Is gross negligence the same as negligence? Careless mistakes or inattention that result in injury are identified as negligence, while deliberate and reckless disregard for the safety of others is identified as gross negligence.
While the difference between the two might not be readily apparent for those unfamiliar with personal injury law, there is an important distinction to be made between the two and how each can affect your claim.
What is Negligence?
If a person fails to take reasonable precautions to ensure that their actions do not endanger the safety or reasonable treatment of others, their actions could be considered negligent. Negligence is a term used to characterize conduct that creates an unreasonable risk of harm to others.
If you are negligent, and your negligence causes another person to become injured, then you are legally responsible for paying damages.
Examples of negligence include:
- A driver who runs a stop sign, resulting in an a car accident;
- A store owner who fails to put up a “wet floor” sign or clean up a spill immediately, resulting in a slip-and-fall; or
- A property owner who fails to replace rotten steps on a wooden porch, resulting in a collapse that injures a guest.
In each of these cases, the responsible party didn't mean to cause others harm, but their careless actions resulted in an accident. Even if they didn't intend to cause harm, the person responsible for the accident might still be legally responsible for the damage caused.
Through a civil lawsuit, injured parties may recover just compensation for the unexpected medical bills, lost wages, property damage, and other costs associated with the accident. The injured party may also be eligible to seek compensation for their pain, suffering, and mental anguish as a result of their injuries.
How do you prove negligence?
If you have been hurt in an accident caused by someone's negligent actions, it is necessary to prove that:
- The defendant owed a duty toward the plaintiff (i.e. reasonable care for other's safety)
- The defendant failed to act in a reasonable way or breached its duty (for example, a driver was reckless or intoxicated)
- The defendant's breach was the actual cause of another's injuries
- The defendant's breach was the proximate cause of the injuries (the defendant should have known that the breach would cause injury)
- The plaintiff suffered actual injuries, for which they may claim damages
If these elements are present, the injured party may have a valid personal injury lawsuit and may claim compensation for medical bills, lost wages, property replacement, and other damages.
What is gross negligence?
Gross negligence is the extreme indifference to or reckless disregard for the safety of others. Gross negligence is more than simple carelessness or failure to act—it is willful behavior done with extreme disregard for the health and safety of others.
Examples of gross negligence include:
- A driver speeding in an area with heavy pedestrian traffic;
- A doctor prescribing a patient a drug that their medical records clearly list that they are allergic to; or
- Nursing home staff failing to provide water or food to a resident for several days.
For example, while most car accidents involve ordinary negligence such as careless driving, an injury accident caused by a drunk driver may in some cases be considered an act of gross negligence, depending on the circumstances.
Because deliberate actions or extreme carelessness caused the injury or damage to property, the amount of damages awarded to the injured party may be increased and may include punitive damages intended to punish the wrongdoer.
Pursuing a Negligence Claim
If you've been hurt in an accident and you believe that your injuries were caused by the reckless or negligent actions of someone else, you should speak with a lawyer as soon as possible. A personal injury lawyer can review the facts of the accident and explain whether negligence or gross negligence was involved.
While it is possible to pursue a civil claim on your own, it is not recommended. By hiring a personal injury attorney who has successfully handled many personal injury claims, you can rest easier knowing that your case is in experienced hands.
At The Law Offices of Freeman & Freeman, we have decades of experience helping individuals who were injured across California. Our injury attorneys will investigate your accident and determine exactly what happened and who was at fault.
We may hire accident reconstruction experts to recreate the circumstances leading up to the accident. We will gather evidence to build a persuasive case on your behalf and will handle all of the communication with the other party's insurance company.
Let our compassionate and skilled attorneys help you overcome this stressful time by getting you the compensation that you deserve. To get started on your case, contact us today to schedule a free consultation.