What Is Gross Negligence?

personal injury

Negligence plays a key role in most personal injury claims. The person whose negligent action or inaction is determined to have caused an accident resulting in injuries will be held accountable for compensating the injured party for his or her losses. More often than not, it is the insurance company for the at-fault party who will be responsible for paying out on the claim.
Negligence, in its most basic sense, refers to the failure of a person to uphold a duty of care owed to another. This duty may have been created by the situations, such as when drivers share the road and owe a duty to comply with laws of the road and make reasonably safe choices in operating their vehicle. The duty may sometimes be created by a specific type of relationship, such is the case with the doctor-patient relationship. When this duty is breached, and the breach of the duty causes injury or harm to someone else, then a personal injury action may result in seeking compensation for harm suffered. In addition to ordinary negligence, however, there is also gross negligence to consider.

What Is Gross Negligence?

In California, gross negligence is considered to be more than ordinary negligence, but not as serious as something like an intentional act. In the past, California courts have referred to gross negligence as a person demonstrating a complete lack of care or a serious deviation from what a reasonable person would do when confronted with the same situation. It has also been referred to as a failure to exercise even the minimum level of care that a particularly reckless person may demonstrate.
Differentiating ordinary negligence and gross negligence can be important in a few different situations. For instance, a statute may only impose liability on a defendant if he or she showed gross negligence. Alternatively, a plaintiff may have signed an “assumption of the risk” in an agreement that waived claims for any ordinary negligence on the defendant’s part. Gross negligence on the part of the defendant would likely not be covered by such an agreement.
Gross negligence may also play a role in awarding damages. In California, however, it should be noted that punitive damages are awarded only when there is clear and convincing evidence that the defendant engaged in harmful conduct with malice, oppression, or fraud. This means that the defendant’s actions went beyond gross negligence and, therefore, punitive damages are extremely rare in personal injury cases, even when the defendant was grossly negligent. Gross negligence may, however, be relevant to calculating damages such as pain and suffering. Particularly egregious behavior may have made a more serious emotional impact on the plaintiff.

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