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Ordinary Negligence vs. Gross Negligence: What’s the Difference?

Posted on October 17, 2020 in Personal Injury

Two standards of negligence exist: ordinary and gross negligence. Negligence is the foundation of most personal injury claims in Nevada. It describes a breach of the duty to exercise reasonable care. When one person is negligent and this causes another person harm, the injured plaintiff can request compensation from the negligent party. Whether the defendant is guilty of ordinary or gross negligence can make a difference to the plaintiff’s award.

What Is Ordinary Negligence?

Ordinary negligence is a failure to meet the definition of ordinary care. Many circumstances impose a duty to exercise reasonable care on one or both parties. A driver, for example, has a duty to obey traffic laws and do his or her best to prevent car accidents. If a driver breaches this duty, such as by texting while driving, he or she has committed an act of negligence. When negligence causes accidents and injuries in Nevada, victims can seek compensation through personal injury lawsuits. Establishing ordinary negligence takes proof of four elements.

  1. Duty of care
  2. Breach of duty of care
  3. Causation
  4. Damages

If another reasonable and prudent person would have taken greater care to prevent the injury that harmed the plaintiff, the defendant in the case may be guilty of negligence. Ordinary negligence typically refers to a careless mistake that causes harm to others. It is the fundamental legal doctrine involved in all personal injury claims. Some cases, however, involve gross negligence rather than ordinary negligence.

What Exactly Is Gross Negligence?

Gross negligence is also a breach of the duty of care. Unlike ordinary negligence, however, gross negligence describes such a severe breach of duty as to constitute recklessness, wanton endangerment of others, maliciousness, fraud or intent to harm. It is a degree of negligence so extreme that it appears either deliberate or committed with a blatant disregard for the reasonable safety of others. A defendant guilty of gross negligence may have known his or her actions would most likely harm others or damage property, but did not care and committed the act or omission anyway.

An example of ordinary negligence is a property owner failing to inspect his or her property for defects before welcoming visitors. An example of gross negligence would be the same property owner noticing a dilapidated staircase but refusing to make repairs before welcoming visitors to the property, knowing that the broken stair could collapse and cause a serious injury. To prove gross negligence, you or your attorney must still show that the defendant owed you a duty of care, breached this duty and caused your accident. In addition, your lawyer will also need to prove that the defendant’s actions were deliberate or displayed extreme carelessness.

How Does Gross Negligence Impact a Personal Injury Claim?

It is necessary to differentiate between ordinary negligence and gross negligence during a personal injury case since the courts treat each type differently. While a defendant guilty of ordinary negligence will have to pay compensation to make up for your losses and make you whole again, a defendant guilty of gross negligence may have to pay an additional sum. In Nevada, a type of compensation called a punitive damage award may be available for cases involving gross negligence.

If you or your Las Vegas injury lawyer can prove gross negligence, a judge may grant you punitive damages on top of compensatory damages. A judge will award punitive damages when he or she deems it appropriate to either supplement the amount a jury awarded you in compensatory damages or punish the defendant for his or her reckless actions. Working with an attorney in Las Vegas during your personal injury claim can make it easier to pursue full compensation for your losses, including punitive damages for gross negligence, when applicable.

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