What are the Differences Between Negligence, Recklessness, and Gross Negligence?

In order to prove that a person is liable to you in a personal injury case, you will need to show that they were somehow negligent. Although most people are familiar with the term negligence, many people do not specifically know what is needed to prove that a person was negligent. This article will explain what negligence is, as well as the describe the different degrees of negligence.

What is Negligence?

In order to show that a person was negligent, there are certain elements that must be proven. You must establish that there was a duty owed by the defendant, that the defendant breached this duty, that the breach caused your harm, and that your harm resulted in a personal injury.

For example, imagine that you are involved in a car accident that was caused by the other driver, who was texting at the time, and suffered a broken arm as a result. Every driver has a duty to act as a reasonable and prudent driver, and the other driver breached this duty by texting while driving and crashing into you. Because the car crash was the cause in fact and proximate cause of your harm and you suffered a broken arm as a result, you would likely be able to hold the other driver liable for negligence.


Degrees of Negligence

However, there are varying degrees of negligence that are legally actionable. For example, you could have a defendant who was simply negligent compared to one that may be considered grossly negligent. This will differ depending upon what type of conduct in which the defendant was engaged. The best way to illustrate this is by using a criminal law example.

In criminal law certain violations are considered misdemeanors or felonies depending on the severity of the crime. Jay walking would be a misdemeanor while murder is a felony. Simple negligence is like a misdemeanor because it is the least severe while gross negligence is equivalent to a felony because it is the most severe.

There are three general ‘degrees’ of negligence that have been accepted by courts.

  1. Negligence

    This is like the car crash example explained above. Simple negligence is the least severe degree of negligence because it does not have an intentional act associated with it.

  2. Recklessness

    An act can rise to the level of recklessness when the defendant acts in a way that recklessly disregards the safety of others. For example, if a rock climbing instructor accidentally ties a harness to a student and the student falls and injures himself, the instructor might be liable for negligence. However, if the instructor used equipment that he knew was old and could fail at anytime and the student fell and injured himself, then the instructor could be liable for recklessness. Recklessness is more severe than simple negligence but not as severe as gross negligence.

  3. Gross Negligence

    Gross negligence the most severe degree of negligence. In order for an act to rise to the level of gross negligence it must be a conscious and willful disregard for the need to use reasonable care, which is likely to cause to cause grave injury or harm to someone. It is distinguished from recklessness because it requires an intentional act instead of a reckless act. It is also the hardest form of negligence to prove because you must show that the defendant acted in a way that “shocks the conscious”.

As you can see, there are several different routes that your potential negligence lawsuit may take. In order to have the best chance of proving any of these negligence claims, you should hire an experienced personal injury attorney who has handled all the different types of negligence. Our attorneys at Grossman Law Offices have over twenty years of experience with personal injury lawsuits and have dealt with every type of negligence. We have the experience and the skill to get you the compensation that you deserve. To discuss your potential negligence lawsuit in greater detail, contact us for a free consultation at 1-855-392-0000.