"Long COVID" Adds A New Dimension To COVID-Related Personal Injury Cases
The effects of the COVID pandemic are already affecting personal injury cases, from closed courts to new claims. One aspect of COVID is raising more alarms in the medical community and may soon impact the legal system, and that's "long COVID," or the infections that seem to flatten people for months, with symptoms waxing and waning. There's no way so far to predict who will recover fully and who will experience lasting symptoms, but for people who may be able to prove they developed COVID as a result of a specific incident, the interaction between long COVID and the legal system is something to watch.
Treatment and Inability to Work May Last a Long Time
Long COVID may or may not be a chronic condition, but it does require the patient to seek treatment for a longer time, and the symptoms go on for a much longer time. This can make it difficult or impossible for the person to resume working and resume daily activities at the same level that they were at before they got sick. This means that someone who may have developed COVID as a result of another person or company's negligence would require more help with medical costs and living expenses than someone who was sick for just a couple of weeks. In other words, if that person filed a personal injury claim, he or she would have to seek a larger award to cover indefinite or long-term treatment.
Little Is Known About the Condition
The problem is, so little is known about long COVID that it is not yet possible to determine if it will be merely a long-term illness or a chronic condition that affects the person for the rest of their life. It's not known if that person will need medical help for weeks or years. It's also unknown what type of help they might need, and all of that affects potential court awards. The court doesn't want to leave someone without the help they deserve, but the court also doesn't typically want to award more than is warranted.
No Precedent, Even Considering Other Life-Altering Cases
It sounds at first like basing a personal injury award on other cases where a person was affected long-term might be appropriate, but even that isn't good enough. There's simply no precedent that courts can follow. What that means for people filing personal injury claims regarding COVID is that their awards, if they get them, could be smaller than they had hoped for. And that's assuming the court agrees that their claim about someone's negligence exposing them to the novel coronavirus and causing them to develop COVID is valid.
That does not mean you shouldn't ask about filing a claim if you think someone's negligence was responsible for you getting sick; eventually there will be legal precedents (and your case might even be one of the ones that allows the court to set a precedent). But you must talk to a personal injury lawyer in your town before assuming anything. The next few years will be interesting to watch from a legal standpoint.