COVID-19 and Health Care Facility Negligence
COVID-19 has been a massive threat to the health of humanity all across the globe. Even though the U.S. is finally starting to see a downward trend in the number of new cases, variants in the virus are still abound, vaccines are still being rolled out, and there is still work to be done.
Such an impact on the health of our country’s citizens naturally has a mirrored impact on the workload and demand placed upon health care workers of all kinds. Doctors, nurses, hospital staff, and members of other health care facilities such as nursing homes make difficult decisions daily about how to best care for their patients. That’s why every single one of them is legally bound to a certain degree of safe medical practices and care. But COVID-19 and its extenuating circumstances have put a strain on many practices, leaving room for potential negligence or malpractice.
If you believe you or someone you know has been the victim of medical negligence relating to COVID-19 in some way, you may be eligible to file a lawsuit. But first it’s important to understand how recently proposed state legislature may impact your case.
Possible COVID-19 Liability Protections for Health Care Providers
In early February 2021, Florida State Senator Jeff Brandes filed “Senate Bill 74, COVID-19-related Claims Against Health Care Providers.” This proposed bill suggests implementing strong protections from civil liability for health care providers across the state of Florida who have served Florida residents either suffering from COVID-19 or dealing with other illness and injury during the COVID-19 crisis.
As the pandemic progressed through 2020, health care providers were forced to meet rapidly evolving standards the likes of which many of them had never experienced before. Judgment calls often had to be made about courses of care and how that care was implemented. While the resounding hope is that these health care providers made decisions with sound judgment that benefitted their patients, the reality is, this was not always the case. And when medical malpractice occurs, it should open opportunity for the victim(s) to seek damages.
But this new senate bill proposes making it so that health care providers are protected from “unfair” lawsuits for their decisions. It aims to make Florida law support applying “judgment calls” in situations like COVID-19. Under the bill, procedures would be established to filter out claims that have insufficient factual support or evidence. If the plaintiff’s claims cannot be proven, a court must dismiss the lawsuit.
The bill also provides a one-year limitation period to bring COVID-19-related claims against a health care provider, with that period beginning one year after the later of the date of death, hospitalization, or initial diagnosis of COVID-19.
While current Florida laws implement different procedures for negligence claims specifically against nursing homes and assisted living facilities as opposed to hospitals, the new bill suggests its provisions apply to all health care providers relating to COVID-19 claims. It would take effect upon becoming law and would apply retroactively except for defendants named in lawsuits filed before the effective date of the passed bill.
It may sound like this bill could make it more difficult for you to file a negligence or malpractice case related to COVID-19, but this isn’t necessarily the case if you have strong evidence behind your lawsuit.
Signs and Scenarios of COVID-19 Negligence
Because COVID-19 is a new virus, medical professionals cannot confidently say yet what the “normal” effects and progression are for every individual who contracts it. For that reason, there is not yet a set standard of care to adhere to in medical facilities. But there are certainly expectations that should be met in order to provide peace of mind that you and your loved ones are being cared for properly.
A common scenario of negligence in the health care field when it comes to COVID-19 occurs or has occurred in nursing homes. Failure to implement appropriate protocols that identify and minimize the spread of coronavirus within these facilities continues to lead to deadly consequences for the elderly citizens of our country. There are certain telltale signs you can look for that may indicate your loved one suffered neglect during the coronavirus outbreak, including:
- The facility failed to take additional measures to clean and disinfect objects and surfaces.
- The facility failed to provide masks and other PPE to all nurses, aides, and other health care workers.
- The facility failed to adequately isolate at-risk residents or properly socially distance other residents.
When it comes to hospitals and other medical buildings or practices, these same basic standards of care should have applied since the outbreak began. Other scenarios of negligence relating to COVID-19 in these facilities could also include a blatant failure to properly diagnose or properly treat patients with the coronavirus.
The Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act does extend some immunity to qualified health care professionals who provide pandemic countermeasures as well. It is an act designed to protect health care workers from unintentional mistakes in times of crisis, but it does not extend to harm or fatalities caused by willful misconduct, criminal misconduct, or gross negligence. Therefore, if you believe medical duties of care were breached in a negligent manner, subsequently causing you or a loved one to contract COVID-19 that resulted in grave harm or death, you may have a strong case of negligence or medical malpractice to file.
How a Lawyer Can Help with Your COVID-19 Negligence Claim
Although standards of care are still being set, and the possibility of new protective legislation is on the horizon, The Whisler Law Firm has extensive knowledge of state and federal laws that may still apply to cases of negligence or medical malpractice resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. If you believe you contracted COVID-19 due to a health care facility’s negligence and suffered great harm as a result, don’t walk this difficult road on your own. Our team of experts not only knows how to explore all avenues for your case, but we truly care about you and your loved ones and how you’ve been affected. We want to help you secure the compensation you deserve — that’s why we work on a contingency basis. If we don’t win your case or secure fair compensation for you, you pay us nothing for our services.
Filing claims of medical negligence against large health care corporations is difficult under the most “normal” of circumstances. And although we of course support the incredible work health care providers have been doing in the face of this crisis, we also believe that if they’ve been negligent in their duties, they should be held responsible. Proposed state legislature may be attempting to make that prospect more difficult, but it’s never impossible. We know that, and we want you to know that too. Call our office at 833-529-5677 or schedule a free consultation so we can review your case and find a way to help.