When is gross negligence a factor in a medical malpractice claim?

A person commits gross negligence when he or she deliberately acts in a way that is known, or should be known, to likely cause harm. Gross negligence is a more serious failure than basic negligence. In the medical field, the behavior of medical professionals would need to be clearly below the standards of accepted medical practice with disregard for the well-being of the patient. An example might be a doctor who leaves a surgical instrument inside a patient or performs surgery on the wrong organ, limb, or body part.

Gross negligence is often defined in the following ways:

  • a deliberate act that is known to likely cause harm
  • conduct so reckless it would be obvious to the average person
  • conscious and voluntary disregard for the reasonable care of a patient and actions that caused foreseeable grave injury or harm to the patient

In other words, a person guilty of gross negligence usually knows or should have known the reckless nature of his conduct.

How to Prove Your Gross Negligence Claim

Even if there is no intent to cause harm, you may still be able to claim gross negligence if you can prove your injuries were caused by someone acting unreasonably. This could happen due to a car accident, slip and fall, legal malpractice, or medical malpractice.   

To win a gross negligence case, the following four factors must be proven:

  • Duty. Once you’ve established a doctor-patient relationship, the doctor owes you a certain duty of care. This duty is to act as other doctors would under like circumstances and follow the guidelines for acceptable medical care. You must prove that the doctor behaved unreasonably or without an ordinary degree of care.
  • Breach: Once the doctor has established this duty of care, he is required to treat you like any other doctor would in his field and follow procedures and processes accepted by his peers. A breach in this area could include using unsanitized medical tools to examine or treat you, thus putting you at risk. However, a breach of duty must be so outrageous and extreme, it would be obvious to anyone, including those who do not work in healthcare.
  • Injury: Following the breach, you must sustain some type of injury. Maybe you developed an infection from the tools used to treat you. To prove any type of negligence, you must prove that these tools caused your infection or injury.
  • Damages: You must be able to show that you’ve suffered economic or non-economic damages as a result of your injury. Perhaps your hospital stay or treatment resulted in significant medical bills, or you had to take time off work because of the injury.

It is important to consult an attorney promptly if you believe you’ve been injured due to gross negligence. If you prove gross negligence, you may receive higher compensation that includes money for punitive damages. Call us today at 703-591-0067 to discuss your case.