Most general insurance policies do not cover gross negligence claims or, more to the point, they do not cover punitive damages. Insurance policies may even expressly state that negligent acts are covered, but acts of gross negligence are not.
Gross negligence is, in fact, a serious accusation. It refers to a negligent act committed by a person that displays an extreme disregard for the safety of others. In law, gross negligence is a more severe form of negligence.
What Exactly Is Gross Negligence?
An act of negligence typically refers to a careless mistake or act of inattention that caused an injury. On the other hand, gross negligence is an elevated accusation characterized by a reckless or intentional disregard for the reasonable treatment or safety of others.
Gross negligence is broadly defined as a breach of care that is of an especially reckless or willfully unsafe quality. In Hart v. Kline (1941), the Nevada Supreme Court described gross negligence as the following:
- Indifference to a legal duty of care
- Total forgetfulness of obligations for others’ safety
- Heedless violation of legal responsibilities to others’ rights
Gross negligence is also sometimes referred to as willful misconduct, as noted in Nevada statutes (NRS 41.491).
Gross Negligence: Examples and Role of Insurance Claims
So, what happens if you are a victim of an accident and injury related to gross negligence? What are your options to recover losses?
The answer is usually to file an insurance claim or a civil lawsuit to seek damages. You may be able to recover a range of compensatory losses related to the injury (e.g., medical bills or income losses), and you could even seek punitive damages to further punish the defendant.
However, punitive damages are only rarely awarded in civil cases. Again, as described above, these damages are extended to victims of only the most egregious forms of negligence.
Example #1: You Were Injured by a Company Employee
Imagine you are a client riding in a vehicle driven by a company representative who is intoxicated. They cause an accident, and you’re seriously injured. Their general liability insurance policy may cover some basic damages, such as bodily injury. However, it is unlikely to cover damages explicitly related to gross negligence, such as punitive damages.
Or, say an employee of a trucking company demonstrated road rage and caused your crash. He or she (and the trucking company) could be found liable for gross negligence if their conduct was particularly outrageous. For instance, if they tailed you for several miles at a high speed and then rear-ended you at a red light, this could be especially egregious negligence.
Still, it is common for general liability insurance policies to exclude coverage for punitive damages. However, you could have success seeking compensatory and punitive damages if you file a civil lawsuit in this case, however.
Example #2: You Were Injured at Your Job
If you are an employee who sustained a bodily injury intentionally caused or aggravated by the employer (an act of gross negligence), punitive damages related to their conduct will probably not be covered by liability insurance or workers’ comp.
In this case, you may be compelled to seek additional damages by suing the company or employer directly and proving that they were guilty of gross negligence or willful misconduct.
Example #3: You Were Injured by a Health Professional
If you were somehow injured or made ill by a health provider, they might be guilty of medical malpractice. Most reputable health professionals, such as doctors, are covered by either individual or group malpractice insurance policies.
To qualify as gross negligence, a medical provider would have had to have done something that was very obviously incorrect, mistaken, or willfully reckless. For instance, let’s say that a medical provider was found guilty of inappropriately touching a patient during an unnecessary surgery.
If the victim files a lawsuit, they could be awarded both compensatory damages and punitive damages to penalize the negligent health provider. However, punitive damages likely would not be included if the victim pursues a settlement through the provider’s insurance policy.
Is Gross Negligence Covered By Personal Health Insurance?
If you are injured due to the gross negligence of another, your personal health insurance could pay for health care costs or income losses as described in your policy. It will not likely pay you additional punitive damages due to medical malpractice or an accident.
To recover compensation for copays and other medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, and possibly punitive damages, you will have to initiate legal action against the party liable for your injuries.
The Insurance Policy’s Language Matters
There are cases although uncommon in which an insurance policy may state that it will cover damages for gross negligence. For example, insurance agreements may indicate they will cover damages due to “bodily injury, including punitive damages for gross negligence.”
However, if the insurance policy only offers coverage “for bodily injury,” this language will probably legally allow an insurer to avoid awarding punitive damages. Still, these damages could be sought from the liable party through a civil case.
Contact a Personal Injury Attorney’s Team to Discuss Your Claim
If you were injured in an accident or due to the gross negligence of another, you may want to get help from a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. Do not delay. The statute of limitations for personal injury in Nevada is two years from the date of the injury, per Nevada Revised Statutes § 41A.097. You have four years from the date the healthcare provider inflicted the injury to bring a medical malpractice case, or two years after you discovered (or should have discovered) the injury.
The De Castroverde Accident & Injury Lawyers team is available to review your case to determine if you have grounds for a claim due to another person’s gross negligence. Contact us today for a free and confidential case review, and let us help you get the compensation you deserve.