When pushing claims or lawsuits on behalf of clients, a trucking accidents attorney often has to decide how to approach the basic question of negligence. In particular, there is a question regarding what type of negligence a truck accidents lawyer is saying occurred. Comparing ordinary negligence against gross conduct can seem like a tiny distinction to clients, but it affects several key elements of a case.
Defining Ordinary Negligence
It's critical to understand what ordinary negligence is before examining how negligence might be classified as gross. The concept of ordinary negligence generally refers to situations that emerge where society expects a certain response from the allegedly at-fault party.
For example, a truck driver might hang a left turn at an intersection without identifying oncoming traffic. A collision occurs, and folks in an approaching vehicle are injured. Most people would consider this a typical failure of the sort that needs to be prevented but that doesn't involve unusual conduct or circumstances. After all, truck drivers hang left turns all the time.
To be considered gross negligence, the conduct has to involve choices or failures that go beyond everyday situations. Suppose a company had a truck with a failing brake system. The business couldn't afford to fix the brakes, but it also couldn't afford to not deliver the next shipment. Rather than eating the loss, the company knowingly elected to put the rig on the road.
A truck accidents lawyer would readily argue this conduct was grossly negligent. The company had a chance to avoid putting the truck on the road at all, and it elected to operate in an unsafe manner, instead.
Why Does the Difference Matter?
One major reason this distinction matters to a truck accidents attorney is that it opens up the possibility of pursuing punitive damages. This is compensation that attempts to do more than simply make up for the awful things that happened.
With regular damages, the goal is to make up for what the injured party has suffered. That means damages are awarded to compensate for medical care, physical therapy, medical devices, long-term nursing, and other direct remedies. Similarly, compensation may be awarded for lost earnings, loss of consortium, pain and suffering, emotional trauma, and loss of enjoyment of life.
Punitive damages express society's wish to discourage extremely bad behavior. In the example used here, the goal would be to punish the company for knowingly putting lives at risk by putting an unsafe rig on the road.