What's the Difference Between Gross and Ordinary Negligence?

Please be advised that the following topic is for informational purposes only and not a legal matter currently handled by our firm. If you need further assistance regarding this particular topic, you can contact your local Bar Association for a referral to an attorney who may be able to address your inquiry in more detail.

The word “negligence” is commonly tossed around in casual conversations. A driver might accuse someone else of driving negligently without knowing the legal definition of negligence.

Here in California, the law recognizes both ordinary negligence and gross negligence. Do you know the difference between them?

The finer points of negligence become important in certain scenarios, like drunk driving collisions and pedestrian accidents. Here’s what you need to know about situations that involve legal negligence.

Ordinary Negligence vs. Gross Negligence

The basic form of negligence, known as ordinary negligence, occurs when someone does something thoughtless but doesn’t intend to cause harm. For example, if a driver rolls through a stop sign and causes a collision, they might be guilty of ordinary negligence.

Gross negligence is a more dangerous form of negligence that goes beyond the basic level of carelessness. This form of negligence outright places others in harm’s way through a reckless disregard for human health and safety.

The main difference between ordinary negligence and gross negligence is in its extremity. Gross negligence involves an extreme departure from what a reasonably careful person would do in the situation.

Examples of possible gross negligence on the roads may include things like:

  • Getting behind the wheel as a drunk driver
  • Failing to secure a truck’s load or dangerously overloading it
  • Road racing or road raging
  • Speeding in a school zone or pedestrian zone

Consider an experienced semi-truck driver who didn’t perform any truck maintenance for years, which led to a catastrophic freeway accident after an equipment failure. The trucker and/or trucking company could be found grossly negligent because routine truck maintenance is required by law and poor truck maintenance is widely recognized as a major contributor to highway accidents.

How Do You Prove Negligence in California?

Injured victims often wonder how they can possibly prove that the other party was acting negligently to cause their injuries. While ordinary negligence is usually easier to prove than gross negligence, both can be proven with a lawyer’s help by gathering plenty of strong evidence.

Generally speaking, proving negligence involves establishing that:

  • The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care.
  • The defendant acted or failed to act reasonably and this breach was the actual cause of the plaintiff’s injuries.
  • The defendant should have known that this could cause injury.

When these elements are established, there is likely a path to a successful personal injury claim. As the injured person, you can submit evidence of your damages like medical costs, lost wages, property damage, and more.

To prove gross negligence rather than ordinary negligence, you’ll need evidence to show that the person’s negligence went above and beyond ordinary carelessness. This is often possible in drunk driving cases because drunk driving is extremely risky behavior and there’s a good chance of having a blood-alcohol content (BAC) reading from the California Highway Patrol.

If you’re curious whether you’re the victim of ordinary or gross negligence, talk to the experienced legal team at Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers. We can help you understand the law, protect your rights, and place the responsibility for negligence where it belongs.

We Have the Experience to Handle Your Claim

Contact the attorney team at Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers. We handle many areas of personal injury law, including accidents involving negligence. We believe you should be able to focus on recovering from your accident while we handle the legal details. Call 877-380-8852 today for a free case evaluation.

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After an accident, contact the attorneys at Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers. We handle many types of traffic injury claims. We believe you should be able to focus on recovering from your accident while we handle the legal details.

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It is essential to know your rights after a traffic accident so you can protect yourself and the value of your claim.
This guide will help you:

  • 1Know what to do when dealing with insurance claims, police reports and lawyers.
  • 2Avoid making mistakes that undermine the value of your claim
  • 3Put yourself in a position to get the best settlement possible