When it comes to accidents that lead to personal injuries, there’s a difference between being negligent and being grossly negligent—though neither are favorable. In the case of “ordinary negligence,” a person may fail to use the level of care or caution any ordinary person would use in a similar circumstance. It often involves some kind of careless mistake or lack of attention that causes injury.
But gross negligence is often seen as reckless or even deliberate disregard for the safety or reasonable treatment of others. It may be hard to fathom that someone would deliberately cause an accident or create a situation that leads to a potentially catastrophic injury, but it does happen. And that’s exactly why the term gross negligence exists. It’s also why the legal parameters and resulting compensation that can come from a case of gross negligence are different from those in a case of ordinary negligence.
Examples of Gross Negligence vs. Ordinary Negligence
Though there’s nothing “ordinary” about being involved in an accident in which you suffer severe injuries that are potentially painful and expensive to treat, the category of ordinary negligence still exists. This is because it’s reserved primarily for truly accidental situations. Examples of gross negligence may include things like:
- A driver who runs a stop sign and thereby causes a car accident.
- A store owner who doesn’t have a chance to put up a cautionary “Wet Floor” sign after mopping up a spill before someone slips on it and falls.
- A property owner who is unaware that their front steps have rotted out, leading to a collapse that injures visiting guests.
In each of these cases, it is most likely that the responsible party did not intend to cause the injured victim any harm. They either misjudged, overlooked, or were unaware of the root cause of whatever led to the injury. Though they didn’t intend to cause harm, they may still be held responsible for any resulting damage caused.
In the case of gross negligence, however, the responsible party may not have only been aware of the dangerous situation they caused, but had opportunity to avoid or right that situation, and did not take that opportunity. In this way, some cases go so far as to accuse the at-fault party of being intentional with their harm—thus being grossly negligent.
Some possible examples of gross negligence may include:
- A driver speeding through an area with heavy car traffic or foot traffic.
- A construction site manager being aware of a situation dangerous to their employees that they do not address or provide warning about.
- A doctor prescribing drugs to a patient that their medical records indicate would be dangerous.
- Nursing home staff withholding food, water, or medications from a resident for days at a time.
The above could constitute deliberate action or extreme carelessness that caused injury or damage, thus designating the subsequent legal proceedings as a case of gross negligence.
How Gross Negligence May Affect Your Case
Even in cases of ordinary negligence, the party deemed at-fault can be legally pursued and made to be held responsible for any damage caused. Even if they did not intend to cause that harm, they had a duty of care they owed to the injured victim, and that duty was breached in some way. But in the case of gross negligence, when the harm caused may be considered intentional, it is often the case that the damages owed may be increased to include both compensatory damages and punitive damages.
Compensatory damages are those damages that the court deems necessary for the defendant to pay to the plaintiff in order to fully compensate them for injuries or pain and suffering that resulted from their gross negligence. Such damages may include coverage for things like medical bills, lost wages, and ongoing care or therapy as needed to address long-term injuries.
Punitive damages, also called exemplary damages, are additional damages assigned by a court of law that go beyond the necessity to simply compensate the victim for the injuries they suffered in the accident. Punitive damages are intended to essentially punish the defendant for their grossly negligent behavior, in a way that will hopefully deter them and others from engaging in similar conduct in the future.
There is never any guarantee that a case of gross negligence will result in the payment of punitive damages to the victim, but it is a much more likely occurrence than in a case of ordinary negligence. As the victim, that could mean much higher awarded damages or settlement value that would not only help you recover medically or make up for any lost wages, but assist you in supporting yourself and your family even further for years to come.
How to Prove Gross Negligence After an Accident
It can be difficult to know whether or not the responsible party in your accident case was grossly negligent rather than just negligent. It’s a matter of looking at all the facts and evidence leading up to the accident, and presenting them in a way that makes it clear the defendant somehow knew they were behaving negligently and might cause harm.
For example, if you were involved in a car accident with a driver who ran a stop sign and collided with your vehicle while you had the right of way, you may automatically assume you have a case of ordinary negligence. But if further investigation reveals that the driver in question was actually intoxicated while behind the wheel, the case may be raised to one of gross negligence instead. But discovering these kinds of evidentiary facts to support your claims can only come from performing thorough investigation and due diligence—which is precisely what the right personal injury lawyer is trained to do.
Even if you’ve been in an accident in which you already suspect gross negligence was involved, seeking the aid of a personal injury attorney is recommended. They have the resources to help you gather evidence to back your suspicions, which any case is liable to fail without. It takes careful examination of the scene of the accident, gathering of witness statements, examination of any pertinent events leading up to the accident, and gathering of medical records and bills to put together a case that will convince a judge to rule that your injuries was caused by gross negligence.
From there, your lawyer knows how to determine exactly what your case is worth, can make the reasonable argument for further punitive damages if they deem it appropriate. Alternatively, they may even negotiate a fair settlement before your case reaches the stressful atmosphere of court.
The Whisler Law Firm has helped hundreds of accident victims determine how negligence played a role in the injuries they suffered, and has helped them secure both the compensatory and punitive damages they deserve. Our attorneys will investigate your accident thoroughly in order to determine who was at fault and just how intentional that fault may have been.
Call our office at 833-529-5677 or fill out our online form to schedule a free, no-obligations consultation with a member of our team. We want to hear how your accident happened and how it has affected your life so that we can help you decide if pursuing a case of gross negligence is the right move to make.