Updated November 12, 2020:

Gross negligence elements include a duty of care, the failure to perform such duty, an injury resulting from such failure, and the knowledge about the potential consequences of such carelessness.

What Is Gross Negligence?

When someone fails to exercise the amount of care expected from a reasonable person while performing a certain task, such lack of care amounts to gross negligence. For example, if you have borrowed someone else's property, then the failure to take care of it as you would do for your own property amounts to gross negligence.

A grossly negligent action falls far below the standard level of what is reasonable. In many cases, it implies that the person who committed negligence did it intentionally. The carelessness is in utter disregard for the safety of others' life, health, or property such that it appears to be an intentional violation of others' right to safety. In other words, it's far beyond a simple error or omission but falls just short of an intentional evil.

The difference between ordinary negligence and gross negligence is in terms of the degree of carelessness. However, both types of negligence are different from willful and wanton conduct to cause injury. It's important to understand this difference because:

  • Contributory negligence or lack of care by the plaintiff can be a valid defense in case of gross negligence, but it cannot be a defense in case of willful conduct.
  • Punitive damages can be recovered in case of willful and wanton misconduct but no such damages can be claimed in case of gross negligence.

Elements of Gross Negligence

In order to be considered as grossly negligent, an act must first amount to negligence. An act of negligence must satisfy the following conditions:

  • An individual must owe a duty to the accuser.
  • The individual must fail to perform such duty.
  • The accuser must suffer harm or injury.
  • Such harm or injury must be linked to the failure of the other party to perform his duty.

A negligent action may be tantamount to gross negligence if the following elements are also present in it:

  • The individual acting in negligence was aware of the potential consequences of his action or omission.
  • He committed the negligence intentionally in order to cause harm to the accuser.

Gross negligence often results in a premises liability injury. Individuals found guilty of gross negligence may be subject to stiff penalties.

Punishment for Gross Negligence

An individual found guilty of gross negligence may have to pay the following damages:

  • Special damages to cover the costs incurred by the plaintiff as a result of such negligence
  • General damages to compensate the plaintiff for pain and suffering caused due to such negligence
  • Punitive damages to deter the defendant from acting in gross negligence in the future

All of these damages are paid to the plaintiff.

Employee's Negligence in Texas

In Texas, an employee's gross negligence can be attributed to his employer if any of the following conditions are met:

  • The employer authorized such an act of negligence.
  • The employer carelessly employed a person unfit for the task.
  • The employee was acting in a managerial capacity within the scope of his employment.
  • The employer or his manager approved the employee's act of negligence.

Gross Negligence Examples

In order to prove gross negligence, you must be able to establish that the other party owed you a duty of care and then blatantly disregarded such duty. All of the following situations may amount to gross negligence:

  • An individual who is using a phone while driving hits another car.
  • A hospital staff member does not read a patient's chart and administers him the wrong medicine, and as a result of it, the patient is required to undergo additional surgery.
  • A biker participating in a race with his friends in the middle of a road collides with a nearby vehicle causing serious injury to its driver.
  • During renovation, a hotel does not block off a dangerous area under construction, and a guest falls down from the third floor.

Ordinary Negligence vs. Gross Negligence

A skiing instructor gives ski poles to his student without checking them. One of the poles cracks, causing a serious injury to the student. The instructor immediately rushes the student to the hospital for treatment. This may just amount to ordinary negligence. However, if the instructor makes the injured student wait until the class ends and it aggravates the injury, it may amount to gross negligence.

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