Does Gross Negligence Require Intent?
By law, a person who is considered grossly negligent may have committed their actions deliberately but did not necessarily intend to cause harm. In fact, the Nevada Supreme Court explicitly stated that gross negligence “falls short of being such reckless disregard of probable consequences as is equivalent to a willful and intentional wrong.”
Therefore, proving intent is not required for a gross negligence claim, but doing so can certainly have a significant impact.
What Is Gross Negligence?
In legal terms, gross negligence is defined as extreme or reckless disregard for the safety of others. It is more than mere carelessness or failure to act – it is behavior likely to lead to foreseeable harm. According to the Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law School, gross negligence falls somewhere “between intent to do wrongful harm and ordinary negligence” and is defined as “willful, wanton, and reckless conduct affecting the life or property of another.”
Furthermore, the Nevada Supreme Court stated that gross negligence “amounts to indifference to present legal duty, and to utter forgetfulness of legal obligations so far as other persons may be affected.”
You must firmly establish that the defendant owed you a duty of care, failed in this duty, and caused your injuries to prove gross negligence. You will also need to show that the defendant’s actions displayed extreme carelessness or they were deliberate (intentional).
Proving Intent in Gross Negligence Cases
In cases like these, proving intent is very valuable but not entirely necessary. Solid evidence of extreme carelessness or recklessness may be enough in a civil trial to warrant a higher amount of compensation and/or punitive (penalizing) damages.
However, gross negligence cases often do involve showing that a defendant’s actions were intentional, which may require more evidence. As a result, the legal process can be more time-consuming and intensive than an ordinary negligence case. You will likely need help from a personal injury lawyer who understands the challenges of proving a gross negligence case.
What Is Intent?
According to the Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law School, intent “refers to the mental aspect behind an action” and “is generally shown by circumstantial evidence such as the acts or knowledge of the defendant.”
Intentional civil claims occur when a party deliberately acts in a certain way that leads to the injury of another. Although some acts unquestionably show intent, others are not so obvious. For example, assault and battery clearly and objectively indicate an intention to injure, but this is not the case in many negligence claims.
To prove intent, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the defendant acted purposefully to cause harm or that the defendant’s actions were so dangerous and reckless that they should have known that injury to another would result. This often takes more than appealing to mere common sense to establish, requiring assistance from an attorney.
Gross Negligence and Intent
Intent is an undeniably vital element in gross negligence claims when it can be proven, but it cannot always be. Many negligence cases walk a fine line between (1) what the defendant should have known and done and (2) what the defendant did intentionally.
Here are some examples of cases that demonstrate gross negligence and how intent can factor in.
1. Speeding in a vehicle through an area with a lot of pedestrian traffic
A reasonable person could infer some amount of intent in this case, but it is not always cut and dry. For instance, the person speeding may have “accidentally” hit a person. However, even if it was not directly intentional, they were acting unlawfully and in a way that could lead to another person’s injury or death. Therefore, the driver did intend to be reckless.
Regardless of whether their actions in hitting the pedestrian are interpreted as deliberate, they could still be found liable for their injuries due to wanton recklessness.
2. Staff at a nursing home failing to provide food and water to a resident for several days
Likewise, the nursing home staff may not have set out to starve their patient purposefully. But this is undoubtedly a breach of duty so egregious that it’s hard to imagine how they would not know the potentially severe consequences of their actions. A finding of gross negligence would be possible in this case – even if the staff was not intentionally trying to harm the patient – because they were severely neglectful and reckless in their duties.
3. A doctor prescribing medication that a patient’s medical records document as a drug allergy
Unless proven otherwise, this appears to be a tragic mistake. Yes, the doctor intentionally prescribed the medication, but they would have been much less likely to do so if they had thoroughly checked the patient’s medical records.
Even so, the doctor’s error and conduct could be interpreted as a reckless disregard for the patient, and gross negligence could possibly be established even though the doctor did not try to harm the patient deliberately.
A Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help You Prove Intent
Gross negligence tends to fall somewhere between failing to exercise ordinary care and actually intending to inflict harm. This conduct suggests that the person knew their behavior had the extreme potential to cause harm, yet they still engaged in it. Further legal examination will likely be required to determine if it was genuinely intentional.
In all the above examples, finding intent can be relatively subjective and implied rather than obvious. Proving intent can solidify a gross negligence claim, but there are multiple degrees of intent, and how others interpret willful actions in any given case may differ.
Therefore, if you were injured due to the gross negligence of another and wish to seek damages, you are urged to retain a personal injury lawyer who can explain how intent applies in your case.
Contact De Castroverde Accident & Injury Lawyers Today
At De Castroverde Accident & Injury Lawyers, our attorneys are here to answer your questions, fight for your rights, and help you take the steps needed to recover the compensation you deserve. Nevada’s statute of limitations for personal injury claims is two years from the date the injury occurred, so do not delay.
When our firm represents you, you can rest assured that you have the support and legal assistance you need to settle your negligence claim successfully. To learn more, contact us today for a free and confidential case review.