Gross Negligence vs. Ordinary Negligence: What You Need To Know

what is gross negligence

What is gross negligence, and how might it impact your Georgia personal injury case?

You may have heard of the term “gross negligence” in discussions of legal matters, but never quite understood what it meant or if it could play a factor in your personal injury case.

Many don’t know, but there are different types of negligence. While you might be familiar with the term “negligence,” you may wonder how gross negligence differs and what, if any, are the benefits of being able to claim it in your personal injury claim.

In this post, we’ll highlight the differences between ordinary and gross negligence, and your rights to compensation for each.

What is ordinary “negligence”?

Ordinary negligence is the failure to exercise a normal amount of care and caution required of a reasonable person in the same set of circumstances. It still causes harm to another person’s self or property, but it is unintentional. The party who causes harm doesn’t mean to; it is simply an accident.

An example of negligence would be a driver who causes an auto accident because they run a red light, or when a business forgets to put up a caution sign after mopping the floor, causing a person to slip and fall.

While it isn’t considered gross negligence, you still have every right to recoup your damages. This can include special damages such as medical bills, lost wages, loss of future earning capacity, property damage and any other out of pocket expenses, as well as general damages for any pain and suffering that you may have incurred due to the fault of the responsible party.

How to prove negligence

In order to prove ordinary negligence, you must prove the presence of 4 elements—which are duty, breach, causation and damages.

  1. Duty is the legal requirement of care that the at-fault party owed to another person in a specific set of circumstances. An example of duty is the Georgia statute which requires all drivers to exercise reasonable care in operating their motor vehicles and to avoid actions that distract drivers from the safe operation of the vehicle.
  1. Breach is violating or failing to meet the legal duty that was owed. In the previous example of duty, this could be a driver unintentionally causing an accident by becoming distracted with their radio and rear-ending another vehicle.
  1. Causation is the necessary link between the action of the negligent party to the damages caused to the injured party and is sometimes referred to as “but for” causation. In the driving example, the person who was rear-ended would have to show that their injuries were the direct result of being rear-ended by the distracted driver.
  1. Damages are the losses and harms that were suffered as a result of the breach of the at-fault party. In any action for negligence, you must provide proof that you were actually damaged in some way (physically, emotionally or financially) by the negligence of the other person. If the collision was so minor that it caused no property damage and no physical injuries, then there would be no reason to compensate the accident victim.

If these 4 elements are present, then you may have a valid claim for personal injury.

What is “gross negligence”?

While the ordinary negligence discussed above requires proof of duty, breach, causation, and damages, gross negligence, on the other hand, requires additional proof about the element of breach. This is because you must show that the actions of the at-fault party were more than just a negligent failure to observe the duty owed to the other party.

Gross negligence is a reckless disregard for the safety of others beyond an act of simple carelessness. It is willful, wanton or malicious behavior done with extreme disregard for the health and safety of others.

Examples of gross negligence would be a nursing home worker who fails to provide food or water to a resident for several days or, in some specific cases, a drunk driver. In auto accident scenarios, gross negligence may be present if the at-fault driver was intoxicated and traveling at a high rate of speed when they collided with the other vehicle. In an extreme scenario, gross negligence could be shown by proving that someone purposefully rammed someone else’s vehicle in a road rage incident and caused them injuries.

If gross negligence can be proven in your personal injury claim, you could potentially be awarded more in damages and may even be able to claim punitive damages, which aims to punish the at-fault party.

When to consult an Atlanta negligence attorney

Since deliberate actions or reckless disregard for others’ safety must be proven to have caused the injury or damage to property in order to claim gross negligence, you may want to reach out to an experienced personal injury attorney in your area to discuss your case and if you may have a claim for gross negligence.

At Scholle Law, we have a great deal of experience dealing with the negligent actions of others which have caused harm to our clients, including harm caused through recklessness. No matter what the reason, we would love the chance to speak with you about your injuries and discuss how we would be able to help you get the full compensation you deserve.