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COVID-19 Liability Protections
Topic Collection
June 15, 2020

Topic Collection: COVID-19 Liability Protections

This Topic Collection focuses on liability protections related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Please refer to CDC’s Coronavirus Disease 2019 webpage for the most up-to-date clinical guidance on COVID-19 outbreak management.

If you are a decision-maker and have COVID-19 promising practices, plans, tools, or templates to share with your peers, please visit the ASPR TRACIE Information Exchange COVID-19 Information Sharing Page (registration required) and place your resources under the relevant topic area. Resources specific to healthcare workforce decision-making can be placed under the COVID-19 Workforce Virtual Toolkit Topic

DisclaimerThis page provides resources on various liability protections for health care professionals assisting with the COVID-19 response. Healthcare professionals interested in volunteering or being employed for the COVID-19 response in their state or across state lines should familiarize themselves with the protections afforded to them. 

NOTE: inclusion of any reference in this document does not constitute an endorsement, acknowledgment, or suggestion that the reference is the only or best example for that topic. References are included as examples which were provided as suggestions at the time the document was developed.

All guidance posted is accessible to the public, and non-federal resources are noted with an asterisk(*). Linking to a non-federal website does not constitute an endorsement by the U.S. government, or any of its employees, of the information and/or products presented on that site.   

Liability Protections at the State Level—Volunteers


National Emergency Management Association. (2020). Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC)*.
This webpage provides information on the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC), a congressionally mandated interstate mutual aid agreement that has been adopted by all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Under EMAC, state assets (supplies, equipment, and/or volunteers) may be deployed to a requesting state. Reimbursement, liability, compensation, and licensure issues are also addressed. The EMAC addresses liability and responsibilities of cost and allows for credentials, licenses, and certifications to be honored across state lines. For personnel requests, the requesting state covers the tort liability and the responding state covers the workers’ compensation liability. For more information about this program, access the authorizing legislation: https://www.govinfo.gov/app/details/PLAW-104publ321
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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response. (n.d.). Emergency System for Advance Registration of Volunteer Health Professionals (ESAR-VHP). (Accessed 8/17/2020.)
This webpage describes the Emergency System for Advance Registration of Volunteer Health Professionals (ESAR-VHP) program, which provides standards and guidelines to assist states with setting up standardized volunteer databases to support public health and medical response during disasters. ESAR-VHP registries allow volunteers' identities, licenses, credentials, accreditations, and hospital privileges to be verified in advance of an emergency, facilitating more rapid deployment. Federal, state, and local governments offer volunteer health professionals some degree of protection (or immunity) from civil liability, but these protections vary by state. The PAHPAIA §208 clarifies the liability protections for volunteer health professionals registered with ESAR-VHP. To qualify for these protections, the volunteer health professional must be: (1) Acting within the scope of the license, registration, or certification of the volunteer health care provider, as defined by the state of licensure, registration, or certification; (2) Not exceeding the scope of license, registration, or certification of a substantially similar health professional in the state in which such act or omission occurs; and (3) Acting as a member of the Medical Reserve Corps or a professional included in the Emergency System for Advance Registration of Volunteer Health Professionals.
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Uniform Law Commission. (n.d.). Uniform Emergency Volunteer Health Practitioners Act (UEVHPA)*. (Accessed 8/17/2020.)
This webpage describes the uniform model law dating from 2006 that supports the rapid deployment of volunteer health professionals during disasters and provides license reciprocity to responders. Seventeen states, the District of Columbia and U.S. Virgin Islands have enacted this Act. Their liability protections include either clear immunity to volunteer health practitioners for acts that occur while providing services during an emergency; or liability protection for acts or omission while providing health care services.
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Liability Protections Nationwide—All Providers


U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office for Civil Rights (OCR). (2020). HIPAA and COVID-19.
The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has issued several Notifications of Enforcement Discretion to announce that it will not impose penalties for violations of the HIPAA Rules against covered entities or business associations in connection with certain activities related to the nationwide public health emergency. This webpage provides a complete list of OCR’s Notifications related to COVID-19 as well as Notices of Enforcement Discretion, Guidance and other resources.
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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response. (2020). Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act (PREP Act).
The Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act provides liability immunity related to the development process and administration of medical countermeasures against agents that cause public health emergencies. This webpage provides a link to the current declaration for COVID-19.
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Liability Protections Nationwide—Volunteers


For those accredited by The Joint Commission (TJC), this frequently asked questions document addresses the requirements for granting privileges during a disaster to volunteer licensed independent practitioners. NOTE: Organizations using the TJC accreditation for granting privileges should check and monitor the CMS website as waivers continue to be approved and may include state specific waivers: https://www.cms.gov/files/document/summary-covid-19-emergency-declaration-waivers.pdf.
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This is the text of the Volunteer Protection Act, which provides volunteers of nonprofit organizations or governmental entities some liability protections for economic damages resulting from activities relating to the work of the organizations. It does not cover gross negligence, willful misconduct, recklessness, or acts committed by the volunteer while intoxicated or operating a motor vehicle. Volunteers must be licensed or certified, as required to fulfill their assigned duties. Civil actions against volunteers by the organization they work for are not precluded. It does not cover organizational entities of any type, or persons volunteering at private businesses. A declared emergency is not necessary for volunteers to receive protections under this Act. States may opt out of the Volunteer Protection Act.
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The 21st Century Cures Act (Pub. L. 114-255) extended liability protections to Volunteer Health Professionals (VHPs) for the performance of medical, surgical, dental, and related functions at health centers. For liability protections to apply under section 224(q) of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. § 233(q)), the volunteer must be a health care professional who is licensed or certified to provide clinical services. This would include Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) and Medical Assistants (MAs) who are licensed or certified. Volunteers who are not licensed or certified are not eligible for VHP coverage. VHPs are not automatically eligible for liability protections under the Health Center FTCA Program. Deemed health centers must apply for such protections for their individual volunteers through a VHP deeming sponsorship application. The deemed health center must submit to HRSA and receive approval of a VHP deeming sponsorship application for each individual volunteer. (Access https://bphc.hrsa.gov/sites/default/files/bphc/ftca/pdf/pal-2020-03.pdf for more information).
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This webpage gives the text of the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness and Advancing Innovation Act of 2019. Section 208 of the PAHPAIA clarifies the liability protections for volunteer health professionals under the Medical Reserve Corps and the Emergency System for Advance Registration of Volunteer Health Professionals (ESAR-VHP). It clarifies liability protections for a volunteer health professional responding to a public health emergency or a major disaster or emergency as declared by the President under section 401 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act. A volunteer health professional is covered by that state where the emergency occurs, if the volunteer health professional is: (1) Acting within the scope of the license, registration, or certification of the volunteer health care provider, as defined by the state of licensure, registration, or certification; (2) Not exceeding the scope of license, registration, or certification of a substantially similar health professional in the state in which such act or omission occurs; and (3) Acting as a member of the Medical Reserve Corps or a professional included in the Emergency System for Advance Registration of Volunteer Health Professionals. The Act is summarized here: https://www.hhs.gov/about/news/2019/06/25/new-law-strengthens-us-efforts-prepare-respond-and-recover-disasters.html.
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Section 3215 of the CARES Act provides federal liability protections for volunteer health professionals during the COVID-19 emergency response. To qualify for these protections, the volunteer health professional must be: (1) Acting within the scope of the license, registration, or certification of the volunteer health care provider, as defined by the state of licensure, registration, or certification; (2) Not exceeding the scope of license, registration, or certification of a substantially similar health professional in the state in which such act or omission occurs; and (3) Acting in a good faith belief that the individual being treated is in need of health care services. The Act is summarized here: https://www.hhs.gov/coronavirus/cares-act-provider-relief-fund/index.html.
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