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

May 18, 2020

 If you are filing a personal injury lawsuit against someone who caused an accident where you suffered harm, you will need to prove that he or she acted in negligence. The theory of negligence is crucial to personal injury cases, and you will need to supply evidence to support certain elements of this legal concept. However, there are two main types of negligence that could apply to your case, and it is important to understand the difference between them.

ordinary and gross negligence

What Is Negligence?

Negligence refers to a person’s failure to exercise his or her duty of care in the same way that a reasonable or prudent person would under the same circumstances. This legal concept also applies to acting in such a manner that a reasonable person would not.

The concept of negligence is the backbone of all personal injury cases, which rely on determining whether or not someone acted in negligence and therefore caused injuries to others. If you can prove that the at-fault party was negligent and neglected his or her duty of care, you will likely see a successful personal injury case.

For example, all drivers have a duty of care to drive safely and follow all traffic laws. If a driver runs a red light and hits a pedestrian crossing the street, he or she breaks his or her duty of care and therefore commits an act of negligence.

What Is the Difference Between Ordinary and Gross Negligence?

There are two main types of negligence in personal injury cases: ordinary negligence and gross negligence. The starkest difference between these two types is the severity of the breach of duty of care.

  • Ordinary negligence refers to the regular definition of negligence discussed above. In ordinary negligence cases, the at-fault party breaches his or her duty of care in some way and causes injury or death to another person or people.


  • Gross negligence occurs when the at-fault party demonstrates extreme indifference or a reckless disregard for your safety. Unlike ordinary negligence, gross negligence is much more severe — it demonstrates willful behavior and extreme disregard for human life and safety.

Establishing gross negligence depends on the circumstances surrounding your case. In many claims, the facts speak for themselves. Cases that demonstrate gross negligence may include a driver speeding through an area with lots of pedestrians, driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or nursing home staff failing to provide food and water to a resident for several days.

How Do You Prove Negligence?

Regardless of the type of negligence that occurs in your case, you and your attorney will take the same steps to prove that negligence was a factor. You will need to gather evidence to support the following four evidence in order to establish negligence in a personal injury claim.

  • First, you will need to prove that the at-fault party owed you a duty of care.
  • Next, you will need to establish that the at-fault party breached his or her duty of care to you in some way.
  • Then, you will need to prove that the breach of care directly caused your injuries.
  • Finally, you will need to prove that you suffered damages as a result of these injuries that you can collect in your personal injury settlement.

If you are suffering from the aftermath of a personal injury, determining and proving negligence is key to a successful lawsuit or insurance claim. However, collecting the evidence necessary to prove negligence and building a case requires the assistance of a personal injury attorney.

Contact your Denver personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after your accident to schedule a free consultation. At your meeting, your attorney will help you understand your legal options so you can begin planning your next steps.

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