COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on the lives of many across the country and around the world, both from a physical health and economic standpoint. We have all seen the heroic efforts of frontline workers who daily risk their own health to protect and save the lives of those infected.
At Greg Coleman Law, we look at various types of medical malpractice that may arise from the pandemic, along with some laws that may impact the claims process.
If you or a loved one suffered an injury due to willful misconduct or negligence, we urge you to contact our office for a free medical malpractice consultation to discuss your legal options. There is no obligation to move forward and no initial costs to pay if we represent you. We only collect payment for our fees if we first obtain money for you.
What Types of Medical Malpractice Claims May Arise From COVID-19
Numerous types of medical malpractice claims are expected to emerge from the novel coronavirus, including those due to:
Provider Failure to Implement an Emergency Preparedness Plan in Advance of the Pandemic
Healthcare providers have a duty of care to their patients. That duty includes taking steps to not just develop a plan for the pandemic, but also providing training to staff on how to implement it. The Center for Disease Control provides guidelines and minimum requirements to limit exposure to the virus, along with other acceptable standards of care.
Actions could include reminders about proper hand-washing procedures, posting clear signage for patients, and training caregivers to remain suspicious for symptoms of the coronavirus, rather than quickly dismissing sick patients as not being infected with the virus without first testing or obtaining proper background information to determine whether the patient may have been exposed several days prior.
Provider Failure to Develop an Infection Control Plan
An infection control plan should follow standard acceptable steps, such as having a designated exam room and dedicated equipment. Other plan development should include securing sufficient supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff.
Provider Failure to Provide Proper Care to Patients
During the pandemic, there may be many situations under which acceptable care was not provided to a patient, including:
- Discrimination against patients with developmental or other disabilities
- Patient abandonment, such as those with acute respiratory symptoms who were turned away by a provider
- Failure to diagnose patients
Failure to Provide Sufficient Protection to Frontline Workers
Many frontline workers, who were actively caring for patients infected with the virus, were not provided proper PPE.
What New Laws May Make It Harder to Hold Negligent Parties Accountable
Many states are implementing new laws to provide immunity to healthcare institutions and the staff who work at these facilities. Immunity laws, such as Tennessee’s Good Samaritan Law, are intended to protect healthcare workers providing patient care services during the coronavirus pandemic from civil liability. In addition to state laws, there are other federal laws that may apply as well, such as:
Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act)
On March 27, 2020, President Trump signed off on a federal law, H.R. 748, the “Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act” (CARES Act), that provides immunity to frontline volunteer workers. Section 3215 renders immunity to health care professionals who are volunteering their medical expertise during the COVID-19 crisis. Those protected under the CARES Act may not be held liable for the services they provide relating to COVID-19 and the care of a patient. Services may include the assessment and diagnosis, prevention or treatment of the coronavirus. However, in addition to only applying to volunteer healthcare workers, the services rendered must remain in the scope dictated by that worker’s medical license.
Volunteer healthcare workers who may be covered by immunity under this law, include:
- Physician staff
- Physician assistants
- Nursing staff, including licensed and registered nurses
- Advanced practice nurses
- Emergency medical technicians
- And more
The Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act Declaration
Although the CARES Act only makes immunity provisions for volunteers, the PREP Act, 42 U.S.C. 247d-6d, extends immunity to “qualified” healthcare professionals who provide pandemic countermeasures, such as those administering, prescribing, and distributing care to patients under a declared public emergency. Generally speaking, the PREP Act defines pandemic countermeasures to include FDA-approved drugs and devices, as well as the manufacturers of certain pandemic countermeasure devices, such as the N95 face mask.
While these laws are designed to protect frontline healthcare workers from unintentional mistakes, the language does not extend to include injuries or fatalities due to willful or criminal misconduct, gross negligence or providing care while intoxicated.
How an Attorney May Benefit Your Medical Malpractice Claim
At Greg Coleman Law, we have extensive knowledge of state laws, as well as federal immunity laws that may apply to medical malpractice cases resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.
If you or a loved one suffered an injury or became infected with COVID-19 due to the gross negligence or willful misconduct of another, we are available to review the circumstances of your situation to determine whether you may have grounds for a legal claim.
Our Knoxville medical malpractice lawyers are prepared to thoroughly investigate the harm you suffered, including any contributing factors that may apply. We provide a free legal consultation to discuss your potential claim, and there is no obligation to proceed after this meeting. We charge no upfront costs while representing you, and there are also no fees to pay unless we achieve a recovery on your behalf.
Our firm remains open and continues to provide legal services during the pandemic. We have the means to process new claims and manage existing cases through various secure methods, without the need for an in-person meeting.
Contact our firm to get started today: (865) 247-0080