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Gross Negligence

Definition - What does Gross Negligence mean?

Gross negligence, as opposed to negligence, is the conscious, careless, reckless, and voluntary disregard for the safety and lives of other people. Gross negligence can often lead to harm to others which should have been foreseeable and which could have been avoided if care had been taken. Gross negligence does not rise to the level of willful and wanton conduct, but it does show a greater degree of inattention than negligence.

Gross negligence may not support a recovery of punitive damages, which are used to punish the perpetrator, but in some cases the court will allow punitive damages to be assessed for gross negligence in addition to general and special damages.

Proving Gross Negligence

Proving gross negligence will require the plaintiff to prove additional elements which do not have to be proven in a standard negligence claim. First, the plaintiff must prove the defendant took an extreme degree of risk when considering the probability and magnitude of harm their actions could cause. Next, the plaintiff must prove the defendant was aware of the risks but decided to act anyway with conscious indifference to the safety of others.

The burden of proof will also be higher for this type of case. For instance, most personal injury claims can be won if the court has a preponderance of evidence to support the case. A case for gross negligence will require clear and convincing evidence, a higher burden of proof. Under this level of proof the court must have "a firm belief or conviction as to the truth of the allegations sought to be established." In the state of Texas, jury decisions must also be unanimous to both liability and the amount of exemplary damages which should be awarded to the defendant.

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