When a person is injured by the wrongful, reckless, or negligent actions of another person or entity, they may be entitled to financial compensation in a personal injury lawsuit. Many civil claims here in West Virginia center around the idea of gross negligence.
Since this concept is critical to the overall success of most personal injury cases, it is important to understand how gross negligence is defined in West Virginia.
Gross Negligence as Defined by West Virginia Law
West Virginia § 55-7D-2 defines gross negligence as “voluntary and conscious conduct, including a failure to act, by a person who, at the time of the conduct, knew that the conduct was likely to be harmful to the health or well-being of another person.”
This definition can be confusing, especially if you are experiencing physical or emotional trauma associated with a serious injury and are just now exploring this concept for the first time. In more simple terms, gross negligence can be defined as an action or inaction that caused harm to another individual, that the person committing the act (or lack thereof) knew would cause harm.
Who May Commit Gross Negligence?
As members of a society, we all owe one another a duty of care in different situations. When one person fails to uphold that duty of care or acts in a way that they are aware could cause harm, they may be held liable for their actions. Let’s look at a few examples of individuals who may commit gross negligence in Charleston.
When you obtain your driver’s license and begin driving on public roads, you accept the duty of care that every driver must uphold when sharing the road. A motorist’s duty of care encompasses the following responsibilities:
- Drivers must obey the rules of the road
- Drivers must act in a way that does not cause harm to other drivers or pedestrians
- Drivers must pay attention and keep their focus on driving
A driver that is speeding, running red lights, texting, taking photos or videos, talking on the phone, eating or drinking, or ignoring traffic signs is not upholding their duty of care. If they then go on to cause a car accident because of their behavior behind the wheel, they could be held responsible in a personal injury case.
Property Owners and Managers
Property owners must maintain premises that are free from dangerous conditions that can cause harm to visitors. Owners may address hazards on their property by:
- Fixing the dangerous condition
- Verbally warning visitors of any hazards
- Erecting signs that warn visitors of hazards
When a property owner, manager, or other individual in charge of a property is aware of a dangerous condition but fails to take any of the above precautions, they could be accused of gross negligence in the event that someone is injured.
Slip-and-fall accidents are among the most common types of premises liability claims that cite gross negligence, but it is also frequently a factor in claims involving poor maintenance, animal bites, and obstructions.
Doctors and Other Medical Professionals
In medical malpractice cases, gross negligence is considered to be the most extreme form of negligence. A doctor or other medical professional whose actions showed a wanton disregard for the safety and health of their patient can be held liable for gross negligence.
Examples of gross negligence committed by a health care professional include:
- Leaving behind a surgical tool in a patient
- Performing surgery or another procedure while under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Performing a surgery or procedure for which they are not licensed or trained
- Knowingly or intentionally harming a patient
- Operating on the incorrect body part
- Failing to provide a patient with all necessary information before a procedure, treatment, or surgery
- Prescribing a medication with known contraindications to a patient’s current medication
If you sought the expertise of a doctor but were harmed as a result, you are likely dealing with mounting medical expenses for your new injuries as well as your existing health problems. These are not costs that you should be forced to carry on your own. A medical malpractice lawsuit is often the most effective way to hold a grossly negligent doctor responsible for their actions, preventing them from causing further harm to other patients while also securing compensation for your damages.
Nursing Home Workers
Our elderly loved ones are among some of the most vulnerable populations in Charleston, WV. While we might do everything we can to continue to care for our parents and grandparents as they age, there often reaches a point when transitioning to a nursing home facility is the most appropriate option.
Unfortunately, gross negligence is far from uncommon in nursing home settings. According to the National Council on Aging, at least one out of every 10 adults in a residential facility experiences some type of abuse or mistreatment.
Gross negligence in nursing home settings that can cause significant harm to residents includes:
- The use of chemical or physical restraints
- Medication errors
- Leaving patients alone for hours or days
- Failure to turn bed-bound patients, resulting in bedsores
- Failure to provide adequate nutrition or hydration
Your loved one deserved better than to be purposely and knowingly mistreated by the very people who were tasked with their care. While there is nothing that you can do that will undo the harm they suffered, you can take decisive action to hold the at-fault parties responsible for their grossly negligent actions in a nursing home abuse case.
Securing Compensation for Injuries Caused by Gross Negligence
When the gross negligence of another person results in you or your loved one suffering serious harm, it may be appropriate to file a personal injury lawsuit. The decision to file a lawsuit is not one to take lightly, though, and we understand that you may have some confusion or reservations about the process.
At DiPiero Simmons McGinley & Bastress, PLLC, we provide free consultations to injury victims in West Virginia. You can contact us to schedule your no-obligation case evaluation by calling our Charleston office or filling out our convenient online form.