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What is Gross Negligence?

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What is Gross Negligence?

You might be familiar with negligence, which is an unintentional act involving as breach of duty of care that cases another person’s injuries.  But what is gross negligence?  Is this the same as ordinary negligence?

Gross negligence is commonly defined as “the failure to exercise even the slightest amount of care”.  It often involves the deliberate disregard of another person’s safety.  A person who is found guilty of gross negligence usually knows, or should have known of the danger involved in the conduct they performed.  Gross negligence usually involves unintentional acts, but they can border on intentional conduct due to the reckless nature of the activity.

What are Some Examples of Gross Negligence?

Gross negligence is generally easier to prove than most standard negligence cases, which often involve a determination of several different factors.  On the other hand, in a gross negligence claim, the defendant’s actions may be obviously dangerous or unreasonable. 

Some examples of gross negligence include:

  • A doctor amputating the wrong limb of a patient
  • A surgeon leaving a foreign object inside the body of a patient (such as a medical sponge or  bandage)
  • A driver speeding in a parking lot where several pedestrians are walking
  • A caregiver neglecting to give an elderly person food or water for several days

Thus, there are very few defenses that may be available to the defendant in a gross negligence case.  Some defenses can be raised though, such as intoxication, self-defense, or defense of property.

What are the Legal Consequences of Gross Negligence?

In an ordinary negligence claim, the consequences are usually limited to compensatory damages.  These are monetary payments that are made to the victim to reimburse them for their losses, such as hospital bills, medical expenses, lost wages, and sometimes court costs. 

In comparison other damages may be available in a gross negligence lawsuit that aren’t otherwise available in a normal negligence claim.  In particular, punitive damages may be available to the plaintiff in many jurisdictions. 

Punitive damages are meant to discourage persons from engaging in dangerous behavior.  Since negligence involves unintentional acts, punitive damages aren’t normally available.  However, in a gross negligence claim, the defendant has acted so dangerously and offensively that punitive damages can be required from them. 

Punitive damages often result in very high monetary awards, sometimes up to three times the amount of compensatory damages that were issued.  Some states may place limits on the amount of punitive damages that can be collected. 

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

Gross negligence claims typically need immediate attention due to the severity of the losses involved.  You may wish to hire a personal injury lawyer for immediate assistance with your gross negligence claim.  Your lawyer can help address questions like “what is gross negligence?”  An experienced attorney will be able to represent you in court to ensure that your case is presented correctly.

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 04-25-2018 01:23 AM PDT

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