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What is Gross Negligence?

Posted on August 15, 2022 in

In the context of personal injury claims, the word “negligence” is regularly used. That is because, in order for a person to recover compensation after sustaining an injury, they have to show that another individual or entity was negligent in causing the injury. However, there are times when another party was “grossly negligent” in causing an injury, and this has a different meaning. Here, we want to more thoroughly define gross negligence and examine how this could play a role in a personal injury claim.

Gross Negligence Versus Ordinary Negligence

When we examine a definition available from the Legal Information Institute, a division of Cornell law school, we can see that gross negligence “is a lack of care that demonstrates reckless disregard for the safety or lives of others, which is so great it appears to be a conscious violation of other people’s rights to safety.”

The word negligence comes up a lot concerning personal injury law. Typically, ordinary negligence is not associated with extreme negligence or intentional acts. Gross negligence, on the other hand, is a step above ordinary negligence because it is implied that the at-fault party had a thoughtless disregard for the consequences of their actions or that they were well aware of the consequences of their actions and chose to continue whatever action they were doing.

A Scenario to Explain Gross Negligence

In order to examine the difference between ordinary negligence and gross negligence, we want to look at a few scenarios. First, let us examine a vehicle accident scenario.

Suppose a driver fails to yield the right of way to a pedestrian add an intersection, and their failure to yield leads to them striking the pedestrian and causing a head injury. Failing to yield the right of way will typically be seen as negligent, though not necessarily grossly negligent. However, let us suppose that a driver comes up to a police barricade cordoning off an area where protesters are gathered. If the driver speeds through the area and strikes multiple pedestrians without stopping, this would likely be construed as gross negligence.

Now let us look at a nursing home scenario. Suppose the guardrails of the bed were left down by a nurse accidentally, and this led to a resident falling out of their bed and breaking a hip. This would more likely be considered ordinary negligence when it comes to a personal injury claim. However, let us suppose that a nursing home fails to provide water, food, and medical care to a resident for several days, leading to that resident’s death. This would most likely be considered gross negligence.

Why Does This Matter?

Any time a person sustains an injury due to the careless or negligent actions of others, they should be able to recover compensation for their losses. However, it is important to determine whether or not ordinary negligence or gross negligence was a factor in these cases. This could affect compensation amounts, particularly when it comes to determining whether or not the court will award punitive damages to the injury victim. Punitive damages are designed to act as a punishment to the negligent individual and to send the signal to others that this type of gross negligence is not acceptable.

Contact our Denver personal injury attorneys today.