Ordinary Negligence vs. Gross Negligence: Understanding Key Differences


Most people know that certain words, such as negligence, can have very specific definitions when pertaining to personal injury law. In a previous post, we outlined the difference between accident vs. negligence; in this article, we'll discuss two categories of negligence and provide examples to illustrate key differences. But what does negligence mean in law? In personal injury law, negligence refers to a failure to exercise reasonable care in a given situation, which can result in harm or injury to another person. Now, let’s explore this a bit further to understand ordinary negligence vs. gross negligence.

What is Ordinary Negligence?

Ordinary negligence refers to the failure to exercise the necessary level of care that a reasonable person would have exercised in a particular situation. It involves unintentional actions that fall below the standard of care expected in a given circumstance. In a personal injury case based on ordinary negligence, the injured party (plaintiff) needs to prove the following elements:

  1. Duty of Care: The defendant failed to act reasonably, causing harm to others.
  2. Breach of Duty: The defendant breached their duty of care by acting carelessly or negligently.
  3. Causation: The defendant's breach of duty caused the plaintiff's injuries.
  4. Damages: The plaintiff suffered physical or emotional harm. Examples include medical bills, loss of wages, etc.
What is Ordinary Negligence

Example of Ordinary Negligence

Imagine a scenario where a driver is texting on their phone while driving and rear-ends another vehicle at a stop sign. The driver's distraction and failure to notice the stopped vehicle ahead constitute ordinary negligence. The injured driver of the rear-ended vehicle could potentially file a personal injury claim against the distracted driver for medical expenses, property damage, and other damages resulting from the accident.

What is Gross Negligence?

Gross negligence goes beyond ordinary negligence in terms of the level of carelessness or recklessness involved. It refers to a conscious and voluntary disregard for the safety and well-being of others. In cases of gross negligence, the defendant's conduct is so extreme that it demonstrates a substantial lack of concern for the potential harm caused. When filing a personal injury claim based on gross negligence, the plaintiff typically needs to prove the same elements as in ordinary negligence, but with a heightened emphasis on the defendant's extreme lack of care. Remember, circumstances will vary based on the situation since every case is unique.

The a distinction between ordinary negligence vs. gross negligence lies in the level of care and awareness of the potential consequences. Ordinary negligence involves a failure to meet the standard of care expected of a reasonable person, whereas gross negligence involves an even more egregious departure from that standard indicating a reckless and conscious disregard for the safety of others.

What is Gross Negligence

Example of Gross Negligence

In a different scenario, suppose a company that operates an amusement park fails to properly maintain and inspect one of its roller coasters. Despite receiving reports of unusual noises and jerky movements, the company continues to operate the roller coaster without addressing the issues. Eventually, the roller coaster derails while passengers are on it, causing serious injuries. In this case, the company's conscious decision to ignore safety concerns and continue operating the ride despite clear warning signs could be considered an act of gross negligence. The injured passengers might have grounds to pursue a personal injury lawsuit against the amusement park for any harm they suffered.

In the first example, ordinary negligence involves a lack of attention while driving, which is a common error that many drivers might make. In the second example, gross negligence is demonstrated by the company's deliberate disregard for safety concerns, which puts the lives of its patrons at substantial risk.

Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorneys

If you're looking for a local personal injury attorney or need legal advice, contact our firm to book a consultation. We provide 24/7 support and offer free case evaluations. Our experienced attorneys at Yepremyan Law Firm have been representing clients all over Southern California since 1998 and have helped thousands of clients recover millions of dollars.

Our personal injury law firm will maximize your chances of receiving fair compensation for your injuries. We work on a contingency basis for all personal injury matters—no recovery, no fee!

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