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What’s the Difference Between Ordinary Negligence and Gross Negligence?

Posted on October 25, 2020 in

If you are pursuing compensation for a personal injury, you are probably familiar with the concept of negligence. This legal theory states that a person failed to use a reasonable level of care that an ordinary person would use under the same circumstances. Many civil lawsuits in the state of Oregon rely on the presence of negligence to prove a plaintiff’s need for damages.

In some cases, the defendant’s actions are so egregious that they rise to the level of gross negligence. Understanding the difference between these two legal concepts is important — depending on the circumstances of your accident, you may be eligible for additional compensation.

Proving Negligence in Oregon

Regardless if your case falls under the category of gross negligence or ordinary negligence, you will need to prove the same set of facts to secure a personal injury settlement. To establish negligence, you and your attorney will need to supply evidence to establish four key elements.

  • Duty: The at-fault party owed you a duty of care at the time of the accident.
  • Dereliction: The at-fault party breached his or her duty of care to you through a negligent act or omission.
  • Direct causation: These actions directly caused the accident and your resulting injuries.
  • Damages: You sustained physical, emotional, and financial losses due to the accident and your injuries.

What Is Ordinary Negligence?

Ordinary negligence falls under the normal definition of negligence: another person or entity took an action that a reasonable person in the same position would not have, leading to someone else’s injuries. Common examples of ordinary negligence include the following.

  • A driver who runs a red light and collides with a pedestrian crossing the street.
  • An apartment landlord who receives notice of broken stairs, but fails to fix them until they collapse underneath a tenant.
  • A store manager who mops up a spill and fails to place a warning sign on the floor, causing a customer to fall.

Most Portland personal injury claims involve ordinary negligence. In these scenarios, the at-fault party did not mean to cause harm to the victim, but committed careless actions that led to his or her injuries anyway.

Under Oregon law, however, these individuals are responsible for paying for the damages the victim suffers due to the accident. This may include medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, and physical and emotional pain and suffering.

What Is Gross Negligence?

With ordinary negligence, the at-fault party does not intend to cause harm to the victim. In fact, the accident might have occurred due to a single lapse in judgment, absentmindedness, or apathy. Gross negligence, on the other hand, is much more egregious.

Gross negligence refers to the deliberate and reckless disregard for the safety of others. When a person commits an act that is foreseeable to cause serious harm, he or she commits an act of gross negligence. Accidents that may rise to the level of gross negligence include the following.

  • A driver operating his or her vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • A surgeon amputating the wrong limb during a procedure.
  • Nursing home staff members neglecting a resident for several days, leading to dehydration and malnutrition.
  • A driver speeding in a school zone with lots of pedestrians in the area.

If you can prove that your case involves gross negligence, the court may award you additional compensation in the form of punitive damages. The purpose of punitive damages is to deter the at-fault party from committing the same actions again. If you are not sure if your case qualifies as gross or ordinary negligence, speak to a Portland personal injury lawyer at Tillmann Law as soon as possible, we offer free case evaluations.