What the mask mandate means for personal injury claims involving COVID-19

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, one issue has become surprisingly divisive: masks. Plenty of evidence shows that face coverings significantly reduce the spread of the virus, protecting both the wearer and those around them.

Yet, for some, masks have become a symbol of government overreaching. “Give me liberty or give me death,” said Patrick Henry more than 200 years ago. For anti-maskers, that sentiment rings true.

But what about the rest of us? What recourse does the mask-wearing public have when their exposure is heightened due to anti-maskers?

How a personal injury claim might come into play

One answer might be a personal injury claim. Personal injury is rooted in negligence – that is, failure to uphold a reasonable standard of care, resulting in harm to someone else.

It doesn’t take much of a stretch to imagine how this theory could apply to businesses that flout the governor’s mask mandate. By failing to enforce mask usage, companies are violating a reasonable standard of care (indeed, they’re breaking the law). They could potentially be held liable by customers who contract COVID because of that failure.

Tying it into premises liability

Consider this scenario: You visit a North Carolina business that isn’t enforcing the mask mandate. You contract COVID-19 and can trace your exposure, with reasonable certainty, to that business. Can you sue the company for damages, getting coverage for your medical bills, pain, and suffering, the whole shebang?

Potentially, yes. That scenario is arguably akin to a premises liability claim: a business or property owner allows dangerous conditions on their premises, and someone suffers harm as a result.

Still, it’s not a grand slam. Proving causation – that you contracted the virus from that business, as a result of its failure to enforce mask usage – could be challenging, especially in the uncharted legal territory surrounding COVID-19 and all its implications. But it’s worth considering.

As always, talk to a personal injury lawyer if you have questions about your situation. You may have grounds for a claim.

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