Gross negligence is an important legal term in the context of personal injury law. It refers to a level of carelessness or recklessness that is so severe that it goes beyond ordinary negligence. In Colorado, if a person acted with gross negligence in causing an injury to someone else, they may be held financially responsible for the damages that result from that injury. In this blog post, we will take a closer look at what gross negligence means under Colorado personal injury law and how it may affect the outcome of a personal injury case. If you suffered injuries in an accident caused by negligence or gross negligence, contact our experienced personal injury attorneys to discuss your right to recover compensation.
What is negligence under Colorado personal injury law?
Negligence is a key concept in personal injury law. It refers to the failure to exercise reasonable care in a situation. In the context of personal injury law, negligence occurs when a person or entity fails to act as a reasonable person would in similar circumstances and this failure leads to an injury. In Colorado, if a person is found to have been negligent in causing an injury to someone else, they may be held financially responsible for the damages that result from that injury. In order to prove negligence in a personal injury case, the victim must establish that the defendant:
- Owed a duty of care to the plaintiff
- That this duty of care was breached
- That the breach was the direct cause of the plaintiff’s injury
- The injury resulted in damages to the plaintiff
If all of these elements are present, the plaintiff may be able to recover damages for their injuries.
Duty of care
In a legal negligence claim, the duty of care refers to the legal obligation of one party to exercise a reasonable level of caution while performing any acts that could foreseeably harm others. This duty of care is owed to all foreseeable plaintiffs, which means that individuals or entities must take steps to prevent harm to anyone who it is reasonably foreseeable could be injured as a result of their actions or inaction. If a party fails to fulfill this duty of care and causes harm to another party as a result, they may be held liable for negligence. The specific nature and extent of the duty of care will vary depending on the circumstances, and may be dictated by common law, statutes, or professional standards.
Breach of duty of care
In a negligence claim, a breach occurs when the defendant fails to act as a reasonable person would under the circumstances. This means that the person failed to meet the standard of care expected of them to protect others from harm. A breach of a duty of care requires more than just causing harm or failing to take action that could avoid harm. In a personal injury claim, the breach must be a failure to satisfy a specific duty owed to the victim. For example, a driver has a duty of care to follow traffic signage and stop at a stop sign. If the driver fails to stop and hits another car, the driver breached the duty of care to obey stop signs.
Under Colorado personal injury law, causation refers to the connection between the defendant’s breach of duty of care and the plaintiff’s injury or damages. In order for the plaintiff to successfully win a negligence claim, they must be able to show that the defendant’s actions (or lack of action) were the direct cause of their injury or damages. This means that the plaintiff must prove that their injury or damages would not have occurred if the defendant had not breached their duty of care. Establishing causation can be complex and may require expert testimony or other evidence to support the claim.
In a legal negligence claim, damages refer to the harm or losses suffered by the plaintiff as a result of the defendant’s actions (or lack of action). Damages may include both economic damages, such as medical expenses or lost wages, and non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering or loss of enjoyment of life. In order to recover damages in a negligence claim, the plaintiff must be able to prove that they suffered actual harm or losses as a result of the defendant’s actions. The goal of awarding damages in a negligence claim is to compensate the plaintiff for the harm or losses they have suffered and to hold the defendant accountable for their actions.
What is gross negligence under Colorado personal injury law?
Gross negligence refers to a level of carelessness or recklessness significantly greater than ordinary negligence. In Colorado, gross negligence is considered to be a conscious and voluntary disregard for the safety of others. It is a more severe form of negligence that can result in greater liability for the person or entity found to be gross negligent. In a personal injury claim, a plaintiff may be able to recover damages if they can prove that the defendant’s actions constituted gross negligence. The standard for proving gross negligence is generally higher than for ordinary negligence, and may require evidence of intentional or reckless behavior on the part of the defendant.
What is the difference between negligence and gross negligence?
The difference between negligence and gross negligence lies in the degree of carelessness or recklessness involved. Negligence is a failure to act with the care a reasonable person would exercise under the same circumstances. Gross negligence, on the other hand, is a conscious and voluntary disregard for the safety of others. Gross negligence is considered to be a more severe form of negligence. It can result in greater liability for the person found grossly negligent. In general, the standard for proving gross negligence is higher than ordinary negligence.
What is the standard for gross negligence under Colorado law?
Under Colorado law, gross negligence is a conscious and voluntary disregard for the safety of others. To prove gross negligence, a victim must show that the defendant had a conscious indifference to the safety of other people. This typically requires evidence of intentional or reckless behavior on the part of the defendant. The standard for proving gross negligence is generally higher than for ordinary negligence. For ordinary negligence, a victim generally does not have to prove any awareness, intent, decision-making, or degree of severity of conduct. Gross negligence requires the victim to prove the defendant exercised a conscious indifference. In other words, the defendant had knowledge her conduct would likely result in harm and proceeded anyway.
How to prove gross negligence
Proving gross negligence can be complex and may require extensive evidence and testimony. In order to prove gross negligence, a plaintiff must be able to show that the defendant’s actions or lack of action were significantly more careless or reckless than ordinary negligence. This typically requires evidence of intentional or reckless behavior on the part of the defendant. Some examples of evidence that may be used to prove gross negligence include:
- Eyewitness testimony from people who witnessed the defendant’s actions or lack of action
- Photographs or video footage of the incident or the defendant’s actions
- Expert testimony from specialists in the relevant field (e.g. a medical expert in a medical malpractice case)
- Documentation or records related to the defendant’s actions or lack of action
It is important to note that the standard for proving gross negligence is generally higher than for ordinary negligence, and a plaintiff will need to present strong evidence in order to successfully make their case.
Why should I care about negligence vs. gross negligence in my accident and injury case?
Most personal injury claims involve ordinary negligence, but your personal injury attorney should carefully analyze your case for potential gross negligence issues. Gross negligence can become a critical issue in your accident and injury case for a couple reasons.
First, gross negligence may allow you to collect punitive damages. Punitive damages are extra damages a court can award for wanton recklessness. Punitive damages are above and beyond your actual economic and non-economic damages. A judge or jury may award them as punishment for outrageously dangerous conduct and to deter similar future recklessness. Punitive damages can significantly increase the amount of compensation you can receive in your personal injury case.
Second, gross negligence can defeat a valid waiver of negligence claims. Many businesses require you to waive claims against the business in exchange for participating in activities like recreation or sports. In Colorado this is extremely common, if not universal, for ski resorts. Colorado courts generally find these waivers defend negligence claims, even when they result in catastrophic injuries or wrongful death. These waivers do not avoid claims for gross negligence. To pursue these defendants, a victim often must allege and prove gross negligence to recover any compensation.
Hire a Denver personal injury attorney for your gross negligence claim
If you believe you have a gross negligence claim, you should talk to the experienced and knowledgeable personal injury attorneys at Front Range Injury Attorneys. Gross negligence claims require more evidence than an ordinary negligence claim. Often these cases are more difficult to pursue because they typically involve more severe injuries, greater damages and more complex legal issues. Insurance adjusters typically do not evaluate claims considering gross negligence or the potential for punitive damages. It is usually necessary to file a personal injury lawsuit to obtain fair compensation in a gross negligence case. Our Denver personal injury attorneys are experienced and aggressive advocates for our clients both in and out of court. Contact our law office today for a free case review.