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What is Considered “Gross Negligence” in Maryland?


You may have heard the terms “negligence” and “gross negligence” thrown around together interchangeably. In reality, the two terms have very different legal definitions and can lead to substantially different outcomes for those who were harmed by the conduct of another person or entity.
Gross negligence is a level of wrongful behavior of a substantially higher degree than simple negligence. the primary tenets of gross negligence focus on the defendant’s intent or conscious disregard of their behavior’s potential impact on the victim’s health, life, or property. By succeeding in proving gross negligence, a plaintiff can overcome many challenges to their recovery, including statutory immunities or their own shared fault in causing their injuries.
If you believe that you may have fallen victim to someone else’s gross negligence and suffered injury as a result, let Rice, Murtha & Psoras help you obtain the recovery that you deserve. Our Baltimore personal injury attorneys offer free initial consults to prospective clients to help them get started. You can schedule yours today by calling us at (410) 694-7291.

Legal Definition of Gross Negligence in Maryland

Nailing down a single definition of gross negligence is difficult. In the opinion of the Maryland Court of Appeals, the highest court in the state, the definition of gross negligence varies depending on the legal and situational context.
According to legal precedent, gross negligence is an intentional or particularly reckless failure to meet a duty. To qualify as gross negligence, the responsible party must have acted (or failed to act) with reckless disregard of the consequences to someone else’s life or property. Implied within the Court of Appeals’ definition is a thoughtless disregard for consequences and a lack of effort to avoid them.
Gross negligence is more significant than just “big negligence.” To find that a defendant was grossly negligent, a Maryland court must conclude that that the defendant acted either with intent to cause the harm or with complete indifference to the possibility that the harm might occur.

Difference Between Negligence and Gross Negligence in Maryland

Separating negligence from gross negligence is important because Maryland law provides for the opportunity for plaintiffs to sue for gross negligence in more instances than simple negligence.
In other words, certain defendants that might otherwise have protection from regular negligence lawsuits lose that protection if their conduct is sufficiently reckless or intentional that it meets the definition of gross negligence. Such defendants include emergency services providers and first responders, veterinarians, and agents of certain non-profit organizations meant to promote a public good. Additionally, individuals and businesses can protect themselves against simple negligence lawsuits through contract terms but cannot protect themselves against suits alleging gross negligence.
Gross negligence may also be an avenue for partially responsible victims to succeed where they otherwise may not have. Maryland is one of four states that still employ a contributory negligence theory for personal injury cases. In practice, an injury victim cannot recover in a negligence lawsuit in Maryland if the court finds that they were also somewhat responsible for causing the accident or their injury. However, if the plaintiff shows that the defendant was grossly negligent, they may still be able to recover compensation, despite the part that they may have played in the event.

Examples of Gross Negligence in Maryland

Sometimes, the best way to explain a difficult concept is through examples. Below are some of the more common situations where gross negligence comes into play in Maryland.

Medical Care

Doctors, nurses, and other medical providers are people, too, and are prone to mistakes. But gross negligence means more than a mere mistake. Where medical professionals consciously elect to proceed with a particularly risky and unnecessary procedure out of their own self-interest or they intentionally fail to follow the basic protocols of their field, they open themselves up to liability for gross negligence.

Bad Faith in Contracts

When a party to a contract exhibits gross negligence in failing to meet the terms of a contract, their failure can be used to infer that they entered into or approached the contractual agreement in bad faith. An example of a situation would be if Tom contracted with Anne to sell her a vintage car in exchange for money, but Tom intentionally misled Anne to believe that he owned such a car and made no efforts to acquire one in order to fulfill his side of the deal.

Reckless Driving Accidents

Not every car accident is grounds for gross recklessness. However, certain behavior behind the wheel is so intentional or careless that it deserves the elevated statute of gross negligence. Examples of gross negligence on Maryland’s roadways include accidents caused by highly excessive speeding, drunk driving, or drag racing.

Product Liability

Manufacturers owe duties of care to anyone who may come into contact with or use their product to prevent harm. When the manufacturer is aware of a defect or condition that poses a high risk of serious harm and fails to act on this knowledge, injury victims may pursue recovery under a theory of gross negligence. the most common products liability cases that meet gross negligence standards are those dealing with asbestos.

Punitive Damages for Gross Negligence in Maryland

Successful lawsuits that allege simple negligence in Maryland will return damages that are calculated solely based on the consequences to the victim of the negligence. However, for gross negligence, a court may decide to award punitive damages.
Punitive damages are an additional form of compensation for a victim that is determined by the grossly negligent conduct of the defendant. These additional damages are meant to both punish the defendant for their reckless behavior and discourage similar behavior from others in the future. Punitive damages are not available in every gross negligence case, so you should have a discussion with your Ocean City personal injury attorney as soon as possible to determine what your potential case may be worth to you.

Rice, Murtha & Psoras Can Answer Your Questions on Gross Negligence in Maryland

Your journey towards a full and just recovery begins today when you schedule an appointment with the Annapolis personal injury attorneys at Rice, Murtha and & Psoras. Reach us at our offices by calling (410) 694-7291.