COVID Wrongful Death Lawsuits: Is it Possible to Win?

Between now and the start of the COVID-19 pandemic – the United States has seen 92,493,791 cases of the virus and 1,052,935 deaths. Everyday people have filled out at least 1,000 wrongful death lawsuits in relation to COVID-19.

In the case that you’d like to file a wrongful death lawsuit related to COVID-19, we’d like to offer insight on this topic. Is it possible to win a COVID wrongful death lawsuit? The short answer is yes, but there’s more to consider.

In this blog post, we’ll cover:

  • Examples of COVID-19 employer neglect
  • Examples of COVID-19 nursing home neglect
  • A note about workers compensation in Texas
  • Current COVID-19 wrongful death lawsuits 
  • Should you file a COVID-19 wrongful death lawsuit?
  • Wrongful death documents needed to file a claim
  • How a lawyer can help with your COVID-10 wrongful death lawsuit

Examples of COVID-19 Employer Neglect

Regardless of what state you’re from, the legal expectation for employers is that they keep their employees safe. The most common type of COVID-19 wrongful death lawsuit is one where an employee gets COVID-19 at work because there were a lack of procedures in place to protect them. Examples include:

  • Failure to provide personal protective equipment such as face masks, gloves, shields, and sanitizers
  • Failure to screen employees for possible COVID-19 infection
  • Failure to inform employees about infected co-workers
  • Failure to implement social distancing practices
  • Enforcement of policies that contradict the concerns of official health organizations
  • Improper sanitization of equipment and spaces

Examples of COVID-19 Nursing Home Neglect

Since the onset of the pandemic, nursing home populations have especially been at risk of casualties related to COVID-19. Many nursing homes were unprepared, and some intentionally cut corners when it came to safety protocols. If you know of a nursing home that failed to implement any of these procedures, they may be liable for the death of a loved one:

  • Close common areas
  • Enforce hand sanitizer and hand washing procedures
  • Provide personal protective equipment such as face masks, gloves, shields, and sanitizers
  • Provide COVID-19 safety training to caregivers
  • Quarantine infected residents
  • Disinfect the facility
  • Screen caregivers, employees, and visitors for COVID-19

A Note About Workers Compensation in Texas

Workers’ compensation is a form of insurance that provides benefits to employees that suffer from work-related injuries or illnesses. Since the start of the pandemic, COVID-19 has been included on this list of illnesses.

If your loved one resided in Texas and did not opt out of the workers’ compensation system, you can not legally sue the third party for neglect. Instead, you must file on your loved one’s behalf through the workers’ compensation system. 

However, note that there are certain exceptions that may allow you to sue. This includes intentional negligence, certain types of accidents, or injuries caused by third parties like construction and equipment manufacturers

In the case that your loved one did opt out of workers’ compensation before starting their job, they (and thus, you) still have the right to sue regardless of exemptions. If this is the case, get in contact with a personal injury lawyer in San Antonio.

Current COVID-19 Wrongful Death Lawsuits to Watch

If you believe a loved one has wrongly died due to COVID-19 negligence, you aren’t alone. Thousands of cases have been filled since the start of the pandemic, and we’d like to bring attention to some. This section will look at different claims, with the goal of helping you become better informed on pressing COVID-19 charges.

Gutierrez vs. Publix Super Markets Inc.

Gerardo Gutierrez was a 70-year-old Publix deli counter worker who died after allegedly contracting COVID-19 from an infected co-worker. The family of deceased Gerardo Gutierrez filed a lawsuit on the grounds that the supermarket chain forbade their employees from wearing face masks and using gloves in the early stages of the pandemic.

At the moment, the case is still ongoing. Earlier in 2021, a Florida judge refused to dismiss the lawsuit per Publix’s request.

Iniguez vs. Aurora Packing Company, Inc.

This is a unique case that shows how complex COVID-19 wrongful death lawsuits can go. 

Erika Iniguez, who is the administrator of the estate of Esperanza Ugalde, now deceased, filed a lawsuit against the meatpacking company that employed Ugalde’s husband – Ricardo Ugalde. The claim argues that Ricardo Ugalde contracted COVID-19 due to workplace negligence, and in turn, he infected his wife who later died. The Kane County Circuit Court has since dismissed Iniguez’s lawsuit with prejudice.

New Jersey to Pay Millions Due to Alleged Gross Negligence

While not a specific case, New Jersey’s Murphy Administration agreed to settle 119 veteran negligence claims for 53 million dollars in January 2022. The Murphy Administration admits that their negligence had contributed to the deaths of more than 100 veterans within their several state-run veteran homes. Several more claims are being filed in regards to this issue.

Should You File a COVID-19 Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

As you can see, there have been different outcomes to the COVID-19 cases that have so far gone to trial. Truthfully, we can’t guarantee that you win your case – as each case is different – but we believe your cause could be worth fighting for. 

The key factor that the law looks at is intent. To the law, it’s not enough if your loved one just contracted COVID-19 at work. There had to be direct, provable policies and actions (or negligence) in place within the workplace that lead to the COVID-19 contraction, and then death. 

Note: This may be something that a personal injury or wrongful death lawyer can help you assess during a free consultation.

Wrongful Death Documents Needed to File a Claim

While you may need specific documentation based on the terms of your claim, we’d like to cover the general paperwork that you’ll need. Some of these documents may take time to process, so you’ll want to obtain them soon so they can be attached with your claim. 

Documents you need include:

  • A death certificate and any police reports
  • Evidence of a relationship between the victim and the negligent party
  • Tax returns and family records
  • Medical records

A death certificate and any police reports

The death certificate of your loved one can provide accurate information on the time and cause of death as examined by a coroner. If you happened to file police reports in relation to COVID-19 and the negligent party, these police documents should also be submitted with your claim.

Evidence of a relationship between the victim and the negligent party

In order to file claims for negligence, there must be a relationship between your loved one and the negligent party.

In the case of a nursing home COVID-19 wrongful death, it could be as simple as the staff owing the residents a duty of care to do everything in their power to keep residents safe. In the case that the negligent party is an employer, your loved one’s most recent pay stubs, earning statements, and bank statements should suffice. 

Tax returns and family records

To calculate the value of your wrongful death claim, you and/or your lawyer will need to estimate the financial and emotional impact of losing your loved one. For example, if the victim was the head of the household and was the primary source of income, that holds your claim accountable for more compensation. 

Tax returns are the primary document used to determine financial losses. For emotional losses, spouses can claim loss of consortium, and children (and other dependents) can claim loss of parental support. Records of grief counseling and therapy related to wrongful death should also be submitted, if applicable.

Medical records

If your loved one spent time in the hospital after contracting COVID-19 or suffered from any sort of medical malpractice, you need to secure copies of their medical records. These medical records show a clear picture of what happened to your loved one as a result of an employer or other party’s negligence.

If you believe a doctor’s actions killed your loved one, then it is important to request a full autopsy to determine if a medical error was to blame.

How a Lawyer Can Help WIth Your COVID-19 Wrongful Death Lawsuit

If you’d like to work with a lawyer to file your COVID-19 wrongful death lawsuit, here are potential ways that a lawyer can help you. They may:

  • Help you identify possible acts of negligence in your case
  • Inform you of your choices and offer advice
  • Calculate financial and emotional compensation that you may be entitled
  • File your lawsuit and complete paperwork on your behalf
  • Defend you and your loved one’s rights in the lawsuit

Use LegalStream to find a Lawyer to Represent You

We can’t promise you that your COVID-19 wrongful death lawsuit can win, but we know that each case is worth fighting for. If you believe your case can win, we want to help you look for the best personal injury lawyer in San Antonio to represent your case. 

LegalStream’s online directory is completely free to use and can connect you to both personal injury lawyers and healthcare solutions in San Antonio. We wish you luck.

Present your case today!