You likely recognize that personal injury claims, such as traffic accidents and slip and fall accident claims, are based on one party’s negligence. Negligence means that if a distracted driver rear-ends your vehicle, their negligence is responsible for your injuries, and you’ll seek compensation through a personal injury claim. If, however, the at-fault party’s gross negligence causes you to be injured, the stakes are likely much higher, which makes your claim that much more complicated. If you’ve been harmed by someone else’s gross negligence, it’s time to make the call to an experienced accident injury lawyer.
What’s In This Guide
- The Elements of Personal Injury Claims
- Gross Negligence Defined
- An Elevated Burden of Proof
- Examples of Gross Negligence
The Elements of Personal Injury Claims
To be compensated for your personal injury claim in Texas, several elements must be present.
Duty of Care
The at-fault party owed you a duty of care. A prime example of this duty owed is the responsibility we all owe one another when we drive. You know that when you drive, you are responsible for following the rules of the road, proceeding safely, and allowing others on the road to do the same. When we get behind the wheel, we owe one another an important duty of care.
Breach in Duty of Care
The at-fault party in the personal injury case must have failed to uphold the duty of care owed to the injured party, which is where negligence comes into play. If a motorist is distracted by something other than driving safely, for example, they have breached that duty of care owed to others on the road. Further, when the level of negligence involved in the claim exceeds the normal boundaries, it can sometimes be classified as gross negligence.
It isn’t enough for the other party to have engaged in a negligent practice – their negligence must have directly caused the ensuing injury-causing accident. For example, if that distracted driver failed to notice you stop in response to a danger ahead, and rear-ended your vehicle as a result, their breached duty of care is directly responsible for the rear-end accident.
Finally, the losses you incur must be addressed by the law as legal damages. These can be divided into the following categories:
- Medical expenses that range from emergency care to surgery, rehabilitation, and well beyond and that can include the cost of ongoing care
- Lost income, which can include the financial loss associated with a decreased earning potential
- Physical and emotional pain and suffering
Only if gross negligence, malice, or fraud can be proven can the claimant seek exemplary (or punitive) damages.
Gross Negligence Defined
The State of Texas Defines gross negligence as either an action or a failure to act that displays an extreme degree of risk in terms of the probability of causing someone else to be harmed and in terms of the magnitude of that potential harm. Further, to qualify as gross negligence, the at-fault party must have been aware of the risk involved (or should have been aware of the risk involved) and must have proceeded with the risky practice anyway – without concern regarding the rights, safety, or welfare of others.
To prove the other party’s negligence, in other words, you must demonstrate both of the following:
- They did something (or failed to do something) that put others at considerable risk in relation to the probability that someone will be seriously harmed as a result.
- They understood the risk involved and didn’t care enough to do anything about it.
Put very simply, you will need to demonstrate that the at-fault party engaged in an exceptionally dangerous practice that they knew was exceptionally dangerous but didn’t concern themselves with that danger. It is not, however, necessary to prove that the at-fault party intended to cause someone else’s harm. Ultimately, gross negligence can be reduced to a willful disregard for the safety of others.
An Elevated Burden of Proof
To bring a successful claim involving gross negligence, you will also face an elevated burden of proof. Personal injury cases that are based on negligence require what is known as a preponderance of the evidence, which means that it is more likely than not that the other party is at fault. Even if your claim is considered slightly more believable than the other side’s, your burden of proof is met.
For gross negligence, however, you’ll need to prove the other party’s wrongdoing with what is known as clear and convincing evidence, which means that the jury must firmly believe your allegations are true. Further, because the financial stakes are higher with cases involving gross negligence, the jury must come to a unanimous agreement about the defendant’s liability and about the amount of legal damages to be awarded.
Examples of Gross Negligence
While every case involving gross negligence is complex, there are several kinds of examples that commonly fit the bill, including:
- A motorist who is seriously impaired behind the wheel (all motorists are – or should be – aware of the danger inherent to drunk driving).
- A motorcycle manufacturer that allows a line of bikes it knows has a dangerous design flaw to go to market
- A trucking company that sends a truck with brakes that are known to be dangerously faulty on the road
Seek the Legal Guidance of an Experienced Austin Personal Injury Attorney Today
Being injured by someone else’s negligence is difficult enough, but if you’ve been harmed by another party’s gross negligence, the matter is that much direr. Whatever the circumstances of your claim, the capable Austin personal injury attorneys at The Patel Firm understand its gravity and are well-positioned to advocate for its best possible resolution assertively. Your claim is important, so please don’t hesitate to contact or call us at 361-400-2036 for more information today.