COVID-19 and Medical Malpractice
There is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic is a concerning time. It is especially frightening for patients testing positive for the novel coronavirus, as well as the healthcare providers and companies working to treat patients and combat this outbreak. While we trust that providers are doing their best, thousands of patients continue to succumb to COVID-19 and related respiratory conditions.
When patients do not survive certain medical conditions, their family members might wonder whether there is a claim for medical malpractice if a medical provider or company made an error that resulted in the death. While the scope of medical malpractice claims stemming from coronavirus treatment will be unknown for some time, we know there have been protections put in place to try to shield medical providers from liability for any acts of negligence they may commit while treating COVID-19 patients. The idea is to allow these people and companies to focus on combating the pandemic without having to worry about possible liability.
Protections by the Department of Health and Human Services
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued the “Declaration under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act for Medical Countermeasures Against COVID-19.” In part, this declaration provides immunity from liability for specific parties relating to the manufacture, distribution, use, or administration of certain countermeasures to COVID-19. Such immune parties can include manufacturers or distributors of medical devices or pharmaceuticals, such as those used to diagnose, prevent, treat, or cure coronavirus. This means that if a medical device, antiviral drug, test, or another tool fails or does not work as intended, associated companies or doctors will not be held liable. An exception to liability protections, however, exists for situations where a person or company engages in willful misconduct that causes harm.
Limited Immunity Under the CARES Act
On March 27, 2020, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Section 4216 of this Act provides temporary immunity from malpractice liability for medical professionals who are volunteering their services during this state of emergency. To be covered by this temporary immunity, the following must apply:
- The healthcare provider is volunteering within their designated practice area and specialty
- The provider had a good faith belief that the patient needed healthcare services
Exceptions to liability protection under the CARES Act include harm caused by reckless conduct, gross negligence, criminal acts, or willful misconduct. This law currently supersedes any state law that might be contrary to these protections.
Increased Malpractice Coverage for Providers
Many malpractice insurance companies are being more flexible in this uncertain time and are offering a wider coverage than they usually might. This includes coverage for telehealth appointments and other forms of telemedicine that are necessary due to COVID-19 exposure risks. Coverage is also being extended to many retired medical professionals who are offering their assistance to combat this pandemic.
Our Ohio Medical Malpractice Lawyers are Ready to Help
There are many potential stakeholders in possible medical malpractice claims arising from COVID-19 treatment, including patients, doctors, medical supply companies, emergency medical services, the general public, lawyers, and more. As of now, there are many more questions about provider immunity than there are answers. We are all watching as different protections evolve to determine what liability might be at issue in future cases.
The Eisen Law Firm provides medical malpractice representation to patients throughout Ohio. Contact us online or call 216-687-0900 if you have suffered a significant injury and would like to discuss your rights.