Negligence Vs Gross Negligence: They Are Not the Same

Negligence Vs. Gross Negligence

While it may be common for people to use the terms “negligence” and “gross negligence” interchangeable, they are not the same when it comes to the law. These are two distinct concepts that each have a different meaning and consequences.

If you have a negligence case, then it is essential to learn the difference. You do not want to go to court with a negligence claim when you really should have a gross negligence claim. Making such a mistake can mean you lose out on proper damages and that the other party avoids proper penalties for his or her actions.

What Is Negligence?

Negligence is usually not intentional. It is most often a mistake made due to carelessness or not paying attention. People who commit it usually do not intend to cause any harm. They simply did not handle the duty before them in the way they should, which resulted in your injury or loss.

A more proper way to state it is that negligence is when someone does not exercise the proper level of care. The proper level of care refers to what any average person would do in the same situation.

For example, most drivers who see a stop sign will stop at it, but if a driver fails to stop and slams into another car, then this is negligence. The driver who missed the sign may not have had any intention to not stop, but that does not excuse his or her actions.

It is important to note that the negligent person didn’t intend to hurt someone else and that he or she was careless. This is the key to differentiating it from gross negligence.

How Is Gross Negligence Different?

Gross negligence doesn’t necessarily require intent, but it does require action that is careless and potentially harmful. With gross negligence, the people committing the act knows or should know there is the potential to hurt someone else if they continue with their actions.

For example, if the driver made the decision to run through the stop sign and hit another vehicle, then it is gross negligence. He or she should have known there was a potential for a crash to occur.

Sometimes, gross negligence is intentional, but it doesn’t always have to be. There does have to be an element of carelessness, though.

How Do I Prove Negligence Vs Gross Negligence?

There are four basic elements you must prove in every type of negligence case:

  • Duty
  • Breach
  • Causation
  • Damages


Depending on the type of situation you have, it is possible to explain duty in several ways. For instance, if you have a medical malpractice case, then duty is the professional relationship between you and the doctor and his or her responsibility for treating you in a way that does not harm you.

In a personal injury case involving a car accident, the duty is of the other driver to obey road laws and not put other drivers in harm’s way by ignoring those laws or exhibiting risky driving behavior. You have the right to expect other drivers on the roads will not injure you.

In general, duty is the other person’s responsibility to not cause you harm. You must show the other person had such responsibility, which is usually fairly easy to do.


A breach is when the other person does not fulfill his or her obligations. In the medical example, it is the doctor not providing you adequate care. In an accident, it is the other person failing to follow road laws. Any situation where someone does not fulfill his or her duty, there is a breach. Again, this is fairly easy to prove in most negligence situations.


Causation is showing that the actions of the other person caused you harm. This is the meat of any personal injury case. You must provide evidence that shows the other person is to blame for what happened.

You need a direct link between your injuries or damages and the other person. In some cases, this is simple to do, but others may require extensive legal work to iron out what happened and how it links back to the other party.


Damages are the injury you sustained or the physical damage to property. You must suffer some type of loss or harm to file a negligence case. If you did not suffer an injury or have property damage, then you have no case in the eyes of the law. Someone may still have done something negligent, but the court will not waste its time when there are no amends to make.

Another important note about damages is that they need to be adequate enough to make the cost and the investment in building a legal case worthwhile. For example, if a few scratches on the paint on your vehicle are your only damages, then the cost to pay for those repairs may be less than it would be to go to court.

Which Type of Negligence Applies to Your Situation?

It isn’t always easy to know which type of negligence applies in your situation. For example, if you’re in an accident with a drunk driver, it may be negligence or gross negligence. It depends on the laws in your area and the specifics of the situation.

This is where an attorney can assist you. A lawyer knows and understands the law and can make the proper assessment of your situation to know which type of negligence applies. He or she also can assist you with gathering evidence and putting together a case to prove your claim.

Work With an Experienced Local Lawyer

An experienced lawyer in your area will be a helpful partner in bringing your negligence case to court. Working with an attorney who understands the laws in your locality can help ensure you have a solid case and can see a potential outcome that is favorable. Submit a request online or call us today at (866) 345-6784 to get in touch with an experienced lawyer in your area!

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