In Texas, there are three levels of misconduct: ordinary negligence, gross negligence, and willful misconduct. There is a big difference between ordinary negligence and the latter two. The differences between “gross negligence” and “willful misconduct” are more subtle, but they do exist.
These differences sometimes come up in insurance and other indemnity agreements. Many times, these contracts apply to one or more types of misconduct, but not to all three. The distinction may be relevant in personal injury cases, particularly with regard to the amount of punitive damages, if any. Learn more about Texas misconduct laws below, and contact Abrams Trial Law for legal assistance today.
Distracted driving is a good example of ordinary negligence. In Texas, it’s illegal to use a hand-held cell phone while driving. Drivers who violate this law may be responsible for damages as a matter of law if they cause a car crash. But other behaviors are distracting as well. These things include using a hands-free cell phone, eating while driving, and applying makeup while driving. If the drivers were so distracted that their behavior fell below the standard of care, the ordinary negligence doctrine may apply.
Typically, drivers have a duty of reasonable care. They must drive defensively and obey both the written and unwritten rules of the road. Most commercial operators, such as bus drivers, Uber drivers, and taxi drivers, have a higher duty of care-as these individuals ensure safe conduct from one place to the other.
In most legal dictionaries, “gross negligence” means the intentional disregard of a known risk and the foreseeable consequences of that risk. In negligence cases, if there is clear and convincing evidence of gross negligence, the jury may award additional punitive damages.
Gross negligence is very common in defective product and dangerous drug claims. Many times, these companies bury negative information about a product so that knowledge does not depress sales figures. In so doing, unwitting consumers are put at risk.
For an example of gross negligence, consider the event of a factory fire. If a factory owner did not inspect its fire extinguishers, and as a result, some of them were not in usable condition, the owner was probably negligent. However, if the factory owner provided no fire extinguishers or other such safety equipment, that owner may have been grossly negligent
To explain willful misconduct, let’s continue the factory example from above. Assume now that the factory’s safety department wrote a memo to the owner which stated that the lack of fire extinguishers would kill X number of people if there was a conflagration. If the owner still did not do anything about the problem, the owner may have been guilty of willful misconduct. The same thing could apply if the owner did not like one of the workers and gave that worker a station as far away from the fire exit as possible.
The employee hatred aspect does not come up very often, but the scenario in which a danger is known but ignored is rather commonplace. This is especially common in dangerous drug cases. If an attorney establishes willful misconduct, and the jury clearly understands what that term means, the jury may award even more punitive damages.
Get Legal Help Today
The three levels of negligence could have a direct bearing on the amount of damages a jury awards. If you have been in an accident as a result of another party’s negligence, it is important to seek out a knowledgeable attorney who can help you better understand and fight for your rights. It’s also important to do so quickly, as you have a limited time to file a claim.
For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Dallas, TX, contact Abrams Trial Law today.