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

You frequently hear discussion of “ordinary negligence” and “gross negligence” when people are discussing legal matters. They are not the same thing. In fact, understanding the difference between the two could influence cases in which a person is injured. These are two levels of negligence, with gross negligence occurring when another person completely disregards the safety of others.

Understanding the difference between ordinary and gross negligence

Ordinary negligence occurs when a person fails to take reasonable precautions that another prudent person would take, and this results in someone else being harmed. Some common examples of ordinary negligence include:

  • A driver failing to yield the right-of-way and striking another vehicle.
  • A store employee who fails to put up a “wet floor” sign after mopping.
  • A dog owner leaving their door open, allowing their dog to escape and bite someone on the street.

In these cases, the person responsible did not mean to create a situation that would cause harm to another person, but their actions very well could result in injuries. The negligent party could still be held liable for any injuries that arise.

Gross negligence is indifference to or reckless disregard for the safety of other people period this is different than ordinary negligence. This is willful behavior that disregards the life and safety of other people. These actions are often intentional or done even though the negligent party knew that what they were doing would cause harm to other people.

ordinary negligence vs gross negligence

What are some examples of gross negligence?

Some examples of gross negligence could include the following:

  • A doctor prescribing two medications that clearly contraindicate each other, and could lead to the patient having a severe reaction.
  • Nursing home or assisted living facility staff failing to provide food, water, and basic medical care to a resident for several days.
  • A driver intentionally speeding through an area that has been marked off for pedestrian traffic only.

How do you prove gross negligence?

When looking to prove gross negligence, the injured party (or their personal injury attorney) will need to prove that the following factors were present:

  • Duty – The defendant must have owed the injured party a legal duty to take reasonable precautions to protect their safety and health.
  • Breach – It must be shown that the defendant breached their duty to care for the plaintiff.
  • Causation – It must be proven the breach of duty between the defendant and the plaintiff directly caused injury to the plaintiff.
  • Damages – The plaintiff must have suffered damages due to the actions of the defendant.

Proving that gross negligence took place is not always easy and usually requires assistance from an attorney. An attorney will understand how to obtain the evidence necessary to show that the defendant’s actions were grossly negligent and directly led to your harm. An attorney will gather accident reports, eyewitness statements, video surveillance, medical records, and more in order to establish your case.

What kind of compensation could you be entitled to?

If someone is hurt due to the gross negligence of another person, they are likely entitled to compensation. This could include both economic and non-economic damages such as the following:

  • Coverage of medical expenses
  • Recovery of lost wages if you are unable to work
  • Pain and suffering damages
  • Loss of enjoyment of life damages
  • Punitive damages against the negligent party