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What’s the Difference Between Negligence and Gross Negligence?

At the heart of most personal injury lawsuits is negligence. Basically, if you suffered an injury or a loved one lost his or her life and it was a third party’s fault, there’s a good chance that negligence was involved somehow.

What Is Negligence?

Negligence is when someone does not act with the level of care that a reasonable person would have exercised under the same circumstances. Negligence can include “reckless” actions people take as well as people failing to act in situations where they should have, thus causing harm to another. There are four elements necessary to prove negligence:

  • Duty – This is the legal obligation that entities and individuals must act in a reasonable manner when performing actions that could possibly harm others. For instance, if a person is driving a car, that person has a legal obligation not to obey traffic signals and stop signs, respect bike lines, and drive the speed limit.
  • Breach – A breach is when a person or company violates their legal obligation to act in a reasonable manner when performing an action that could possibly harm others. This means a person or entity violated their duty of care. For example, a driver runs a stop sign, drives in the bike line, or speeds.
  • Causation – Causation involves proving that the breach of duty caused injury or damage. If a driver runs a stop sign and collides with the car ahead of them, injuring the person in the other vehicle in the process, the driver’s negligence would be the cause of the resulting injuries.
  • Damages – Damages is tied to causation and refers to the losses suffered when the duty of care was breached. Returning to the driver running a stop sign example one last time, if the driver ran the stop sign and injured another driver in the process, the resulting medical bills, auto repairs, and other expenses would be classified as damages.

While these four elements are needed to prove negligence, there are other types of negligence that require more than just these elements to prove. One of the most devastating forms of negligence is gross negligence.

What Is Gross Negligence?

Gross negligence is like ordinary negligence to a degree. However, the difference between negligence and gross negligence is severity and intent. Gross negligence involves the same four elements of duty, breach, causation, and damages. However, unlike those who commit ordinary negligence, those who commit acts of gross negligence don’t appear to do so carelessly; rather, the negligence is intentional and puts the lives and safety of others at risk.

Examples of Negligence and Gross Negligence

Negligence and gross negligence are present in every area of personal injury law, including but not limited to premises liability, car accidents, and product liability. A few examples of ordinary negligence are:

  • A driver causing a car accident because he or she ran a stop sign
  • A homeowner failing to inspect their home for defects, inviting visitors to his or her home, and a visitor getting hurt after tripping and falling due to a faulty floorboard
  • A customer slipping and falling in a store because, after cleaning up a spill, the store owner forgot to put out a wet floor sign

Examples of gross negligence include:

  • A driver hitting a person because the driver was speeding while traveling through an area filled with pedestrians
  • Homeowners knowing that a light switch in their home is defective, refusing to get it repaired, inviting visitors to their home, and a visitor getting electrocuted while using the light switch
  • A nursing home resident getting sick, suffering injury, or dying because the staff failed to serve him or her water and food for many days

Even as straightforward as some of these examples may seem, victims and their families could still have a very difficult time proving negligence or gross negligence in any of these cases without the assistance of an experienced personal injury attorney.

Have You Been Injured Due to Negligence? Contact Us Today!

Eliot Reiner has been practicing law in California for over 30 years. He and our legal team at Eliot Reiner APLC have successfully recovered millions of dollars for injury victims and their families, including a $34.9 million dollar verdict in a semi-truck/bus collision case. Our experienced legal team is ready to help you and your family if you have been injured because of negligence.

Fill out our online contact form or give our office a call at (916) 778-3228 today to schedule an initial consultation.

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