As you know, it is extraordinarily difficult to try to keep your essential business operating during a global pandemic or bring your employees back to work while coronavirus rages on. If that isn’t bad enough, now your business gets sued by someone who alleges they became infected with COVID-19 due to your company’s negligence. Then comes the final insult. Your insurance company refuses to cover the lawsuit.
Yes, this is going to become the unfortunate reality for many businesses, if it hasn’t happened already. Here are some tips and guidelines to make sure your business is prepared.
First, we always recommend that a business immediately provides a copy of a lawsuit received to its insurance company or its insurance broker. You may be entitled to coverage, you may receive coverage, and you don’t want to give up the possibility of getting the protection your business paid premiums for.
If the insurance company refuses to cover the lawsuit, consult with an attorney experienced in forcing insurance companies to cover these types of lawsuit. Obtain an evaluation from the lawyer or law firm in that area of concentration to determine whether your business wants to force the insurance company to cover the lawsuit.
In the meantime, you will need to defend the lawsuit. Here are some tips to help you.
Hire a Lawyer
The most important thing you can do at that point is to hire a lawyer to defend the lawsuit, and do so quickly. The last thing a business wants or needs is to default in responding to the lawsuit and wind up with a default judgment. Default judgments can be extraordinarily difficult, if not impossible, to get out of, and typically add substantial costs to your legal bill. On the other hand, default judgments are easy to avoid by getting a lawyer on board before an answer to the lawsuit is due.
Of course, hire a lawyer with experience defending these types of personal injury lawsuits. If you are having trouble finding one or are running short on time, ask the attorney you typically work with to get an extension of time to answer the lawsuit. Personally injury lawyers routine grant these types of courtesy extensions of time.
Once your business has a law firm on board, that firm is going to ask that your business to provide information to them concerning actions that the business took or did not take regarding risk of exposure to COVID-19. Knowing you will be receiving a request for that information should lead you to think about what steps your business is taking right now to protect it from these types of personal injury lawsuits.
Here are some questions you should be asking and answering in terms of documentation.
- Has anyone at your location(s) tested positive for coronavirus?
- When were they present?
- Where were they present?
- Is the business able, in any fashion, to contact trace in order to identify others who are or may have been exposed to coronavirus?
Besides exposure identification information, your business will need to evaluate what protocols have been implemented at your location(s) since the start of the pandemic. Some of those protocols will revolve around access restriction, social distancing, surface cleaning, employee and guest/customer notifications and warnings, as well as the provision of personal protective equipment and the following of any state, federal and local guidelines or mandates.
The extent of the vigilance your business engages in now, and its documentation concerning all of these things, may be the difference between winning and losing a coronavirus personal injury case.
If you have any questions concerning insurance coverage for a COVID-19 personal injury lawsuit, or defending a COVID-19 personal injury lawsuit, please do not hesitate to give us a call.
Evan S. Schwartz
Founder of Schwartz, Conroy & Hack