Where Do You Stand Legally If You Quit Wearing A Mask? Hello everyone, I hope you are well. In today’s post, I will be sharing a guest post from Amanda Hamilton. Amanda Hamilton is the CEO of the National Association of Licenced Paralegals (NALP). With numbers of vaccinations to date reaching 60 million, many believe that it’s all over. But it’s not, and the Government guidelines still recommend mask-wearing and social distancing.
Amanda will be exploring Why, in law, contracting Covid is different from contracting, say, the common cold; if you infect someone else, can you be held liable in law; criminal vs civil – what is the difference when it comes to Covid; could you be asked to pay compensation/damages; where does the burden of proof lie; what you can do if you are embroiled in a legal situation involving not wearing a mask.
So, if you take the step not to continue with mask-wearing, and you contract Covid, or worse, you are a carrier and pass it on to someone else, whose fault is it, and can they or you be held legally liable?
Where Do You Stand Legally If You Quit Wearing A Mask?
Official guidelines still recommend mask-wearing and social distancing, however, with the number of vaccinations across the UK exceeding 70 million. In addition, many people believe that the Covid crisis is all but over. As a result, some think that the time to stop wearing masks is very close, if not now.
So, if you take the step not to continue with mask-wearing, you contract Covid, or worse. Then, you are a carrier and pass it on to someone else.
Whose fault is it, and can they or you be held legally liable?
The law will naturally be vague over this issue as we have yet to experience such a case. In many ways, it will be like trying to ascertain how you contracted a common cold. It will be difficult to pinpoint who had passed it on or from which location the virus was contracted. However, the subtle difference in this circumstance is that having taken the step to refrain from mask-wearing. Unfortunately, you may be the only person to do so, and the finger may quickly point at you.
So, the question is whether you can be held liable in law?
The simple answer is probably in the negative. The reason for this is that there is no law making it mandatory to wear masks. It is simply a guideline suggested by the Government to keep people as safe as possible. So, it will not be a crime (an offence against the State). But, could it be a civil wrong (an action caused by one individual against another individual causing injury or damage)? The answer to that is, maybe.
There is no crime committed, as there is no statute stating that mask-wearing is mandatory. That does not mean that an individual who believes they have a claim against another says negligence (not wearing a mask) that has caused a personal injury (contracting Covid) cannot sue that individual through the civil courts. Winning such an action gives rise to the automatic remedy of damages (compensation). The amount of damages depends on the injuries and losses suffered.
Furthermore, the burden of proof (evidence that a claimant needs to produce to prove their case) is a lower burden than that of a criminal action. The responsibility in a civil action is that the claimant must prove their case on a balance of probabilities, i.e. that the claimant is more likely than not to be correct and has weightier evidence than the defendant (the person they are suing). Whereas the burden of proof in a criminal action is that the prosecution must prove their case ‘beyond any reasonable doubt’.
Suppose it is clear that an individual is not wearing a mask amongst hundreds of others who are. Then it is likely that the finger will be pointed at that person.
So, is it worth risking not wearing a mask?
Large numbers of people have been vaccinated. But it is worth being clear about the numbers:
- 70 (plus) million vaccinations have been carried out across the UK.
- The number of people in the four nations who have had at least one dose is a little over 40 million.
- A little more than 30 million people have received a second dose.
- The UK population is around 66.5 million.
It is also crucial to remember that the vaccination does NOT prevent you from contracting the virus. What the vaccine is meant to do is to reduce the severe effects that the virus can have and to reduce fatalities. Furthermore, we should not forget that the virus mutates to survive, meaning we are bound to get another wave or two before the virus dies out completely. So, while some may believe it is ‘all over, it is not.
This is even more vital given the situation evolving in certain parts of the world where infections and deaths are rising rapidly and where vaccination rates are comparatively low.
Be Sensible and Responsible
We should therefore be sensible and responsible to those around us and wait until the figures are zero, both for infections and fatalities, for several weeks, or perhaps even months before we take the decision to refrain from wearing a mask or social distancing. There are good reasons why all four UK nations have applied brakes to the easing of their Covid restrictions.
However, if you choose to eschew mask-wearing and run into legal difficulties, a paralegal can help and be considerably more cost-effective than a solicitor. This is because paralegals are legally trained, can do many (but not all) of the same jobs as a solicitor and can assist you at a reasonable cost.
I hope you enjoyed that.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Amanda Hamilton is Chief Executive of the National Association of Licensed Paralegals (NALP), a non-profit Membership Body and the only Paralegal body recognised as an awarding organisation by Ofqual (the regulator of qualifications in England). Through its Centres, accredited recognised professional paralegal qualifications are offered for a career as a paralegal professional.