Can Teachers Sue for Personal Injury Due to COVID-19?
Posted on August 12th, 2020 in Personal Injury
The more than 120,000 public school teachers in Pennsylvania are preparing for a return to the classroom, which will be a bit different in the COVID-19 era. However, many are concerned that in-person instruction can lead to health complications not just for the students, but teachers and staff as well.
Studies suggest children are faring better than adults who contract COVID-19, however, they are still capable of spreading the deadly virus. So, if a teacher or staff member contracts COVID-19 in the classroom, can they sue for personal injury?
Are school districts liable for the spread of COVID-19? – Possible Personal Injury Suits
Right now, many teachers are weighing their options–take early retirement, resign from their position, or put themselves at risk for catching COVID-19. When concerns first emerged from educators and parents about the reopening of school districts across the Keystone State, State Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine explained that should someone in the school district become ill, the State Health Department will assist the district.
But many wonder what that actually means once school reopens. If a school has 1,000 or more students and someone contracts COVID-19, where will the Health Department take over? And, if there are simultaneous outbreaks across Pennsylvania, what will happen?
“In those instances when someone tests positive, public health staff from the department will immediately assist the school with risk assessment, isolation and quarantine recommendations, and other infection control recommendations,” Levine said.
So where does this leave a teacher as school funds will quickly be depleted to keep up with COVID-19 mandates and precautions to sanitize and promote social distancing?
Right now, the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) does not require employment accommodations for employees who live with someone who is in a high-risk group–including teachers, who are not legally protected if they refuse to come to work. The teachers may be able to make some adjustments, but that will entirely depend on their collective bargaining agreement, state mandates, and the school district.
So if a teacher returns to school in the fall, contracts COVID-19 from a student, then brings it home to an at-risk spouse, partner, or child, can the teacher sue?
The answer depends on contract agreements, liability waivers, and the state and federal governments’ decision to grant immunity to certain institutions across the country.
As of August, there is no legislation that says a teacher cannot sue for contracting COVID-19. However, the likelihood of such a case standing in court is uncertain.
While parents across the country are preparing for lawsuits against districts for neglecting the needs of special needs students since the onset of the novel coronavirus, many districts are bracing themselves for the possibility of liability and personal injury suits should outbreaks emerge.
What should I do if I contract COVID-19 on the job?
If you contract COVID-19 while on the job, be sure to document any missteps by your employer–this may include failure to social distance students and educators, lack of personal protective equipment in the event social distancing cannot be achieved, and failure to communicate such legal changes and mandates pertaining to COVID-19 that occur.
We know that the situation surrounding COVID-19 is evolving daily. That’s why we’ll stand with you to ensure should you become ill, you can rest assured knowing justice will be sought for on your behalf.
Teachers Return Despite COVID-19: Kalinoski Law Offices
If you are a Pennsylvania educator and you have contracted COVID-19 as a result of your school district failing to comply with state mandates or failure to make accommodations for at-risk teachers, you do not have to stand for this. Contracting COVID-19 on the job may be considered a personal injury and one you may be able to recoup lost wages for. Contact the Scranton personal injury attorney, Craig Kalinoski, to learn more.