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What is Gross Negligence?

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I find that  potential clients here in North Texas are quick to use phrases like “negligent” and “gross negligence” because they’re terms used quite often in TV shows to portray the negligent acts of another person. However, knowing how to use the word correctly in a sentence and knowing what the term means according to the law are two different things. The point of this article is to shed light on the legal meaning of the term “gross negligence”. Adding the modifier “gross” to the legal term “negligence” denotes a greater level of negligence than your standard negligence claim. When you say someone was “grossly negligent”, the hearer assumes that the other person acted absurdly under the circumstances. The hearer is right and the law would support their conclusion, as long as you can prove the behavior was absurd at the time of the accident. This is the key distinction between the common meaning of a word and its legal meaning. To the hearer, it means what it means according to its commonly understood definition. However, in this case, the legal meaning given to gross negligence shows how you go about proving the behavior was absurd. As we will see, gross negligence is defined by the Texas Practice and Remedies Code (TPRC) and provides a blue print for proving a gross negligence claim.

Under the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, “gross negligence” means an act or omission (1) 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; and (2) 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 first prong of the gross negligence test focuses on the objective nature of the defendant’s conduct. A plaintiff may objectively prove gross negligence by proving that under the circumstances of the accident, a reasonable person would have realized that his or her conduct has created an extreme degree of risk to the safety of others. “Extreme risk” required for a finding of gross negligence turns upon the likelihood of serious injury to the plaintiff. This extreme degree of risk threshold is significantly higher than the objective reasonable-person test for negligence. Essentially, we must show that the person had some level of understanding that their actions were risky and involved danger not only to himself but to the public at the time of the accident.

The second prong of the gross negligence test focuses on the defendant’s mental state and stresses a qualitative distinction from ordinary negligence in requiring that the actor, although not actually intending to cause harm, proceed with knowledge that harm is a highly probable consequence. Determining whether an act or omission qualifies as gross negligence requires an examination of the events and circumstances from the viewpoint of the defendant at the time the events actually occurred. In legal terms, a Plaintiff would need to present evidence that the defendant acted with “conscious indifference” at the time of the act or omission. To prove that a defendant acted with “conscious indifference” the plaintiff must show that the defendant acted consciously, that is, knowingly and indifferently, towards the plaintiff’s rights, welfare, and safety. In other words, the plaintiff must show that the defendant has had actual subjective knowledge that his or her conduct created an extreme degree of risk, but their acts or omissions demonstrate that he or she simply did not care.

What are some possible examples of gross negligence?

            1. Driving too fast under the circumstances (speeding when it is raining, wet, icy or in a school zone, etc..)

            2. Texting and driving.

            3. Distracted driving (eating, changing the radio, talking to another passengers, scrolling social media, reading, etc..)

            4. Road rage

About Our Firm:

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Guest and Gray, P.C. is an experienced litigation team serving all North Texas counties. We are the largest and highest rated law firm in Rockwall and Kaufman County. We regularly pursue and defend various civil litigation claims and personal injury claims. Our practice is quickly growing with offices now located in Dallas, Rockwall and our main office in Forney, Texas to provide convenience to our clients. We are longtime faces in our community and we love what we do. We seek to provide an air of calm and confidence for our clients during a difficult time. We believe that makes us a little bit different from everybody else, and we like it that way.

If you have been injured in an accident in Dallas, Rockwall, or Kaufman counties, or any of the surrounding areas, you need to give us a call today and schedule a free consultation.

For more information, or if you are seeking legal advice, give us a call at (972) 564-4644