What Is Gross Negligence in Texas? What Personal Injury Victims Should Know About It
In many states, including Texas, people are legally required to live up to a reasonable standard of care.
While this "standard" is below what would be considered criminal action, it does not simply describe a careless mistake.
When a person's actions fall somewhere in the middle, they're considered "gross negligence".
However, gross negligence is difficult to prove in Texas courts even though personal injury victims are allowed to sue an at-fault party under this theory. Therefore, it's essential to understand this definition.
Understanding What Gross Negligence Is
Essentially, the term "gross negligence" describes a person's failure to use a reasonable level of care to avoid an accident.
A party that fails to exercise the slightest level of due diligence and ends up harming others can be accused of gross negligence.
Since they demonstrate disregard for the consequences that may affect other people, the actions of a "grossly negligent" person are considered "deliberate." In these cases, the responsible party knows or should have known the risks and potential outcomes.
Under tort law, people have a legal duty to avoid preventable actions that could cause accidents or injure others. Therefore, a person who demonstrates reckless disregard for others' safety and does something that falls between negligence and intentional misconduct could be subject to a personal injury lawsuit. Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys can also answer questions like what is respondeat superior in a personal injury case?
The Main Difference Between Negligence and Gross Negligence
"Negligence" is a common term in personal injury cases. However, it is not the same thing as "gross negligence." Here are the differences between both definitions.
What is Ordinary Negligence?
Ordinary negligence describes situations where someone fails to take the reasonable precautions that the average person would take under the same circumstances, injuring someone else.
When a worker fails to place a sign indicating that a grocery store floor is wet after mopping, and a person is injured as a result, that can be considered ordinary negligence.
The same is true when a homeowner fails to repair stairs or flooring in their properties, and a guest falls, sustaining an injury.
In simple terms, ordinary negligence happens when the at-fault party has no intent to cause harm but fails to exercise reasonable care, resulting in injury.
A negligent person is still liable for the accident and may be legally responsible for victims' damages even if they did not intend to cause harm.
What Is Gross Negligence?
Contrastingly, gross negligence occurs in situations involving reckless disregard. The accident or injury does not result from a careless mistake but from extreme indifference to other people's safety.
This conduct often causes harm, whether it is an injury to others or property damage. However, it is a purposeful behavior. There is gross negligence when the responsible party knows or should have known the potential risks.
A person who speeds their car through an area with high pedestrian traffic could be accused of gross negligence because it is a conscious violation of other people's right to safety, for example.
Some medical malpractice cases can also result in gross negligence charges if a doctor prescribes medications listed as drug allergies in patients' medical records.
To sum up, these are the main differences between ordinary negligence and gross negligence:
Ordinary negligence is a harmless mistake or inattention to detail. However, gross negligence involves breaching the duty of care.
Gross negligence occurs when people display a conscious disregard for others' welfare, while ordinary negligence describes actions without the intent to cause harm.
Proving Gross Negligence in Texas
A plaintiff filing a personal injury claim under the gross negligence theory must prove two elements. The first involves the following:
The Objective Test
From the defendant's standpoint, the action involved an extreme level of risk based on the probability of causing harm to others.
The Subjective Test
The defendant knew the potential risks and the magnitude of damage they could cause to other people but performed that action with extreme and conscious disregard for others' welfare and safety.
In other words, the evidence must prove that the defendant owed the claimant a duty of care but blatantly ignored that duty.
However, that does not mean the plaintiff must prove that the defendant wanted to cause the damage they did, but rather that they knew it was possible and performed the action anyway.
Do Victims Need Help From a Personal Injury Lawyer?
Proving gross negligence in Texas is not easy. However, an experienced personal injury attorney can help victims build a strong case to demonstrate that the responsible party was grossly negligent.
As mentioned, a reasonable person is legally required to exercise care and respect others' right to safety.
If someone is injured due to someone else's gross negligence, they can file a personal injury claim and recover compensation for damages and losses.
Most personal injury claims are handled under the ordinary negligence theory. However, victims can work with an experienced attorney to prove gross negligence if they believe the responsible party knew the extent of harm they could cause. They can also go into detail about contributory vs comparative negligence.
Damages that Victims Can Recover If They Prove the At-Fault Party Is Grossly Negligent
An injured party who wins a personal injury case involving gross negligence can recover compensation for the following:
Pain and suffering
Other costs related to the accident
Also, in Texas, gross negligence is often tied to punitive damages, which are intended to punish the defendant and deter them from committing the same action.
Many accidents that result in severe injuries are caused by people's negligence. Most of them don't involve a party who purposefully harms others.
However, accident victims can sue responsible parties for gross negligence if they believe they acted maliciously, knowing the risks their actions posed.
In these cases, plaintiffs should work with an experienced personal injury law firm to build strong lawsuits and hold at-fault parties accountable for their behavior.
At Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys, we go the extra mile to help victims build solid cases and recover the compensation they deserve if they are injured or suffer loss due to someone else's gross negligence. Contact us today!