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What is Gross Negligence?

July 22, 2021Medical Malpractice

Gross negligence is a legal concept that describes an extreme lack of care or recklessness shown by one party that results in harm. In other words, the grossly negligent party demonstrated a clear disregard for the health and safety of others. It is negligence of a magnitude that is far beyond that of even a careless person.

Gross Negligence vs. Ordinary Negligence

Ordinary negligence is the failure to provide reasonable care to another person, and gross negligence is an even greater failure. Many situations impose a duty to exercise reasonable care. For example, a driver has a duty to obey traffic laws and do their best to prevent an accident. When a driver breaches that duty, such as texting while driving, they have committed an act of negligence. In contrast, drunk driving may be considered an act of gross negligence.

A party guilty of gross negligence may have known the risk of their actions causing harm to others or damage to property was significant and/or obvious but did not care and committed the act or omission anyway. Other examples of gross negligence include:

  • A driver speeding through a school zone or an area with heavy pedestrian traffic.
  • A driver who knowingly uses a vehicle that could increase the risk of an accident because it is in need of repairs.
  • A lifeguard leaving the pool area.
  • A doctor prescribes a medication that their patient’s medical records state they are allergic to.
  • Nursing home staff member who fails to provide a resident with food and water for several days.
  • A skydiving company forgetting or failing to provide a parachute to a jumper.

Gross negligence can also include a disregard or delay in someone’s immediate care once they are hurt.

Penalties for Gross Negligence

In ordinary negligence cases, you may be limited to compensatory damages, including compensation for medical bills, lost wages, property damage, pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, etc. Whereas, when a defendant (at-fault party) is found to have committed gross negligence, they may owe punitive damages in addition to compensatory damages. Punitive damages are rarely awarded and designed to punish the defendant for their actions and warn others of similar conduct in the future.

Proving Gross Negligence in Personal Injury Cases

For any negligence case to be successful, whether involving gross or ordinary negligence, the following elements must be present:

  • The defendant must have owed a legal duty of care to the injured party.
  • The defendant must have breached said legal duty of care.
  • The breach of duty directly caused the victim’s injuries.
  • There must be damages that the victim can be compensated for (e.g., medical bills, lost income, etc.)

Proving the defendant’s actions were grossly negligent will require presenting clear and convincing evidence of the defendant’s blatant or intentional conduct. For example, in a case involving a drunk driver, the results from law enforcement’s drug and alcohol testing. If you or a loved one has suffered harm due to another’s gross negligence, it is in your best interests to hire an experienced St. Louis Personal Injury Lawyer. They will help you fight for the compensation you deserve.

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