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At an average cost of more than $2,200, Arizona is one of the most expensive states to visit the emergency room. If you have a serious injury, your emergency room bill could be just the tip of the iceberg. If someone else’s biting dog, bad driving, or dangerous property caused your injury, you shouldn’t have to pay the cost yourself. However, recovering the cost of your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering requires you to prove that someone else’s negligence caused your injuries.

Ordinary negligence causes many accidents, but sometimes, a more severe form of negligence, called gross negligence, plays a role. What is the difference between gross negligence vs. negligence, and how may it impact a personal injury case?

What Is the Difference Between Gross Negligence Vs. Negligence?

gross negligence vs. negligence

Negligence is a legal concept that describes something a person did but shouldn’t have done or should have done but didn’t do that resulted in an injury to someone else or someone else’s property. Negligent conduct is generally accidental, but not all accidents involve negligence.

For example, if high winds blow over a healthy tree and it falls on a neighbor’s roof, that is probably an accident that doesn’t involve negligence. However, if the property owners knew the tree was dead and didn’t get it removed, their failure to act could be a negligent cause of their neighbor’s property damage. Ordinary negligence vs. gross negligence is generally a matter of degree rather than a completely different type of negligence.

Ordinary Negligence

Ordinary negligence happens when a person fails to act in the way a reasonably prudent person would act. In the previous example, a reasonably prudent person, realizing that a dead tree could fall over and cause injury or property damage, would hire someone to remove the tree. Therefore, not removing the tree could be ordinary negligence.

Gross Negligence

The primary difference between gross negligence vs. negligence is the degree to which the person’s behavior differs from what a reasonably prudent person would do. While ordinary negligence involves a failure to act prudently, gross negligence involves reckless disregard or extreme indifference to the potentially harmful consequences of a behavior.

For example, if the property owners not only knew that the tree was dead but knew it was likely to fall over the next time a storm happened and decided not to get it removed because if it fell over, it would land on the neighbor’s house but not their own, that could be gross negligence. This example differs from ordinary negligence because of the property owners’ extreme indifference to the harm their behavior could cause to the neighbors.

What Are Some Examples of Negligence Vs. Gross Negligence?

The concept of negligence involves the duty of care one party owes to another. Everyone has a general duty to avoid causing injury to another person, but the duty of care a doctor owes to a patient or a parent to a child is different than the duty a stranger owes to another stranger. The level of care owed can impact whether negligence is ordinary or gross.

Examples of Ordinary Negligence

gross negligence vs. negligence

Ordinary negligence typically involves simple errors in judgment and the standard care of duty that anyone has to avoid harming another person. Examples of ordinary negligence include:

  • Causing a traffic accident by running a red light
  • Failing to clean up a spill that causes a customer to slip and fall
  • Not replacing a loose handrail that causes a guest to fall down the stairs

These actions could escalate to gross negligence in cases where the care of duty is higher, or the behavior is more reckless or indifferent.

Examples of Gross Negligence

What makes a behavior gross negligence vs. negligence is often the degree to which the person is aware of the potential harm their behavior could cause and the person’s lack of concern for the safety of others. For example, running a red light and causing an accident could go from ordinary negligence to gross negligence if the person was also intoxicated and driving at a very high rate of speed.

A behavior may also become gross negligence when the negligent party owes greater care of duty. For example, a school bus driver who runs a red light while speeding may be more likely to be grossly negligent than a typical driver because the bus driver is a professional driver transporting children.

What Can You Do if Someone’s Negligence Injured You?

If someone’s negligence injured you, that person may be liable for your medical bills, pain and suffering, property damage, lost wages, and other related expenses. Depending on the type of accident, you may be able to pursue compensation by filing a lawsuit or a claim with the negligent party’s insurance company.

Types of Accidents That Frequently Involve Negligence

Almost any type of accident can involve negligence, but it is more common in some types of accidents than others. These are some of the accident types that most frequently involve one or more negligent parties.

Auto Accidents

Although many drivers say there was nothing they could do to avoid an accident, that is seldom the case. Drivers must obey traffic laws, pay attention, and drive carefully. Most accidents happen because one or more drivers fail this duty.

Dog Bite Cases

gross negligence vs. negligence

Dog owners must keep their dogs under control whenever they are in public spaces or around guests who have a legal right to be on private property. A dog owner who fails this duty may be negligent. The behavior may escalate to gross negligence vs. negligence if the dog has previously bitten someone and the owner still failed to control the animal.

Premises Liability

Home and business owners have a responsibility to maintain their property so that unsafe conditions do not cause injuries to customers or guests. Failure to do so can result in negligence.

How Can You Prove Negligence Caused Your Injury?

Whether you are filing a lawsuit or an insurance claim, to recover compensation, you must prove the other party was negligent. Proving negligence involves four elements.

1. The Other Party Owed You a Duty of Care

To be negligent, the other party must owe you a legal duty of care. For example, all drivers have a legal responsibility to follow traffic laws.

2. The Other Party Did Something or Failed To Do Something That Breached Their Duty

The second element of negligence is that the other party’s action or failure to act must have been inconsistent with that party’s duty to avoid harming you. For example, failing to stop at a red light would breach a driver’s duty to obey traffic laws.

3. The Other Party’s Actions Must Be the Cause of Your Injury

If a person breaches their duty but that breach doesn’t result in an injury, then you can’t collect damages. For example, if a person runs a red light but you stop your car in time to avoid an accident, and you don’t have any injuries or property damage, you haven’t proven negligence.

This element of negligence can also come into play if you have an injury, but there is a question about whether the other party’s actions caused it. For example, the other party in a car crash may claim that your back pain is from a preexisting injury rather than from the accident.

4. The Other Party’s Actions Caused Damages

You must prove the other party’s actions harmed you in some way. For example, if you are claiming an injury, you need to prove you have financial losses, such as medical bills, or other damage, such as pain and suffering due to that injury.

How Does Gross Negligence Vs. Negligence Affect a Personal Injury Case?

In some states, gross negligence is a separate grounds for a personal injury claim or may result in the court awarding punitive damages. However, that is usually not the case in Arizona.

Arizona courts only award punitive damages, which are damages intended to punish a defendant for wrongdoing when the defendant’s conduct is aggravated, malicious, outrageous, or fraudulent. Gross negligence is not enough to justify punitive damages under Arizona law.

There are a few circumstances where there may be a statutory requirement for the defendant to have committed gross negligence for the other party to have a claim. For example, Arizona law makes some individuals immune from personal injury liability unless their actions were grossly negligent or intentionally harmful. These cases usually involve government employees or entities.

In these cases, rather than determining whether punitive damages apply, the difference between gross negligence vs. negligence may determine whether the injured party can seek compensation at all. Gross negligence may also play a role in some medical malpractice cases.

What if More Than One Party Was Negligent?

It is rare for only one party to be at fault in some types of accidents. For example, both parties usually share some fault in car accidents that involve two moving vehicles.

However, you may still recover damages even if you are partially at fault for an accident due to Arizona’s pure comparative negligence laws. Arizona law allows any injured party to collect damages from a negligent party, even if the injured party is 99% at fault for the accident.

However, the share of fault the injured party has reduces the recovery amount. For example, if you are in a car accident and you are 25% at fault, your potential recovery will be 75% of your damages. Comparative negligence does not apply if the court finds that a negligent party willfully or wantonly caused or contributed to an injury.

How Much Could Your Negligence Case Be Worth?

gross negligence vs. negligence

If you prove the other party’s negligence caused your damages, you can usually expect to receive compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, property damage, pain and suffering, and lost quality of life. However, Arizona law does not specify how much compensation an injured party can get from a successful personal injury claim.

Several factors impact the potential value of your case:

  • The severity of your injuries
  • Recovery time
  • Whether you missed work
  • Pain and suffering
  • Degree of fault

Any permanent disability you have as a result of your injuries, the types of assistance you need, and whether your ability to earn a living is permanently impacted can also affect the value of your case.

How Can a Personal Injury Attorney Help?

gross negligence vs. negligence

To win a personal injury case, you must prove not only that the other party negligently caused your injuries but that the party owes the amount of compensation you are seeking. Insurance companies and attorneys for the other party will try to avoid paying for your damages or settle your case for as little money as possible.

A personal injury attorney in Phoenix will review your case, determine whether negligence or gross negligence caused your injuries, and gather evidence to support your claim. This process may involve investigating the accident scene, hiring expert witnesses, and negotiating with the other party’s insurance or legal team.

Most people don’t have the legal expertise or financial resources to do this on their own. Working with an attorney puts you on a level playing field with insurance companies and legal representatives who handle accident cases every day. It also removes the burden of dealing with your personal injury case from you so that you can focus on recovering.

An experienced personal injury attorney will be able to assess whether complicated legal concepts, such as gross negligence vs. negligence, impact your ability to obtain compensation. Your attorney will also be able to determine whether the negligent party’s conduct was so outrageous that punitive damages may be a possibility.

Even if you understand the legal concepts involved, you may not know what your case is worth. An experienced personal injury attorney can estimate the value of your case based on the severity of your injuries, medical bills, income, property damage, and other factors. Working with an attorney reduces the chance that you could accept a settlement that is less than the full value of your claim.

Where Can You Get Help With a Gross Negligence or Negligence Case?

The team at Sargon Law Group has the experience you need to win your personal injury case. We will explain legal concepts, such as gross negligence vs. negligence, and how those concepts may impact your case. We know what it is like to talk to a jury about a client’s story and will fight to get the compensation you deserve. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.