Understanding Gross Negligence

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In every society, there is what is known as the “standard of care”. There may not be any formal written declaration, but it comes in the form of social expectations. The underlying concept is that there is a certain level of attention or caution or prudence that a reasonable person would exercise in a given situation. If you put yourself in a situation that requires a certain level of caution, there then exists what we refer to as a “duty of care”.

In an earlier blog post, we explained that duty of care is most often implied as part of a given role. For example, the standard of care for a bus driver is that he or she will obey traffic laws and safely deliver passengers to their destination. The person who accepts a job as a bus driver has a duty to uphold this implied standard of care. It’s never discussed, but it goes without saying that we expect bus drivers to practice safe driving habits.

As we’ve explained before, if a person’s actions do not meet the express or implied standards of care, we refer to this as negligence. This can apply to anything that has the potential to harm another person. Negligence may be classified as criminal or civil in nature. Below are some common examples of each.

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Examples of Criminal Negligence

Every state has its own definition of criminal negligence. Anyone convicted of criminal negligence could possibly be facing jail time.

  • Driving drunk could be an instance of criminal negligence.
  • Discharging a weapon at a crowded group of people could lead to criminal negligence.
  • Texting and driving and most other forms of grossly reckless driving could lead to criminal negligence.

Examples of Civil Negligence

If you do something that causes harm to another person, the victim may sue you. This is often referred to simply as “civil liability”.

  • A person knowingly allows an aggressive dog to be around a small child, and the dog bites the child.
  • A company releases a dangerous drug to market without fully exploring all of the potential side effects.
  • A store employee mops the floor in an area that is accessible to customers but fails to put out a “wet floor” sign.

How is Gross Negligence Different?

The glaring difference between negligence and gross negligence is that the latter is so gross and wanton that the law looks upon it as tantamount or equal to intentional conduct. With negligence, the guilty party has simply failed to meet a given expectation. With gross negligence, the guilty party willfully ignored expectations and did so with complete disregard for the well-being of others.

For instance, in the earlier example of the drug company releasing a dangerous drug, it would be considered gross negligence if the company did, in fact, test for side effects, but failed to list them for consumers. The idea in this scenario is that intentionally withholding information is far worse than simply never knowing.

That is really the root of gross negligence. It is a more serious crime than simple carelessness or ignorance. With gross negligence, the guilty party knows that people are likely to be injured by his or her failure to meet the standard of care, but chooses to act recklessly anyway.

If you have become the victim of gross negligence, contact the skilled and proven team at Coxwell & Associates, PLLC today at (601) 948-1600 for a free initial consultation.
Disclaimer: This blog is intended for general information purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Anyone with a legal problem should consult a lawyer immediately.

Photo Credit: Mic445 via Compfight cc

Disclaimer: This blog is intended for general information purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Anyone with a legal problem should consult a lawyer immediately.

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