery, the surgeon has a duty to act within the recognized standard of care. Even you have duties. For example, when you are operating a vehicle, you have a duty to drive as a reasonable person would to prevent accidents and harm to others.
When we argue on behalf of our clients, we predominantly look at two things: (1) whether the defendant had a duty and (2) whether it was breached. When this is the case, our client is typically entitled to recover.
In Florida, a duty is breached if the defendant’s actions create a “foreseeable zone of risk,” resulting in injury. See McCain v. Florida Power Corp., 593 So. 2d 500, 502 (Fla. 1992). In other words, this is when the defendant knows or has reason to know that their behavior increases the danger to others.
Coronavirus, and the Changing Legal Landscape
COVID-19 has changed the legal landscape by generating additional duties that individuals, businesses and institutions are expected to follow. Unfortunately, this increases the likelihood that individuals are wronged, endangered and injured through the misconduct of others. In turn, however, the opportunities for individuals to seek legal remedies and obtain just compensation multiply.
Sanitation practices that used to be considered sufficient may no longer pass muster in the age of coronavirus. Restaurants and retail businesses are expected to take robust safety precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Sometimes, these safety measures are outlined in their own policy. Businesses that aren’t vigilant may be risking the health and safety of their customers. Litigation will undoubtedly follow suit if someone suffers an injury or damage that is caused by the defendant.
Social distancing protocols also have the potential to alter the duties of businesses. Were you injured as a result of insufficient physical distancing? Were proper crowd control techniques employed to prevent the unsafe and dangerous congestion of people? Likely, it will be up to the legal system to decide whether businesses acted reasonably, and thus, whether they indeed had a duty. Certainly, many businesses will learn whether the hard way whether they acted appropriately.
One particular area that is expected to see tremendous growth is caretaker and nursing home negligence. Nursing homes and caretakers have a duty to care for people they serve who are ailing and especially vulnerable to COVID-19. This time demands the utmost precaution and care for those who are unable to properly care for themselves. A loved-one who contracts COVID-19 due to a caretaker or nursing home’s failure to follow applicable protocols may be able to bring forth a case.
If you or someone you love has become ill or injured due to poor business and health practices related to COVID-19, Miller Trial Law can help get you the recovery that you deserve. Please call us today at (305)-697-8312 for a free, no-risk consultation to see what your case is worth. We look forward to serving you!