Gross Vs. Ordinary Negligence In Car Accident Cases

Posted on: 7 January 2020


When an accident attorney examines a potential claim or suit, one of the things they'll look at closely is the nature of the negligence at play in the case. In American law, negligence is usually broken up into two kinds, gross and ordinary. The differences between the two are worth thinking about before you submit a claim.

What is Ordinary Negligence?

Ordinary negligence is a product of reasonably understandable happenings. Suppose someone was hanging a left turn before they had a nearly head-on collision with another driver. The driver failed to check for oncoming traffic before moving into the opposing lane to make their planned turn.

While the results of such an incident might be terrible, the actions leading to the accident are seen as grossly negligent. This is because the person wasn't willfully ignoring their duty to operate their vehicle safely. They made a mistake, but the mistake wasn't extremely terrible in terms of what they knew prior to making the turn.

What is Gross Negligence?

Gross negligence occurs when a person willfully overlooks something. Suppose a driver knew their car's brake system was failing and chose to drive it. A resulting accident tied to the brake failure might be seen as grossly negligence because the motorist knew there was something wrong with the vehicle and elected to ignore it. Other extreme conduct, such as drunk driving, may also be classified as gross negligence.

Impact on Auto Accident Claims

As you might imagine, ordinary negligence usually means you'll be dealing with a fairly run-of-the-mill claims process. The one likely exception to this would be if your injuries were catastrophic. That's especially important in no-fault insurance states because catastrophic injuries are one of the few things that allow drivers to pursue claims outside the insurance companies' settlement system.

Gross negligence opens up the possibility of pursuing punitive damages. Notably, the catastrophic injury requirements in no-fault states usually still apply in cases where punitive damages are involved. The insurance carrier should, however, be prepared to pay out punitive damages for gross negligence.

Another aspect of gross negligence, if it can be proven, is that it often nudges the insurance company toward settling. Claims adjusters are tasked with evaluating the validity of cases, and grossly negligent behavior can make it easier for an adjuster to conclude a case may be paid out. This is especially the case when claims of gross negligence are accompanied by police reports that back them up. For more information about accident attornies and ordinary and gross negligence, contact a company like Kaston & Aberle.