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Ordinary vs Gross Negligence in Car Crash Cases

A car accident is usually the result of negligent actions. There are several negligent acts that drivers engage in when on the road that results in traffic collisions. Some of them are running red lights, speeding, drinking and driving, tailgating, etc. Depending on the facts of the case and other factors, the negligent act might get classified as ordinary or gross. 

Most times, people misuse the two terms without understanding that there’s a distinction between them. In this article, we look at what ordinary and gross negligence mean, respectively. If you suffer injuries due to another person’s negligent act, you can get compensation. Contact our Nashville auto accident lawyers to find out how to begin the compensation claims process. 

What Is Ordinary Negligence? 

Ordinary negligence is the failure to take reasonable care that any prudent person in the same circumstance would take. For a car driver, it means maintaining the speed limit, putting adequate space between vehicles, and driving without impairment. When a driver fails to do this, they would have acted negligently. 

It doesn’t matter if the at-fault party did not intentionally plan to cause the accident in ordinary negligence cases. Instead, the law looks at the fact that they failed to act carefully, and their carelessness led to another person getting hurt. Thus, under Tennessee laws, the negligent driver would pay compensation to the victim if they file a claim. 

The victim can file a claim with the fault party’s insurance carrier if they have an existing insurance policy. If the negligent party lacks auto insurance, the victim would have to commence a personal injury lawsuit. The injured party can also do this if the fault driver’s insurance carrier offers a lowball settlement.

If the victim’s claim succeeds or wins the lawsuit, they will get economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages cover the financial losses, that is, losses that have a fixed dollar amount. Non-economic damages cover intangible losses that have no fixed dollar value; they mainly cover emotional injuries. 

Examples of the two includes: 

  • Medical bills (past, current, and future)
  • Lost wages
  • Loss of earning capacity
  • Property damage
  • Out-of-pocket expenses 
  • Funeral and burial expenses, in case of wrongful death
  • Pain and suffering emotional distress
  • Loss of consortium
  • Loss of enjoyment of life, etc.

What Is Gross Negligence?

Gross negligence is a more extreme type of negligence. It refers to the lack of slight diligence or care or a conscious, voluntary act or omission in reckless disregard of a legal duty and the consequences to another party. In essence, it is extreme disregard and indifference for the safety of another person. 

Here, the law considers that the negligent party knew or should have known that their behavior could lead to an accident. For instance, a person who drinks, and gets behind a wheel, then drives at top speed would be said to have behaved negligently. This is because alcohol impairs the mind, and adding speed to it is a catalyst for disaster. 

Like in ordinary negligence, an injured party can ask for damages for gross negligence. This is referred to as punitive damages, and victims can’t get it from a compensation claim with an insurance company. Only courts have the authority to grant punitive damages. 

The amount awarded often runs into hundreds of thousands of dollars. This is because punitive damages serve more as a punishment against the fault party. It also serves to deter other road users from committing the same act in the future. 

Under Tennessee law, for the jury or court to award punitive damages, there must be evidence that the negligent party acted maliciously, intentionally, fraudulently, or recklessly. Also, the law places a damage cap on the amount the victim can get. Punitive damages should not exceed two times the total compensatory damages awarded or $500,000, whichever is greater. Furthermore, the jury is unaware of the damage cap, and the court only applies it when their verdict exceeds the stipulated amount. 

How Do You Prove Ordinary and Gross Negligence? 

To prove ordinary or gross negligence, you must show that the fault party:

  • Owed you a duty of care
  • Breached the duty of care by their negligent act
  • Caused harm to you by the breached duty
  • Caused you damages that you deserve to get compensated for

Contact Our Nashville Car Accident Lawyers Today!

Getting compensation for an accident injury is your right as an accident victim, and our Nashville car accident lawyers can help you protect that right. We will ensure you get the maximum compensation and ask for punitive damages if the case warrants it. Your interest is our priority, so we’ll go all out to win for you. Contact us today for a free case review. 

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