Lawsuits and COVID-19, What You Need To Know

Lawsuits and COVID-19, What You Need To Know

COVID-19 turned the world upside down. Stay-at-home orders, businesses shuttering, remote work, and school closings all significantly impacted life as we know it. Even the legal system saw unprecedented changes. Cases were put on hold, Zoom calls replaced in-person court proceedings, and some courts even shut down completely. As we slowly move back towards normalcy, multiple lawsuits are coming out of the aftermath.

While state and local governments preemptively passed legislation to try and stem the tide of lawsuits arising from COVID-19 and business liability, there are still cases pending against numerous businesses, governments, schools, and hospitals. Today, we will take a look at notable lawsuits that have arisen from the COVID-19 pandemic and address how the pandemic has affected legal proceedings.

Cruise Lines

Passengers and employees alike are alleging mismanagement and negligence by cruise lines during the pandemic. Serious questions have been raised about the precautions cruise lines took to prevent the spread of COVID-19, as many cruise lines continued operations as COVID-19 spread across the globe. 

The Washington Post questioned the procedures taken by cruise ships like the Grand Princess, where quarantines were not imposed immediately on people who tested positive for the virus. In addition to the lack of quarantine measures, deboarding procedures allowed passengers who tested positive to go home with minimal medical screening, possibly allowing them to take the virus back to their families and communities.

However, suits leveled against cruise lines have shown just how difficult it is to pinpoint exposure and litigate liability related to it. Of the 42 lawsuits filed in federal court regarding injuries or death related to COVID-19 exposure from a cruise line, only 15% have settled (on undisclosed terms), while another 40% have been dismissed. Of the 42 suits, not a single one has gone to trial.

Airlines

Just like cruise lines, each airline implemented its own procedures to manage COVID-19 and travel. Some limited the number of people allowed on a flight, mandated mandatory masking, and implemented temperature checks before boarding, while others did not institute such strict procedures. This led some airlines to be less forthcoming about the potential risk to passengers if an infected person was on a flight. Because of this, passengers, stockholders, and airline employees have filed lawsuits.

The most common lawsuit faced by airlines is from passengers who were refused refunds for canceled flights and travel. Another common lawsuit being filed is against airlines refusing to cancel flights between the U.S. and China. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) issued guidelines for mitigating exposure to COVID-19 during air travel. However, each airline is ultimately responsible for making its safety measures for employees and passengers.

Healthcare and Elderly Care

Staff, patients, and healthcare providers are bringing lawsuits against healthcare companies due to a lack of proper precautions to protect them during the pandemic. The most common entities facing lawsuits are nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and healthcare facilities.

Several of these lawsuits allege that these organizations did not take reasonable and necessary precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among patients who were most at risk for contracting the disease.

Nursing homes and assisted living facilities in California have not been given the same immunity from lawsuits that roughly 30 other states have during the pandemic. Lawsuits have controversially and effectively been blocked in other states that have brought cries of blanket protection from everything ranging from negligence to misconduct.

Federal, State, and Local Governments

Some state and local governments and individuals believe the U.S. government was negligent in handling the pandemic. These lawsuits allege that shelter-in-place and non-essential business closures were illegal and/or unconstitutional. However, according to the American Bar Association (ABA), these types of lawsuits are unlikely to succeed because of the broad power the government has to handle a public health crisis.

Private Employers

One of the largest groups with impending lawsuits is employers. There are two ways that the coronavirus has affected these cases. 

First, traditional employment lawsuits like retaliation or sexual harassment are now being replaced with allegations that employers ignored workplace safety laws. Second, the pandemic created new employee rights and imposed additional legal requirements on employers. If an employee feels these new rights or requirements are violated by the employer, the employee may file a lawsuit.

Many types of workplace lawsuits resulting from coronavirus are:

  • Wrongful death
  • Wage & hour disputes
  • Workplace safety
  • Privacy violations
  • Workers’ compensation
  • Whistleblower retaliation

These issues arising from COVID-19 are formed by individual lawsuits and class action lawsuits, depending on the company’s size. 

What You Can Do If You Think You Have A Case

Because every state has its own laws and regulations regarding COVID-related lawsuits, you need an attorney who is well-versed in the law in your own state. Most state and local governments passed laws attempting to protect businesses and organizations from lawsuits. However, there are still several valid issues with personal injury and worker’s compensation claims that must be addressed. Because COVID-19 safety precautions were primarily up to the individual businesses to determine and implement, they may have put you at risk for contracting the virus or being terminated due to workplace injury or leave taken while ill.

Hann Law Firm Will Fight For You

Hann Law Firm has a proven track record of success in San Jose and throughout California, helping clients with their legal needs. Whether it is wrongful termination, personal injury, or worker’s compensation, we’ll protect your interests every step of the way. We will walk you through the legal process with the highest level of service and provide you the care and attention that you deserve.

We understand that fighting for fair treatment from insurance companies and big businesses can feel like an uphill battle, but our expert attorneys are well-versed in working with these companies to get the settlement you deserve. 

Don’t leave your legal rights in someone else’s hands. Call us today for your free consultation.

How Is the Pandemic Affecting Family Law?

COVID-19 impacted our lives in an unprecedented way. As a result, our health, society, economy, and family lives have become uncertain, and many people are left worrying about the future. This is especially true if you’re going through a divorce or are struggling to understand how this affects your custody arrangements.

Many courts closed or limited their services due to stay-at-home or shelter-in-place orders. This brought about questions and concerns about the safety and welfare of children and existing or pending custody agreements. A few questions that arose as a result are:

  • Do shelter-in-place orders change the schedule of custody exchanges?
  • If school is no longer in session, who has the child(ren)?
  • If my ex works in a hospital, should the children stay with me?
  • What happens if my ex has family members in the high-risk category?
  • What happens if my ex is placed in quarantine due to COVID-19 exposure or if they have COVID-19?

So, how has the pandemic affected family law in the era of COVID-19? Let’s take a look at how it’s changed and where it will go in the future.

Child Support

If you’re paying child support, you must continue paying, even during the pandemic. COVID-19 has caused fear and uncertainty due to business losses and economic downturns. However, if you’re struggling to pay child support because you lost your job or your wages decreased due to fewer hours worked, you must file a modification of child support.

If a modification is not filed and approved by the court, it causes issues for both parents. The paying parent who lost income is still responsible for paying the current child support amounts, and the recipient also experiences a loss and change in circumstances. In addition, when the paying parent does not pay the full support, there may be future legal issues for non-payment. If you’re struggling to make payments or you aren’t receiving them, it’s critical to contact an experienced family lawyer for help.

Custody Issues

In addition to child support issues, concerns about custody agreements have arisen due to the pandemic. Some of these issues are:

  • Parents living in different states and not wanting the child(ren) to travel
  • Parents unable to pick child(ren) up from school or other agreed-upon locations
  • One parent not following social distance and quarantine guidelines
  • Difficulty making child care arrangements while child(ren) are home while the parents work
  • A parent testing positive for COVID-19 and not wanting their child exposed

These types of problems are still widespread in the United States, despite vaccination rates increasing. Your best option is always to work with a skilled family law attorney to get answers to your questions and come up with a resolution that is best for your child(ren).

Stimulus Funds

The federal government provided stimulus relief packages that included checks to many adults to compensate for some income loss due to COVID-19. A child credit was also allocated in this package. One of the most common questions regarding the stimulus package is which parent is entitled to get the credit for the child — some divorced parents alternate claiming the child as a dependent on their tax returns. The stimulus check is based on federal tax returns. This creates a debate about who receives the child tax credit.

If you’re recently divorced and a new tax filing has not yet been completed, you may have concerns that one parent receives more than their share of the stimulus check. Suppose you’re concerned about the distribution of stimulus payments and the child tax credits. In that case, a family law attorney can help you navigate this issue and reach an amenable agreement with your ex.

Emergency Custody Orders

You may have concerns that sending your child(ren) to your ex’s home could pose a risk to your child(ren)’s health. If this happens, you can ask your ex to agree to a temporary change of custody. When you do so, propose alternatives such as:

  • A temporary pause of in-person visits and scheduling make-up visits at a later date.
  • Scheduling regular phone calls or virtual visitation using FaceTime or Zoom
  • Keep in touch by sending letters, cards, text messages, or emails

If you feel your child(ren)’s health truly is at risk, you may need to ask a judge to intervene. It may be possible to get an emergency temporary child custody order from the court. However, custody disputes in the time of COVID-19 are uncharted territory.

There’s no guide on how to handle these issues in the courts. Some family law courts have stated that families should continue following custody schedules, and the schedule won’t be modified except in extreme cases.

If you and your ex can’t agree on a modified visitation schedule or you feel your child(ren)’s health is at risk, you should contact a local family law attorney for advice.

Speak With A Family Law Attorney

At Hann Law Firm, we take a personal approach to everything we do. From our first consultation, we’ll listen to your needs and concerns. Listening to our clients is at the heart of our success in the courtroom. So when you work with us, we’ll address your specific challenges, prepare diligently for the best possible outcome, and create a personalized approach to help achieve your goals.

This kind of care takes more time. But the results of our personalized approach speak for themselves. While other firms see a case number and a bottom line, we view each client as a human being who deserves justice. We know your case is essential to you, and we’ll take it just as personally. You – and your case – matter to us. Contact us today for your free consultation.

How Is COVID-19 Affecting Family Law in California?

There’s no exaggeration in saying that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every part of society, including legal proceedings. 

California’s stay-at-home order has put a halt on many things, but it’s still possible to get a divorce and address family law related legal issues during these unprecedented times. Here’s how California family law has been affected during the coronavirus pandemic.

Understand How Courts Have Been Affected

While the California court system is still operating during the pandemic, you should anticipate everything from delays and closures to impact your proceedings. You and your legal counsel should expect continuances as courts close down for extended periods as virus cases continue to surge. 

Depending on the situation, hearings may occur by teleconference, but you shouldn’t expect them. Instead, accept from the start that courts are operating at a slower capacity, and it will take longer than usual to process your case. In instances where you will be able to visit the court physically, you can expect increased protective measures to be in place. 

Child Support Terms Remain In Effect

If you’re already divorced and paying child support, you should know that the pandemic has not changed this obligation. You can always make changes to the agreement, but it requires court approval to be official and legally recognized. 

A simple verbal agreement between you and your former spouse will not suffice and could open you to legal issues in the future. Despite the economic turmoil caused by the pandemic and the uncertainty surrounding financial security many of us face, you need to consult with a family law attorney if you intend to change your payment agreement.

Visitation and Custody Complications

All current child custody orders remain in place. Understandably, this has raised concern with parents, especially when lengthy travel is required. However, that isn’t a justification for violating a court order. 

Instead, if you feel the custody agreement’s current terms put your child in danger due to potential exposure, make arrangements with the other parent that you can agree to. 

If you can’t come to agreeable terms, or if you feel that the other parent is being irresponsible by not taking proper health precautions, consult with a lawyer as soon as possible to resolve the issue legally. Remember, when it comes to custody-related matters, the courts have to act in the child’s best interest first.    

If A Parent Gets Infected with COVID-19

Suppose you or your former partner have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or are showing symptoms. In that case, it’s advisable to make temporary arrangements to keep the child with the healthy party for the illness’s duration. 

Again, the parents can agree to this without having to go to court. However, in situations where co-parenting is difficult or even hostile, it may become an issue for the courts. The fact that a court order requires a parent to have custody of a child for a set amount of time doesn’t supersede the danger of potentially passing on infection onto the child. 

Courts will always look at the issue of a child’s safety in such matters first and foremost. While it’s usually advisable to pursue every path to resolution with custody disputes before involving legal procedures, a child’s welfare is not such a situation. If you have reason to believe the other parent has put your child’s health at risk, contact a lawyer right away.

Let Hann Law Firm Represent You

Getting started with a divorce or legal separation can be challenging. As the process moves along, it is essential to have a knowledgeable, experienced attorney at your side. Hann Law Firm is here to guide you during this difficult time. 

At Hann Law Firm, we understand the struggle. We will do everything we can to make these circumstances as streamlined and pain-free as possible. Whatever that looks like in your particular case – a trial, mediation, or other informal means – our goal is always your well-being and best interests. Contact us today to learn more about or expert family law services.

Can Businesses Defend Themselves Against COVID-19 Lawsuits?

The numbers for COVID-19 are rising every day, with a growing death toll to go along with it. It’s not surprising that the US population is worried about themselves and their loved ones every time they take the chance and walk out the door to go to work. 

Now businesses face new hurdles that they haven’t had to deal with before — how do you protect your business from COVID-19 related lawsuits?

What happens when an employee gets COVID-19 and realizes their company may be at fault? What if a customer catches the virus while they are in your establishment?

Unfortunately, most of the answers to those questions are still a little murky and untested. It’s clear that you need to take appropriate precautions to ensure your customer and employee safety, but how much does that protect your business from lawsuits?

Company Responsibility

The current legislation at both the federal and state levels varies drastically, but one thing is clear — “gross negligence” on your part isn’t covered.

There are a few steps you can take to be more responsible.

Step 1. CDC Guidelines

Following proper CDC guidelines is paramount. While the rule and regulations are changing daily, it is up to the company to know and inform everyone of the new steps needing to be taken to protect themselves against possibly contracting the virus. 

Step 2. Local Laws

Know their local laws. The laws evolve with the growing numbers and change with the number of people in the area who have tested positive for COVID-19.  

It is a company’s responsibility to ensure they know how many people can be in their space, what hours they can operate, updated health and safety standards, and how to coordinate staff to adhere to the standards set by local laws. They have to stay up-to-date as new laws and mandates come down from officials.

Step 3. Employee Protection

The third step is to ensure all employees follow the rules they have set in place for personal protective equipment (PPE) and what the procedures are if an employee is possibly exposed. It is your responsibility to ensure that your employees are wearing proper PPE at all times when they are on your property.

Your company has to respect the privacy of their employees’ health, but they also have to protect the staff and customers. Keeping aware of employees’ health lessens the risk of exposing several other staff members and consumers coming into their stores or dining areas.  

Step 4. Exposure Events

The fourth step is informing the staff if management and owners have been notified of a possible exposure event. A business must keep employees up-to-date about the knowledge of people coming in with COVID-19 for their employees to see medical attention as soon as possible and quarantine against those at-risk in their homes.

Get Legal Advice

Things are continually changing as we learn more about the novel Coronavirus. Guidelines and legal requirements will be adjusting in real time as everyone learns how to respond appropriately.

Hann Law is a San Jose law firm committed to keeping your best interests at the forefront of every case. We are dedicated to helping you navigate a challenging and difficult time. Protect your business and your future – Contact us today and let us fight for YOU.

Effects of COVID-19 on Personal Injury Law in California

COVID-19 has changed the landscape of the United States. From employment to personal relationships, the “new normal” is affecting everyone. 

This includes personal injury cases. 

When you are involved in a physical altercation with another person, specific laws constitute self-defense. Because of COVID-19, your court case may be conducted differently — so it’s important to be aware of the changes.

Self-Defense

In California, self-defense is defined as defending yourself when you feel you are in imminent danger of physical harm, and force is necessary. However, the degree of force used must be reasonably necessary, depending on the circumstances. 

A few examples of reasonable force are:

  • Preventing a rape with lethal force
  • Hitting or kicking a burglar
  • Pushing an attacker away or down a staircase

California also recognizes the Castle Doctrine. This doctrine refers to a set of laws that allow lethal force to protect your home. No laws have changed or been altered in the age of COVID-19, but the way these cases are heard and settled has become more difficult. 

Once you meet with a lawyer and determine there is evidence to proceed with a personal injury lawsuit, there are a series of steps through the California court system to follow. Each phase has been affected by COVID-19. Let’s take a look at some of these issues.

Statute of Limitations

The statute of limitations for filing an injury claim in California is two years. That means once two years have gone by, you no longer have the ability to file a personal injury lawsuit. 

If you have any questions about when to file a personal injury lawsuit, consult a lawyer. They have the experience and knowledge to help you navigate the complicated court system.

Potential for Delayed Medical Care

Before COVID-19, going to a doctor or the ER was a simple matter of showing up and being seen for your injuries. That is not to say you should wait if you have an urgent medical emergency. While you may experience long waits in the ER due to understaffing and the number of COVID patients being treated, you still need to be treated. 

If your injuries don’t warrant a visit to the ER, contact your physician as soon as possible. Most general practitioners and some specialists are performing telehealth appointments. While it may not be the same as seeing the doctor in person, they can still assess your injuries and advise a course of treatment.

It’s essential to have your injuries documented as soon as possible after the altercation and get treatment. Accurate records of injuries and potential long-term effects are a crucial component of a personal injury lawsuit.

Changes to Insurance

Since insurance is a private industry, they are not subject to the same laws regarding personal injury. Since the onset of COVID-19, insurance companies are scrambling to reassess risks associated with the virus and the amount of money available to cover damages to another person. 

In addition to these changes, individuals have let their auto insurance and home insurance lapse due to the inability to pay. While this is the last thing you want to worry about when you’ve been injured, it’s important to understand that you may receive a lower than expected settlement.

Court Delays

Stay-at-home orders have changed the landscape of court workers. Delays due to working from home have pushed court cases further out in the calendar. Civil courts where most personal injury cases are presented have been significantly impacted. 

Hours have been cut in half to minimize exposure and allow work from home for clerical tasks. It’s understandable to want your case to be heard as quickly as possible, COVID-19 has impacted the courts exponentially, and it may be months before your case is presented. 

Even with these delays and roadblocks, your case is still important and must be filed promptly to receive a favorable outcome. When selecting a lawyer, make sure they can help you to navigate through these hurdles.

Increased Pressure to Settle

Insurance companies tend to try and settle as quickly as possible, and even more so now that the courts are backed up, and cases are delayed. Even if your suit doesn’t involve an insurance company, an individual defendant will attempt an out-of-court settlement. 

The pandemic’s increasing economic pressure might sway you to choose a quick settlement and get a check faster. However, settling can harm you in the long run. Most initial settlement offers undercut both your injury value and the harm you’ve experienced as a result. 

Trust your attorney’s advice and evaluate every settlement offer honestly, negotiating with the opposing party for a fair settlement that accurately reflects your injury and the damage caused.

Settlement vs. Trial

Even if you feel that the settlement offered is sufficient, your lawyer can negotiate a better settlement or take your case to court for a judge to determine. There are pros and cons to both means of settling a personal injury lawsuit.

Trial

A trial can significantly increase the potential compensation for your claim. For example, a jury could award more for your pain and suffering than an insurance company or individual offers. You also get a better sense of justice by having a trial. During the trial, the defendant is found guilty, whereas they never have to admit fault in a settlement.

The downside to a trial is the length of time it can take. Lawsuits can be a long, drawn-out process. The longer the trial takes, the more expensive it can become. Taking your case to court also creates the risk of not winning. Speaking with a qualified lawyer will help you determine if a trial is a right choice for you.

Settlement

Settlements take less time than a trial and can save you money in court costs and lawyer fees. You have more control over the settlement process. You and your lawyer can negotiate a better settlement and have the final say in accepting it. 

Unfortunately, in a settlement, the amount may be substantially less than what could be determined in a court case. However, there is always a chance that the court will award you nothing. Settlements are permanent. Once the money is paid, there is no other recourse. 

Finding a Personal Injury Lawyer

Even in the era of COVID-19, personal injury lawyers are standing by to take your case. Most offer online consultations and meetings, making sure that everyone stays safe. The lawyer you choose will help you navigate the complicated process of your personal injury claim and help you determine the best route to go. 

Hann Law Firm has a dedicated team of personal injury lawyers ready to take your call. We advocate for you in the face of these challenges. We’ll get you the compensation you need to heal and move forward with your life. 

Fighting for fair treatment from insurance companies and big businesses can seem like an uphill battle, but we’ll protect your interests every step of the way. We have a long, proven track record of success in San Jose and throughout California – you can trust us when it’s most important. Contact us today for your free consultation with one of our experienced lawyers.