Gross negligence is acting with an extreme disregard of care for the safety of others, so much so that any reasonable person could tell the action puts people at risk.
Gross negligence is a legal term that’s used to describe a specific kind of extremely careless behavior. Under the law, everyone is expected to act with a basic sense of duty to not put other people in danger. When someone breaks that duty they are “negligent,” but there are different kinds of negligence. In particular, the law distinguishes between gross negligence and ordinary negligence:
- Ordinary negligence is a lack of care or a moment of inattention that puts someone else at risk, such as not watching the road while driving.
- Gross negligence is a conscious disregard for the need to use reasonable care, such as accepting a dare to close your eyes for 30 seconds while driving.
In the example above, the driver who closes his eyes does not want to hurt anyone—he isn’t a murderer. But it’s obvious that driving blind could cause an accident and hurt or kill someone. If he does it anyway, it’s not just a moment of carelessness; it’s a voluntary disregard for any kind of care at all.
How does gross negligence affect a DUI case?
In drunk driving cases in California, simply driving under the influence does not necessarily count as gross negligence. However, it may if you were speeding excessively, running red lights or acting with gross negligence in addition to being intoxicated.
This is especially important if your DUI ends up causing an accident that kills someone. Whether you acted with gross negligence or not will determine what crime you are charged with. For example:
- If you acted with ordinary negligence, such as speeding 7 mph over the limit or rolling through a stop sign, you may be charged with DUI manslaughter. This can be either a misdemeanor or a felony charge.
- If you acted with ordinary negligence, such as speeding 30 mph over the limit in a school zone, you will likely be charged with gross DUI manslaughter. This is always a felony and the consequences are dramatically more severe.
After the DUI, of course, it’s impossible to go back and change what happened. But the exact line between negligence and gross negligence is often a matter of perspective, and your lawyer can cast doubt as to whether you really acted with gross negligence. This can weaken the prosecutor’s case and could result in getting the charge against you reduced to something less serious.
Additionally, gross negligence is a factor in DUI lawsuits.
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