One of the essential parts of getting compensation after an injury is proving that another person or party’s negligence caused your injury.
Negligence that leads to accidents and injuries can take many forms, including a driver exceeding the speed limit, a store owner failing to clean up spilled liquids in a supermarket aisle, and a doctor rushing through an appointment and misdiagnosing a patient.
Proving negligence occurred is often enough for victims to win their injury claims, but there’s a second type of negligence that can sometimes result in more compensation: gross negligence.
Here’s what to know about the differences between negligence and gross negligence.
What Is Ordinary Negligence?
When someone is accused of or has been found negligent in an injury claim, it means they owed a duty to another person and violated that duty. In turn, this violation of duty caused the other person to suffer injuries or damages.
For example, drivers owe a duty to other people on the road of driving their vehicles safely, responsibly, and within the confines of the law. That means not speeding, not following other vehicles too closely, coming to a complete stop at stop signs and red lights, and more. When they cause crashes because they violated their duty, they can be considered negligent and held liable for any damages they cause.
Oklahoma is a comparative negligence state, which means people can still get compensation for their damages if their own negligence contributed to their injuries. However, their level of fault must be less than 50% to be eligible for compensation.
What Is Gross Negligence?
Gross negligence is negligence that meets all the criteria of ordinary negligence, but it’s considered significantly more severe. The Legal Information Institute defines it as “a lack of care that demonstrates a reckless disregard for the safety or lives of others, which is so great it appears to be a conscious violation of other people’s rights to safety.”
In other words, gross negligence is consciously choosing to do something that not only could harm someone, but is likely to harm someone.
Examples of gross negligence include drivers speeding or drag racing through areas where many pedestrians are present, doctors prescribing patients medications they’re allergic to because they failed to consult their medical records, and nursing home staff failing to give food, water, or medications to patients for days at a time.
Gross Negligence Can Result in More Compensation for Victims
Both ordinary negligence and gross negligence can result in innocent people suffering serious injuries and illnesses. However, gross negligence is seen as more severe in the eyes of the law. When victims sue at-fault parties and accuse them of gross negligence, they can often ask for more money for their damages.
When gross negligence can be proven, it often allows victims and their lawyers to ask for punitive damages if their cases go to trial. Although the money awarded in personal injury lawsuits goes to the victims, punitive damages are designed to punish at-fault parties. They are only awarded by juries during civil trials, and they’re typically reserved for especially reckless acts that cause severe injuries.
How Do You Know if You Were Harmed Because of Gross Negligence?
Because more money is at stake for victims of gross negligence, it’s important to know the difference between ordinary negligence and gross negligence—and be able to prove it. Proving gross negligence occurred instead of ordinary negligence can be subjective and requires evidence and a full investigation of the facts. Hiring an experienced lawyer can be helpful in this.
Insurance companies rarely admit that gross negligence occurred when victims file claims against them and their policyholders. Instead, they usually offer victims small settlements or even deny their claims entirely. When victims don’t know they were injured because of gross negligence, they may leave not just a bigger settlement on the table, but punitive damages as well.
Our Oklahoma Personal Injury Lawyers Can Build a Strong Case for You
When you go it alone, it’s difficult enough to prove that someone else’s negligence caused your accident or injury. Proving that they weren’t just negligent, but grossly negligent, is even more difficult.
Don’t risk losing out on full compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. At Parrish DeVaughn Injury Lawyers, we know how to prove when negligence caused our clients’ injuries, and we also know how to prove when at-fault parties were exceptionally—or grossly—negligent.