Negligence is a concept found in tort law that typically occurs when a person carries out an unintentional act that breaches the duty of care that they owe to someone else. In turn, this breach causes that person to suffer an injury or an economic loss. Gross negligence, on the other hand, expands on the basic definition of negligence and is described as a failure to exercise even the smallest fraction of care.

In other words, gross negligence is essentially a deliberate disregard for the safety or well-being of another individual. A person who is convicted of committing an act that amounts to gross negligence generally either knows or should have known of the risks associated with their actions.

In addition, while gross negligence also involves unintentional acts much like those for negligence, the acts that constitute gross negligence will usually appear to be nearly intentional conduct because of the reckless nature of the grossly negligent activity. Some examples of gross negligence will be discussed in further detail within the section below.

To learn more about the requirements and consequences of grossly negligent conduct in your state, it may be in your best interest to consult with a personal injury attorney who works in your area as soon as possible. This way you can be sure that they will be familiar with the local court procedures and laws regarding gross negligence in your state.

What are Some Examples of Gross Negligence?

Gross negligence is typically easier to prove than most cases involving acts of ordinary negligence. This is because standard negligence cases usually require the plaintiff to prove several specific elements before they can say a person’s actions were in fact negligence. On the other hand, a claim for gross negligence only requires showing that a defendant’s actions were blatantly dangerous or unreasonably reckless.

Some common examples of actions that may qualify as gross negligence include the following:

  • When a senior caregiver neglects to give their elderly patient water or food for a span of several days;
  • If a driver intentionally speeds down a street where they know lots of children play outside;
  • When a surgeon leaves behind a foreign object inside a person after an operation like a bandage, surgical instrument, or medical sponge;
  • If a doctor amputates the wrong limb or removes the wrong organ or body part from a patient during surgery;
  • When a hotel or store conducts renovations and fails to barricade a dangerous area from the public that causes an individual to get hurt;
  • If a company continues selling a product that they know is harmful to its users;
  • When a person does donuts in a parking lot (e.g., deliberately drives their car in a continuous circle) that is full of tons of pedestrians; or
  • If a restaurant knowingly serves food that is undercooked or not prepared in the proper way to its patrons.

In addition, there are only a handful of legal defenses that a defendant can raise against a claim for gross negligence. Depending on the jurisdiction, a defendant may be able to assert certain legal defenses, such as self-defense, defense of property, consent, lack of evidence, and/or lack of proof.

What are the Legal Consequences of Gross Negligence?

The legal consequences for a claim involving ordinary negligence are typically limited to a compensatory damages award. Compensatory damages are basically funds paid by the defendant to the injured party as a way of reimbursing them for their injuries and/or economic losses.

The funds that may be received as part of a compensatory damages award may be used to pay for the costs associated with a person’s injuries, such as medical expenses, hospital bills, lost wages, future loss of income, administrative court costs, or attorneys’ fees.

In contrast, the legal consequences for a claim involving gross negligence are not solely limited to a compensatory damages award. In particular, an injured party may be able to recover a punitive damages award depending on the facts of their case and the laws enacted in their jurisdiction.

In general, punitive damages are intended to deter individuals from participating in dangerous activities. As such, since ordinary negligence only accounts for unintentional acts, punitive damages are not usually available because it would not deter someone from doing something that they did not intend to do in the first place.

For a claim involving gross negligence, however, a defendant must have acted with enough recklessness or offensiveness towards another party that punitive damages can be ordered against them. In most instances, a punitive damages award will tend to be a very large sum of money. In some jurisdictions, this may mean as much as up to three times the normal amount of a compensatory damages award.

Finally, it should be noted that there are some states which may place a cap or restriction on the amount of punitive damages that a plaintiff can collect in such lawsuits. This is known as a “damage cap.” A plaintiff can determine whether their state imposes a cap on damages by reviewing the laws in their state or by asking a local personal injury attorney for further legal advice on the matter.

Should I Hire a Lawyer if I have issues involving Gross Negligence?

Lawsuits involving claims of gross negligence can result in serious legal penalties. For instance, if a case includes a criminal matter, then the defendant may not only receive large fines, but could also potentially be sentenced to a term of imprisonment. Given the fact that criminal and civil cases are not mutually exclusive, a defendant could therefore possibly face legal consequences for the same act in both criminal and civil court.

Thus, if you have been accused of committing a grossly negligent act, then it is generally recommended that you hire a local personal injury attorney immediately since you might be facing punishment in both criminal and civil courts. You may also want to consider hiring a criminal defense attorney as well if you have already been charged with a criminal offense involving grossly negligent conduct.

An attorney who has experience in handling claims of gross negligence can assist you in finding legal defenses to raise against the claims and can help you argue them in court. Your attorney can also provide guidance on the laws in your state as well as can discuss your legal rights under those laws. In addition, your attorney can assist you in drafting any necessary legal documents that are required for your case.

On the other hand, if you wish to sue someone whose grossly negligent conduct has caused you to suffer severe bodily harm, then your attorney can predict the types of damages you may be able to recover and can help you bring a lawsuit to ensure that you receive any compensation that you may be owed.

Your attorney can also ensure that you follow the proper legal procedures when filing your lawsuit, so that you do not miss an opportunity to collect damages for your injuries and/or losses. Lastly, if you need representation in court or at a settlement conference, your attorney will be able to provide the appropriate legal services for either one of these types of proceedings as well.