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What Is Gross Negligence?

April 3, 2019

If you recently experienced an injury or incident stemming from another person’s carelessness, you may recognize the term “negligence”. In some cases, you may hear the term “gross negligence”. What is negligence? How does gross negligence differ? Consider this brief guide to determine the difference.

What Is Negligence?

Under normal circumstances, the term negligence describes a person acting in a careless or reckless manner, causing harm to another person. Simple carelessness may not constitute negligence. For example, people frequently act in a careless manner, but the person may not owe anyone else care to prevent injury, and careless actions do not always cause harm.

In general, to prove legal negligence, you must prove that the basic elements of negligence exist:

Duty of Care

You must prove that the defendant owed a duty of care to prevent your injuries. For example, a driver owes other drivers a duty of care to follow the rules of the road and drive in a manner that prevents injury from befalling others.

Breach of the Duty of Care

Once you show the defendant owed you a duty of care, you must then prove that the defendant breached that duty in some way. In the case of a car accident, the driver owed a duty of care to drive responsibly. Failure to follow the rules of the road by failing to yield at a stop sign breaches the duty of care.


A defendant breaching the duty of care does not constitute legal negligence or owe you damages unless you can prove that the actions of the defendant caused your injuries. In general, you must show that if not for the defendant’s actions, you avoided injury. A driver missing a stop sign, pulling into oncoming traffic and causing an accident causes injuries the victims would not sustain otherwise.


Finally, you must show that the negligent incident resulted in damages to you, such as medical bills, pain and suffering, or lost wages. It is not enough that the driver pulled into traffic, he or she also caused property damage and injuries resulting in pain and suffering, medical bills, and lost wages for the victims. Hiring a qualified personal injury can help you maximize the compensation you receive.

How Does Gross Negligence Differ?

Gross negligence differs from simple negligence primarily because gross negligence is more extreme. By definition, gross negligence is more than just careless behavior – gross negligence is willful or reckless indifference to the duty of care and complete disregard for the wellbeing of others. A person engaging in gross negligence likely knows the behavior could cause harm to others, and proceeds regardless of the potential for harm.

Accidentally failing to yield at a stop sign constitutes simple negligence. Driving while intoxicated qualifies as gross negligence and is an amplification of simple negligence. Any driver deciding to operate a vehicle while intoxicated knows the potential to harm others while driving recklessly exists, and chooses to engage in the behavior anyway.

Of course, negligence applies to case types other than personal injury car accidents. Consider this example of simple versus gross negligence as it applies to the medical field:

  • A nurse at a nursing home failed to turn a patient in his bed according to the standard of care on a few occasions when the nursing home experienced understaffing. The patient developed bed sores as a result. The nurse was negligent and caused injury to the patient.
  • The nurse noticed the bed sores beginning to form but continued to dismiss protocol knowing the bed sores were likely to worsen. After the bed sores formed, the nurse failed to procure adequate treatment, resulting in infection. The nurse involved was grossly negligent.

Depending on the circumstances of your case, gross negligence can result in punitive damages in addition to compensatory damages for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Speak with a qualified Denver personal injury attorney to determine the type of negligence involved in your Colorado case.