What is gross negligence? If you can prove it, you can likely recover more compensation for your injuries.
You can usually get more compensation from your car accident claim if you can show the at-fault driver acted with “gross negligence.”
You may even be able to collect punitive damages, which courts award to punish a particularly willful offender in hopes of convincing them to never engage in similar conduct again.
Texas law defines a grossly negligent act as one:
- “…which when viewed objectively from the standpoint of the actor at the time of its occurrence involves an extreme degree of risk, considering the probability and magnitude of the potential harm to others;”
- “…of which the actor has actual, subjective awareness of the risk involved, but nevertheless proceeds with conscious indifference to the rights, safety, or welfare of others.”
The difference between ordinary negligence and gross negligence lies in intent. Ordinary negligence involves carelessness or lack of awareness. Gross negligence involves awareness and willful misconduct.
Now that you understand the legal definition of gross negligence, take a look at some examples:
Knowingly Driving a Car in Need of Serious Repair
You’ve seen them before: cars that look like wrecks which shouldn’t be driven at all.
If the driver knows of a serious problem with their car, such as the brakes not working, and they cause an accident, they may be grossly negligent in their behavior.
Drunk driving is actually a little bit of a gray area. It’s certainly negligent. But it may or may not be grossly negligent.
In Texas, driving with a BAC of .08 or higher is considered drunk driving.
Now if the driver blows a .10, you may have a difficult time showing gross negligence. That takes maybe a few drinks. And it honestly may be hard for them, or anyone else, to tell that they are legally drunk.
However, if the driver was blackout drunk and had a BAC of .20 or higher, then you have an excellent chance of showing gross negligence.
Other Generally Reckless Behavior That Puts People at Risk
This driver in Milwaukee, Wisconsin had a buddy who climbed out of the car (while driving) and did pushups on the roof of the vehicle.
Now I’m not sure they ever caught the guy. And they did not cause an accident.
But if they did, you’d have a great chance of showing they were “grossly negligent.”
If the driver and his buddy were high, you’d have an almost guaranteed chance of proving gross negligence.
Gross negligence depends on the actions of the at-fault driver. And you can get awarded additional compensation if the other driver was in fact grossly negligent.
Sometimes, gross negligence can be hard to prove. And that’s why it makes sense to hire the best personal injury lawyer you can find.
Shane V. Mullen is an attorney licensed by the State of Texas for the general practice of law, and the Managing Partner at Mullen & Mullen Law Firm in Dallas, TX. His firm focuses exclusively on personal injury law and has been in business for 40 years (since 1983). Before becoming a lawyer, Shane worked for his father as an accident injury claims investigator.