The concept of gross negligence is an important one. After all, it helps to protect you when you’re injured by another person’s neglect.
Injuries suffered due to the negligence of another can upend your life and make it more difficult going forward. The person responsible for your injuries is, under Florida law, guilty of gross negligence if they meet certain criteria. If you can win a gross negligence claim, you are entitled to compensation for the injuries you sustained.
Here’s what you need to know about gross negligence in Florida and how it can impact your potential case.
Gross Negligence: What Is It?
Negligence on its own has two elements: duty of care and a breach of that duty. In order to prove negligence in a Florida court, you must show that these two elements are present in the case. However, there is a difference legally between ordinary negligence and gross negligence – as well as a difference in the types of damages that can be awarded.
Gross negligence is defined under Florida law as conduct by someone who was wanting in care or who acted in a reckless manner, creating a conscious disregard for the life, safety, or rights of others. In cases involving gross negligence, the court has the authority to award the plaintiff with punitive damages.
Negligence in an ordinary sense happens when someone fails to take precautions that any reasonable person would in a similar situation. It can also be defined by the failure to use due care. Gross negligence, on the other hand, occurs when someone deliberately disregards the lives of others.
For example, accidentally running a stoplight and hitting another person, causing injury, would count as ordinary negligence. If that person were to knowingly speed through a crowd of pedestrians in a car, that would up the ante to gross negligence.
When you’re injured due to the gross negligence of another person, punitive damages can be awarded. The focus of punitive damages is punishing the actions of the person found guilty of gross negligence rather than compensating the victim. It’s meant to deter actions of gross negligence from occurring in the future. Punitive damages are not awarded in regular negligence cases.
In Florida, the amount of court-ordered punitive damages are limited. You can receive punitive damages that are up to three times the compensatory damages, or you can receive $500,000, whichever is higher. Basically, if get awarded compensatory damages of $500,000 as an example, then you can receive no more than $1.5 million in punitive damages.
The court reviews your case and all available evidence. Based on that, they will allow or not allow the claim to proceed. Both parties have the opportunity to present arguments for or against the claim. The judge will then decide whether punitive damages can be granted.
You can claim punitive damages against a legal entity such as a corporation, but you must be able to show that the legal entity was aware of the behavior of their employee or agent in order to receive punitive damages.
Gross negligence is complicated, but you shouldn’t be dissuaded from pursuing a case if you think you have one. If someone took part in intentional actions that meet the threshold of gross negligence, then they should be held accountable for it. You have rights, and you must seek help to make the best case possible not only for yourself but anyone else who could be hurt by similar actions in the future.
About the Author:
Andrew Winston is a partner at the personal injury law firm of Winston Law. For over 20 years, he has successfully represented countless people in all kinds of personal injury cases, with a particular focus on child injury, legal malpractice, and premises liability. He has been recognized for excellence in the representation of injured clients by admission to the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, and named one of America’s Top 100 High-Stakes Litigators. Mr. Winston is AV Preeminent Rated by the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, enjoys a 10.0 rating by AVVO as a Top Personal Injury Attorney, has been selected as a Florida “SuperLawyer” from 2011-2020 – an honor reserved for the top 5% of lawyers in the state – was voted to Florida Trend’s ”Legal Elite,” recognized by Expertise as one of the 20 Best Fort Lauderdale personal injury attorneys, named one of the Top 100 Lawyers in the Miami area for 2015-2017, and one of the Top 100 Lawyers in Florida for 2015-2017 and 2019.