COVID-19 and Personal Injury: Can You Sue for Coronavirus Infection?
Can you sue another individual for infecting you with COVID-19? Theoretically, yes. However, the success of your coronavirus-related personal injury case depends on whether you can establish that the defendant exposed you to the virus.
Unfortunately, doing so is practically impossible in most such cases, especially if the other party did not act in a criminal, intentional, or reckless manner.
Suing Someone for COVID-19 Infection
If you believe that someone infected you with coronavirus, you may be able to sue via the negligence theory by establishing the following four elements:
- The person who infected you owed you a duty of care;
- He/she breached that duty;
- That breach caused you harm; and
- You suffered damages as a result (e.g., medical expenses associated with the hospitalization).
During the pandemic, you might assume that everyone has a duty of care to act in a reasonable manner to avoid infecting other people. But what is “reasonable” in this context?
For example, knowing that you have coronavirus but failing to self-quarantine or practice social distancing would likely amount to “unreasonable” behavior. By contrast, a reasonable person who is aware of their COVID-19 infection would self-quarantine and avoid being in public as much as possible.
If someone who tested positive for COVID-19 came in contact with you despite the risk of infection, you might be able to sue that person because they breached the legal duty to act in a reasonable manner.
So, if someone has no reason to believe that they are infected with COVID-19 (they are asymptomatic), failing to self-quarantine would most likely not constitute a breach of duty. However, failure to avoid being in public for non-essential reasons might violate New Jersey’s stay-at-home order.
Proving Causation in Coronavirus Personal Injury Cases
The hardest element to prove is causation, or that the breach caused you harm, given the contagiousness of the coronavirus disease. To successfully sue another individual for infecting you with COVID-19, you would have to prove that they exposed you to the virus, not someone else under any other circumstances.
Proving one-to-one infection is tricky because you might have been infected somewhere else. For example, if someone in a grocery store coughs without covering their month near you, proving that this particular person was the source of infection would be challenging.
Even if this moment was captured on security camera footage, how can you prove that you did not contract COVID-19 from touching the shopping cart, a surface in the store, or even another customer? Or what if you became infected somewhere else?
The contagiousness and rapid spread of coronavirus make it nearly impossible to prove that you contracted the virus from someone in particular. Besides, you would also have to prove damages, which would not be problematic if your COVID-19 infection required hospitalization or intensive medical care. However, establishing that your coronavirus-related claim justifies awarding monetary damages may be impossible if you can treat the disease at home.
Let the Morristown personal injury attorneys help you determine whether you can sue another person for infecting you with coronavirus. Contact Law Offices of Michael P. Burakoff, P.A., to schedule a consultation. Call at 973-455-1567.