What Is Gross Negligence, & How Could It Affect Your Florida Personal Injury Case?
If you’ve been injured in an accident that was caused by someone else’s negligence, you may be legally entitled to monetary compensation; if you’ve been injured in an accident where someone is found to be grossly negligent, you may be entitled to even more. But what is gross negligence, and how can it affect your Florida personal injury case?
The Florida Law Group has recovered over $1 million dollars for injured accident victims in Florida. Our personal injury lawyers have extensive experience trying cases where gross negligence was involved. We know that the more victims know about their rights, the greater their chances of achieving justice and a fair settlement, so we wanted to use this blog to discuss the difference between gross negligence and ordinary negligence – and to explain how this important legal distinction could impact the outcome of a personal injury case.
What Is Negligence?
Any personal injury case hinges on the ability to prove negligence. Negligence is essentially an instance where one party owed another party a duty of care, and failed to uphold that duty of care. In order to win monetary compensation, the injured accident victim’s attorney must prove that the defendant (responsible party’s) was negligent, that their negligence directly contributed to the victim’s injuries, and that those injuries resulted in the costs sought.
Defining Gross Negligence
There are two classifications of negligence under Florida law: ordinary negligence and gross negligence. Under Florida Statutes Chapter 768 Section 72, gross negligence is defined as “conduct [that] was so reckless or wanting in care that it constituted a conscious disregard of indifference to the life, safety, or rights of persons exposed to such conduct.”. This essentially means that the negligence was especially reckless in nature. It wasn’t just careless – that would be ordinary negligence – it was reckless.
Examples Of Gross Negligence Vs. Ordinary Negligence
The difference between ordinary and gross negligence may be a fine line, which is why it is important to consult with a personal injury attorney if you believe that you may be a victim of gross negligence. An experienced, compassionate local lawyer can review the specific details of your case and explain your options, what their strategy will be to recover compensation, and what kind of settlement you may be able to win!
Here are some example scenarios to help you understand the basic difference between gross and ordinary negligence:
- Someone going 65mph in a 55mph speed zone is unable to stop and hits a pedestrian who doesn’t look before stepping out on a Florida crosswalk. That’s ordinary negligence – they were speeding, and they shouldn’t have been. However, someone going 105mph in a 55mph speed zone (racing their friend) is unable to stop and hits a pedestrian who doesn’t look before stepping out on the crosswalk could be guilty of gross negligence – excessively reckless behavior.
- A Florida doctor who missed a diagnosis may be considered negligent; their lack of attention to detail and to the patient’s symptoms caused the patient to suffer without treatment for longer than they should have. However, a doctor who prescribes a medication with an ingredient that the patient clearly indicated they were allergic to could be guilty of gross negligence.
- A Florida nursing home who did not adequately supervise a resident who was considered a fall risk could be guilty of ordinary negligence if that resident fell and injured themselves. They should have been paying closer attention to that resident and been properly staffed so they could take care of that resident and prevent that particular fall. However, a nursing home who does not provide a resident with food and water for several days, or who allows their residents to develop bedsores because they don’t move them, could be guilty of gross negligence; this is more than just a lack of attention to detail, but a complete disregard for the resident’s well-being.
How Is Gross Negligence Punished?
Ordinary negligence is punished by requiring compensatory damages from the defendant or defendant’s insurer. These include both economic and non-economic damages. For example, in the ordinary negligence scenario 1 listed above, the injured pedestrian could sue for the costs of their medical treatment, the wages that they missed out on while they were recovering, and an amount for the pain and suffering they experienced.
Victims of gross negligence can seek compensatory damages as well, but they may also be awarded punitive damages, which are designed to set an example and deter future would-be defendants from conducting the same behavior. Punitive damages can be any amount set by the jury or judge, and may be hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on the case.
Gross negligence may also be prosecuted criminally in some cases (for example, drunk driving cases). If the defendant is found guilty of a criminal charge, it may be more likely that the injured accident victim can recover compensatory and punitive damages.
What To Do If You’ve Been A Victim Of Gross Negligence
If you were injured in an accident that was not your fault, and you believe that you may have been a victim of gross negligence as defined above, call an aggressive Florida personal injury lawyer immediately to discuss your case! The Florida Law Group never charges legal fees unless we recover a settlement. We will fight for you to get paid what your injuries are truly worth! Call today to schedule your free consultation.