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Coronavirus Litigation Lawyers in Austin

Were You or Your Business Affected by COVID-19?

As the novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, continues to spread around the globe and across the United States, millions of people have felt the effects. Some employees have been instructed to work from home, while others have been let go entirely. Businesses have been ordered to shut down or move to partial operations. Medical practices have turned their focus to treating coronavirus patients, making it somewhat more challenging for injured individuals and those with non-critical care needs to get treatment.

Chances are, you too have been affected by COVID-19. If your health, finances, or livelihood have been threatened by the coronavirus pandemic and the government’s reaction to it, you may be wondering about your legal rights and what options you have. You’re not alone. Coronavirus lawsuits have already begun springing up in countless numbers across just about every industry. But which of these are valid? Who will actually be able to recover compensation for their losses? This is an unprecedented situation, and the answers to these questions are not yet fully known; however, most experts agree that we can expect to see a lot more coronavirus lawsuits as the months (and years) unfold.

Here at Howry Breen & Herman, we are committed to helping those who have faced significant hardships as a result of circumstances and actions outside their control. To that end, we’ve put together some helpful information on coronavirus litigation and what your rights are if you have been affected by COVID-19. Keep reading to learn more, or get in touch with us directly to speak to an Austin coronavirus litigation lawyer at our firm.

Call us at (512) 430-4844 or contact us online.

Coronavirus Business Interruption and Disruption Claims

Many business owners who have had to shut down entirely or move to partial operations due to COVID-19 are looking to their business interruption and business disruption insurance policies as a potential source of relief. But are coronavirus-related shutdowns covered by business interruption insurance?

Businesses should immediately get help to carefully review their existing insurance programs to determine whether adequate coverage is available for coronavirus and other infectious disease-related losses. While the scope of coverage will depend upon the specific terms of each insurance policy, a number of coverages may respond with insurance for the types of coronavirus losses that have been or may soon be experienced by commercial policyholders.

Business Interruption Insurance

As a consequence of the recent governmental shutdown orders and travel advisories/restrictions and increasing public fear over contraction of coronavirus, businesses located in areas of shutdown and where human contraction of coronavirus has been concentrated may experience significant disruptions. Business interruption insurance may respond with coverage for these income losses.

Typically purchased as part of a company's commercial property insurance policy, business interruption insurance is intended to protect businesses against income losses sustained as a result of disruptions to their operations. Contingent business interruption coverage similarly provides insurance for financial

losses resulting from disruptions to a business's customers or suppliers, usually requiring that the underlying cause of damage to the customer or supplier be of a type covered with respect to the business's own property.

In many commercial property insurance policies, business interruption coverage is triggered when the policyholder sustains "direct physical loss of or damage to" insured property by a covered cause of loss. In the event of a claim for coronavirus-related business interruption, certain insurance carriers may dispute whether this "physical loss" requirement has been met.

Policyholders should keep in mind, however, that courts across the country have not settled upon a uniform rule for when insured property has suffered a "physical loss." Courts in a number of jurisdictions have determined that contamination and other incidents that render property uninhabitable or otherwise unfit for its intended use constitutes a "physical loss" sufficient to trigger business interruption coverage. The determination of whether "physical loss" has occurred will therefore continue to require a close examination of the particular facts of each case.

Other specialized insurance policies and extensions of coverage added to standard property insurance policies—including those sold to policyholders in the hospitality and health care industries—expressly provide insurance coverage for losses caused by "communicable or infectious diseases" without requiring physical damage to insured property. Notwithstanding the potential availability of coverage under standard business interruption insurance, businesses especially concerned about the risk of disruptions occasioned by communicable or infectious disease outbreaks should consider whether to also purchase "communicable or infectious diseases" coverage.

In addition, many commercial property insurance policies provide coverage for business income losses sustained when a "civil authority" prohibits or impairs access to the policyholder's premises. Depending upon its specific wording, a policy's "civil authority" coverage may or may not require that the access restriction result from "physical loss" by a covered cause of loss and, if so, often does not require that "physical loss" occur to the policyholder's own property. Accordingly, in the event that a federal, state, or local governmental authority limits access to or from areas where active transmission of an infectious disease has been identified, "civil authority" coverage may respond with insurance for the attendant income losses of affected businesses.

Finally, some forms of political risk insurance may afford coverage for business interruption losses suffered by a foreign entity's operations in the host country resulting from local government regulatory actions. While disruptions resulting from a health edict such as that regarding the coronavirus may not constitute "expropriation" or contract frustration, many political risk policies afford coverage for business interruption, even when there is no physical damage to the business, for actions taken by the host country's government.

It may still be in your best interest to file a business disruption claim if you have suffered financial harm as a result of the government’s reaction to the pandemic. Contact us for a free evaluation. Plus, filing a claim will create a record of your damages should the government ultimately provide relief to affected business owners.

Workers’ Compensation for Coronavirus

If you were exposed to or contracted COVID-19 while at work, you may be wondering if you are eligible for workers’ compensation. Again, the answer is unclear. In general, in order to recover workers’ compensation benefits in Texas, you need to show that your injury or illness was the direct result of your work-related duties or workplace environment. Proving that you contracted coronavirus at work is not only extremely difficult, but it may also be irrelevant. Most workers’ compensation policies exclude coverage for common illnesses, such as colds and flus.

If you fell ill and were unable to work or were instructed to not come into work because you may have been exposed to coronavirus, you may have other options for relief, including taking leave under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act or the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act. If your place of work has shut down completely due to the current health crisis, or if you were let go, you could qualify for unemployment.

If you are already receiving workers’ compensation benefits you may be worried about how the pandemic could affect your ability to receive medical treatment. In response to COVID-19, Governor Greg Abbott approved a request by the Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC) to suspend certain workers’ compensation requirements, thus making it easier for injured workers to continue receiving the treatment and benefits they need. Contact us for more information.

Coronavirus Lawsuits Against Nursing Homes & Cruise Ship Lines

Both nursing homes and cruise ship lines are expected to be hit hard by coronavirus lawsuits in the coming weeks. In fact, many nursing home facilities and cruise ship lines have already been met with legal action for allegedly failing to respond properly or quickly enough to coronavirus outbreaks.

If you have a loved one who contracted coronavirus in a nursing home or long-term care facility and are wondering about your legal options, know that this situation is anything but black and white. In order to bring a lawsuit against the facility, you will need to show that its staff was negligent or otherwise acted wrongfully and that this led to your loved one’s illness and/or death. Many nursing homes, including those that experienced coronavirus outbreaks, were simply unprepared for the scale of the crisis; whether or not they were negligent in their treatment of patients is an entirely separate matter.

The same is true if you or a loved one was exposed to or contracted COVID-19 aboard a cruise ship. For legal action to be successful, one must prove that the cruise ship line and/or its staff acted negligently or wrongfully, and that this led directly to your damages.

Our Firm Is Here to Help

Because this is such an uncertain time, and something that we have not seen before in the U.S. in modern times, the legal implications of the coronavirus pandemic and the reaction to it are equally as uncertain. However, this does not mean that you do not have rights! If you have been affected by coronavirus, it is very possible that you may have a number of legal options for recourse.

We encourage you to reach out to our Austin coronavirus litigation lawyers to learn more about what you can do in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and how our firm can help. As always, we are here to provide the answers, guidance, and support you need.

Contact Howry Breen & Herman online or call our office at (512) 430-4844 to request a free consultation today.

Coronavirus Litigation
  • Texas Lawyer Austin Best of 2020: Personal Injury Firm
    Howry Breen & Herman, LLP was selected the Top Personal Injury Law Firm in Austin by Texas Lawyer, “Best of 2020”. The annual special supplement contains the results of Texas Lawyer readers’ poll, wherein readers cast their votes for the best providers of services and goods to the legal profession.
  • Attorney Sean Breen and Attorney Chris Lavorato placed in California’s Top 100 Settlements for 2019, as tracked by The Recorder and VerdictSearch.
  • Our law firm is proud to have been recognized in the Texas Verdicts Hall of Fame. Texas Lawyer in conjunction with VerdictSearch, recognize attorneys and law firms for their verdicts of $10 million or more. In 2011 Sean Breen was a Hall of Fame Award Recipient for the #1 Premises Liability Top Texas Verdict, awarded by Texas Lawyer, for the jury verdict award in the case VanDusen v. Aspen Square Management. In 2016 Sean Breen was inducted into the Texas Verdicts Hall of Fame, awarded by Texas Lawyer, for an outstanding verdict in Nester v. Textron.
  • America's Top 100 Personal Injury Attorneys 2020
    Selection to America’s Top 100 Personal Injury Attorneys® is by invitation only and is reserved to identity the nation’s most exceptional litigators for high-value personal injury, catastrophic injury, wrongful death, product liability, and medical malpractice matters. HBH is proud that Sean Breen has been selected for this award. Less than one-half percent (0.5%) of active attorneys in the United States will receive this honor — truly the most exclusive and elite level of attorneys in the community. (2017-2020)
  • Best Lawyers Best Law Firms US News 2016
    Howry, Breen & Herman is proud to have been named a Tier 1, 2 and 3 Austin “Best Law Firm” in 7 practice areas by U.S. News – Best Lawyers® (“U.S. News” and BL Rankings, LLC). Law firms are selected for inclusion in this prestigious ranking based on a series of quantitative and qualitative criteria. Our specialty and tiers are listed here: https://bestlawfirms.usnews.com/profile/howry-breen-herman-llp/overview/36628
  • Best Lawyers - Lawyer of the Year | Litigation - Trusts & Estates (by BL Rankings, LLC d/b/a Best Lawyers and Co., LLC)
  • Best Lawyers - Lawyer of the Year | Personal Injury - Plaintiffs (by BL Rankings, LLC d/b/a Best Lawyers and Co., LLC)
  • Lifetime Achievement selection to America’s Top 100 Attorneys® is by invitation only and is reserved to identify the nation’s most exceptional attorneys whose accomplishments and impact on the legal profession merit a Lifetime Achievement award. Selection is not achieved based on a single accomplishment or a single great year of success, but rather on a lifetime of hard work, ethical standards, and community enriching accomplishments that are inspiring among the legal profession. Both Sean Breen (2017) and Randy Howry (2018) are honored to receive this award.
  • America’s Top 100 High Stakes Litigators® is reserved to identify the nation’s most exceptional trial attorneys in high value, high stakes legal matters. To be considered for selection, an attorney must have litigated (for either plaintiff or defendant) a matter (1) with at least $2,000,000 in alleged damages at stake or (2) with the fate of a business worth at least $2,000,000 at stake. These minimum qualifications are required for initial consideration. Thereafter, candidates are carefully screened through comprehensive Qualitative Comparative Analysis based on a broad array of criteria, including the candidate’s professional experience, litigation experience, significant case results, representative high stakes matters, peer reputation, and community impact in order to rank the candidates throughout the state. HBH is privileged to honor Partners Sean Breen (2017- 2020) and Randy Howry 2017, 2019, and 2020 for selection of this award.
  • Expertise- Best Real Estate Lawyers in Austin 2020
    Expertise - Howry Breen & Herman was recognized and featured in an article by expertisecommunity.com as one of the Best Real Estate Lawyers in Austin. 2020
  • America’s Premier High-Stakes Trial Lawyers®” – 7 Figure Litigators®, 8 Figure Litigators®, is meant to recognize the nation’s most respected and preeminent high-stakes trial lawyers based on their verifiable verdicts and/or settlements. It is a tremendous honor for Sean Breen (2019) and Randy Howry (2020) to be recognized among this elite group.
  • America’s Premier High-Stakes Trial Lawyers®” – 7 Figure Litigators®, 8 Figure Litigators®, is meant to recognize the nation’s most respected and preeminent high-stakes trial lawyers based on their verifiable verdicts and/or settlements. It is a tremendous honor for Sean Breen (2019) and Randy Howry (2020) to be recognized among this elite group.
  • The National Trial Lawyers – Top 100, a highly respected legal organization that limits its members to premier trial attorneys who demonstrate superior qualifications of leadership, reputation, influence, stature and public profile measured by strict qualification requirements. Sean Breen Top 100 Civil Plaintiff, 2009 – 2020.
  • Top 10 Business Tort Trial Lawyers by the National Trial Lawyers. Randy Howry 2012-2013; Sean Breen since 2016.
  • Best Lawyers in America
    The Best Lawyers in America® recognizes the top 5% of the most skilled attorneys in the nation. The robust selection process requires attorneys to nominate and review fellow lawyers based on their ethics, skill, knowledge, and ability to obtain results for their clients. The Best Lawyers in America® list is a way for plaintiffs to identify the leading attorneys in their region, known for their ability to get results with honesty, strength, and skill. Tim Herman, Sean Breen & Randy Howry have been featured by The Best Lawyers in America® (2006-2020) running alongside some of the most qualified firms in the nation. More info here.
  • Texas Monthly Top Attorneys - Sean E. Breen
    Top Attorneys As Published In Texas Monthly
  • Top 50 US Verdicts All Practice Areas Texas 2017
    Sean Breen was honored by TopVerdict.com for recovering one of the Top 50 Verdicts in Texas in 2017. This is an honorable distinction, reserved for those attorneys that achieve the highest settlements and verdicts in the state.
  • Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum
    Sean Breen is a member of the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum, a renowned legal organization whose membership is restricted to trial attorneys who have achieved seven-figured settlements and/or jury verdicts. 2011.
  • Multi Million Dollar Advocates Forum
    We are proud to have Sean Breen who is a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum. In order to become a member, an attorney must demonstrate that he or she has successfully achieved at least one six-figure settlement or jury verdict. 2011.
  • AV Preeminent
    Martindale-Hubbell® is widely regarded as one of the most renowned peer-review rating organizations in the legal field. Randy Howry (2018), Sean Breen (2001), Tim Herman (1998), Glen Wilkerson (2014) and Chris Lavorato (2014) at Howry, Breen & Herman have achieved the organization’s highest distinction of AV Preeminent®.
  • Super Lawyers
    Each year, Super Lawyers® magazine publishes its list of peer-nominated/evaluated and independently reviewed attorneys. We are proud to have attorneys who have been selected for inclusion in the prestigious Texas Super Lawyers® List, by Thomas Reuters since 2003, running through 2020.
  • Top American Lawyers
    Membership in Top American Lawyers is limited to only 1% of all attorneys in the United States. Randy Howry is proud to be honored with a Lifetime Charter Membership in this exclusive organization (2017).
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  • "Sean and his team were the breath of fresh air that we needed. Still thanking you guys, 9 years later!"

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