What is the Difference Between Ordinary Negligence vs. Gross Negligence?

It is important to establish negligence in any kind of personal injury case you are seeking damages from. However, there are different kinds of negligence, and the terms you hear may confuse you. Today, we want to discuss the difference between ordinary negligence and gross negligence. We will also look at how each type of negligence can play a different role in a personal injury case.

What is Ordinary Negligence?

In legal terms, negligence is the failure to use reasonable care, resulting in damages or injuries to another person. When establishing what “reasonable care” means, we will look at what an ordinary person would do in a similar situation.

When we talk about ordinary negligence, we usually mean careless mistakes or inattention. Some examples of ordinary negligence can include:

  • A driver running a stop sign or stop light causing an injury crash.
  • A coworker failing to turn off electricity to a construction site before work begins and someone getting electrocuted.
  • Store owners or employees failing to put up a “Wet Floor” sign after mopping an area.
  • A restaurant short order cook not preparing a food at the proper temperature and a patron becoming ill with food poisoning.

In cases of ordinary negligence, the responsible party did not mean to cause harm to the other person, but that does not mean they are blameless. They can still be held legally responsible for the damages they have caused.

What is Gross Negligence?

Gross negligence is different than ordinary negligence in that it is more than just a mistake or simple carelessness. Gross negligence is a conscious or willful disregard of the need to use reasonable care – committing an action that is likely to cause harm to other people or property.

Some examples of gross negligence include:

  • A person who has had 12 drinks at the bar in an hour getting behind the wheel of a vehicle and driving home.
  • A surgeon or surgical team not following protocol to ensure all foreign objects are outside of a person before a procedure is complete.
  • Truck drivers or truck companies choosing to carry more weight than allowed by law in their trailer in order to make more money.

How do these types of negligence affect a personal injury case?

Both ordinary negligence and gross negligence can lead to serious injuries. However, determining which type of negligence happened can make a difference when it comes to the compensation awarded to the injured party. Some of the common types of damages awarded in personal injury cases include:

  • The cost of current and future medical expenses
  • Cost of rehabilitation
  • Lost wages and benefits if you cannot work
  • Pain and suffering damages
  • Loss of personal enjoyment damages

In cases of gross negligence, the amount of damages awarded may be increased and include punitive damages against the person responsible intended to punish the wrongdoer.

How do you prove negligence has occurred?

Proving negligence occurred is not always easy. You will need to ensure that these four main elements are present:

  • The defendant owed the injured party a duty to take reasonable measures to protect them from harm.
  • That duty was breached by actions taken by the defendant.
  • The actions or inaction of the defendant caused harm to the plaintiff.
  • The plaintiff suffered damages (economic or non-economic) due to the negligence of the defendant.

It is always smart to have your case looked at by a qualified and experienced Portland personal injury attorney so that you understand all of your options moving forward.