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Ordinary Negligence vs. Gross Negligence: What’s the Difference?

Two Kinds of Negligence

When it comes to personal injury cases such as car accidents, product liability, or premises liability, the difference between ordinary and gross negligence is important. If gross negligence led to an accident, it could substantially change the outcome of a lawsuit or compensation case.

What Is Ordinary Negligence?

Ordinary negligence refers to a failure to exercise reasonable care that results in harm or damage to another person or their property. It means a person, business, or another entity didn’t act with the level of care that a reasonable person would have exercised in the same situation.

What Is Gross Negligence?

Gross negligence refers to a much higher degree of carelessness or recklessness than ordinary negligence. It’s a failure to exercise even minimal care or a conscious disregard for the safety of others. This level of negligence is typically considered to be more extreme than ordinary negligence and can result in more severe legal consequences, such as punitive damages or criminal charges.

Examples of Ordinary Negligence

If a driver fails to stop at a red light and causes an accident, the driver may be considered to have acted with ordinary negligence. In this case, the driver did not exercise the level of care that a reasonable driver would have exercised—obeying the traffic sign and stopping. As a result, they caused harm to another person and may be held liable for those damages depending on the other facts of the case. An example of ordinary negligence in a premises liability case might involve a property owner failing to fix a broken step on a staircase. If someone falls and is injured as a result of the broken step, the property owner may be considered to have acted with ordinary negligence. In this case, a reasonable property owner would have noticed the broken step and repaired it or warned others of the hazard. In the case of product liability, an example of ordinary negligence might involve a company that manufactures hairdryers. If the products in question malfunction and cause burns, the company may have acted with ordinary negligence if it’s discovered that the products didn’t go through a reasonably rigorous testing requirement before being released.

Examples of Gross Negligence

In a car accident case, if a driver intentionally runs a red light at high speed and causes a serious accident that results in injuries or deaths, the driver may be considered to have acted with gross negligence due to their reckless driving. In this case, the driver did not exercise any care for the safety of others and consciously disregarded the traffic laws, leading to serious harm. Drunk driving accidents are often deemed examples of gross negligence because drivers who make the decision to drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol are acting in a reckless manner. Drug or alcohol involvement in personal injury cases often increases negligence from ordinary to gross. An example of gross negligence in premises liability might involve a property owner failing to address a known hazard that is extremely dangerous and likely to cause harm. For instance, if a property owner knew about a large hole in the floor of a building but failed to take any action to repair it or rope it off, this could be considered an act of gross negligence. If someone falls into the hole because they don’t realize it’s there, the property owner can be held liable. In the case of product liability, a case of gross negligence might occur if the blow dryer manufacturer mentioned above knew that the products were likely to malfunction and cause burns, but it released the products anyway. Or, if it knew that certain types of use might cause an issue but didn’t document those warnings in the user manual, it might be considered grossly liable.

How Does Gross Negligence Change the Outcome of a Compensation Case?

If a court deems that someone acted in a way that was grossly negligent, it can change how compensation is awarded. Nevada law allows for several types of damages to be awarded in personal injury cases: Compensatory (or economic) damages. These are amounts that relate to specific calculations and losses that can be documented. Examples include compensation for property damage to a vehicle or home, medical expenses now and in the future, and lost wages. Noneconomic damages. These are amounts related to losses that are less tangible. Examples include pain and suffering or loss of companionship (in the case of a wrongful death lawsuit). Punitive damages. These are amounts awarded as a punishment to the defendant in the case. They are meant to deter the person or business and others from engaging in the type of gross negligence that led to the accident or injury in the case. In a case involving ordinary negligence, compensatory and noneconomic damages may be awarded. In a case involving gross negligence, punitive damages may also be awarded. There aren’t hard-and-fast rules about what constitutes ordinary vs. gross negligence in many types of cases. This is why it’s important to work with an experienced personal injury attorney. A lawyer can help you understand what level of negligence might be involved and how to make a case for that in court. A strong case can mean a difference in hundreds of thousands of dollars in potential compensation, so it’s a good idea to consult a lawyer before you move forward with a case. Reach out to High Stakes Injury Law to find out how we can help with your case.

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I Was Injured In An Accident. What Do I Do Now?

By Scott L. Poisson

  • Do I Have A Case?
  • Dealing With The Insurance Company
  • When a Lawsuit Is Filed
  • Overcoming Common Defense Themes
  • Special Considerations in Specific Types of Cases