Gross Negligence Definition

A lack of care that shows reckless disregard for the safety or lives of others; conduct so extreme that it appears to be a conscious violation of other people's right to safety.

In personal injury law, gross negligence rises far above ordinary negligence (the legal standard used to establish liability in most injury cases); when it results in injury, gross negligence can affect the amount of compensable losses ("damages" in the language of the law).

A few examples might help illustrate the difference between ordinary negligence and gross negligence:

  • If Mario glances at his phone, then rear-ends Luigi's vehicle at a stop sign, Mario will likely be found negligent, and will be liable for Luigi's injuries, vehicle damage, and other accident-related losses.
  • If Mario runs a red light at 75 miles per hour, plowing into Luigi's vehicle, Mario may be found liable for gross negligence. This would make Mario responsible for Luigi's accident-related damages, and might also place him on the hook for punitive damages, which are meant to punish outrageous conduct like Mario's.