gross negligence vs negligence

Gross Negligence Vs. Negligence: What’s the Difference and Does It Matter?

Negligence and gross negligence are two sides of the same coin.
Both deal with a party’s failure to meet the legal standard of care that society expects, but they couldn’t be more different when pursuing a personal injury claim.

Let’s take a look at the difference, how it affects your case, and how you can get help today.

The Difference Between Negligence and Gross Negligence

There are two main types of negligence in personal injury cases: ordinary negligence and gross negligence.
Ordinary is the more common standard, which occurs when someone fails to exercise reasonable care in their actions or decisions.
Gross negligence, on the other hand, involves a higher degree of fault than ordinary negligence—and it’s what happens when someone acts with reckless disregard for others, showing indifference to human life or safety.

This can look like:

  • Knowing safety risks but doing nothing to address them or warn others
  • Failing to take steps to protect someone from known dangers, and
  • Intending to cause harm
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs

It might seem extreme, but it happens all the time in personal injury cases like a car accident, where the at-fault person was careless behind the wheel or drunk.

Negligence is important in personal injury claims because it can help determine the damages you can pursue from the person who injured you, affecting your overall settlement.

Recoverable Damages for Negligence Claims

If you were injured by someone else’s negligence—whether gross or ordinary—you can seek compensation by filing a valid personal injury lawsuit or claim.

If you win, you may be able to receive compensation for:

  • Medical bills (past and future)
  • Lost earnings (past and future)
  • Damage to property
  • Reduced capacity for future earnings
  • Pain and suffering (past and future)
  • Loss of enjoyment of life (past and future)

In addition to the above economic and noneconomic damages, if the at-fault party is found guilty of gross negligence, you can also recover punitive damages.

Punitive damages are awarded to punish the defendant and discourage future negligent behavior. These damages can mean a difference of thousands of dollars in your personal injury settlement.

Is It Enough to Plead Negligence or Do You Have to Prove It?

You can make a negligence claim, but you have to prove it.

To be successful, you will have to establish the four elements of negligence:

Duty of care — the defendant owed you a legal duty of care (ex., A driver is expected to operate their vehicle safely and with a level of care)
Breach — the defendant breached their duty by failing to act in a certain way
Causation — the defendant’s actions or inaction caused you to be injured
Damages — you were injured and suffered damages

When it comes to proving negligence, some cases are harder than others, but if you can meet this four-point system, you may have a viable case.

How Do Juries Decide If It Was Gross or Ordinary Negligence?

Ordinary negligence can be proved by the standard above, but the standard is higher to find someone guilty of gross negligence.

Generally, jurors must determine whether the defendant was aware of a substantial risk and that they failed to take reasonable precautions against that risk.

So in the case of a drunk driver, we can assume that though impaired, the driver still chose to get behind the wheel, knowing full well it was a danger to themselves and others.

Why Understanding the Difference Is So Important to Your Claim

Understanding the difference between gross negligence and negligence is key to knowing whether or not you have a viable claim and, if so, how much compensation you may be entitled to.

It can also be the difference between winning and losing your case.

The bottom line is, if someone else’s careless mistake injured you, you have the legal right to be compensated for those injuries—no one knows that better than a personal injury attorney.

We can walk you through which type of negligence applies to your case and use that to inform negotiations with the insurance company or to defend you in court if needed.

Find Out What Kind of Negligence Applies to Your Claim — Call Miley Legal

There is a lot of nuance and difference between negligence and gross negligence.

But at the end of the day, you must understand what these standards are so that you can make sure your claim is adequately represented in court.

If you need help understanding or filing your personal injury claim, contact a personal injury lawyer at Miley Legal today.

Author Bio

Tim Miley is the Founder of Miley Legal Accident Injury Lawyers, a West Virginia personal injury law firm he formed in 2006. With more than 30 years of experience in personal injury law, he is dedicated to representing clients in a wide range of personal injury cases, including car accidents, trucking accidents, motorcycle accidents, brain injuries, wrongful death, and other personal injury matters.

Tim received his Juris Doctor from Duquesne University and is a member of the West Virginia State Bar and the Harrison County Bar Association. He has helped his clients win more than $10 million in personal injury verdicts and settlements and has further served the people of West Virginia by filling legislative roles in the state’s government since 2004.

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