What is Gross Negligence?

Gross negligence is a legal concept meaning serious, or gross, carelessness and is the most legally actionable form of negligence. Persons in positions where what they do impacts the safety and well-being of others need to especially consider the potential risks of their actions.

Gross negligence does not include accidents or responsibilities that you have for reasonably taking care of yourself. An accident is a situation that happens with no warning and no way to be prevented. There are no parties responsible and no grounds for making a legal claim. Additionally, if you fail to take action regarding your health or do not consider the possible dangers to your actions and injure yourself, then any negative consequences may be your fault and not the fault of someone else.

Negligence is an action that causes injury unless preventative measures are put in place. The standard of ordinary negligence is what conduct one expects from the proverbial "reasonable person". If the accused is a professional, such as a doctor, the "reasonable person" is then defined as a doctor of average intelligence in the same field. To put it another way, negligence is a failure to exercise reasonable care.

Gross negligence is reckless and willful misconduct causing bodily injury. With gross negligence, the standard of care is ignored to such an extent that the action is almost intentional. Within the context of medical malpractice, gross negligence is an action that is an error even to someone without any medical training. A Supreme Court judge pointed out the extent of gross negligence versus negligence many years ago by saying, "Even a dog knows the difference between being tripped over and being kicked." For someone to be accused and found guilty of gross negligence, it must be proven that they had a conscious and voluntary disregard for your reasonable care, and caused foreseeable grave injury or harm to you.

Some examples of medical malpractice gross negligence:

  • Giving a patient a drug that their chart says they are allergic to
  • Amputating the wrong limb
  • Leaving a surgical instrument inside a body cavity

Not every situation is so black and white. Determining whether an injury or death is actionable, and then whether it is an act of negligence or gross negligence can be confusing. Let the lawyers at Sweeney Law Firm help you and see if you have a case. Remember, there is never a fee unless we make a recovery for you.