Negligence is caused by the failure to behave with the level of reasonable care that someone of ordinary prudence under the same circumstances.  This behavior usually consists of actions but can also consist of omissions when there is some duty to act.  Proving negligence is required in most claims from car accidents to slip and fall cases.  Negligence claims must prove four things in court: duty, breach, causation and damages/harm.

In order to win a negligence case, the plaintiff must prove these four elements to show that the defendant acted negligent:

  1. Duty – The defendant owed a legal duty to the plaintiff under the circumstances
  2. Breach – The defendant breached that legal duty by acting or failing to act in a certain way
  3. Causation – It was the defendant’s actions (or inactions) that actually caused the plaintiff’s injury
  4. Damages – The plaintiff was harmed or injured as a result of the defendant’s actions

Ordinary Negligence

A reasonable person requires individuals to act in the same manner as a reasonably mindful person would under similar situations.  Ordinary negligence is when an individual acts in a way that a reasonably mindful person wouldn’t. Under negligence law, it is required that individuals take a reasonable measure to protect themselves and others from danger.  Negligence law establishes a responsibility for reasonable care.  Any person who doesn’t follow this responsibility and harms another individual may be financially liable for any damages that occur.

Ordinary negligence applies to:

  • Ordinary claims
  • Catastrophic accidental injury
  • Defective products

Gross Negligence

Gross negligence is a conscious and voluntary disregard of the need to use reasonable care, which is likely to cause foreseeable grave injury or harm to persons, property, or both.  It is more difficult to claim or prove gross negligence because it involves:

  • Conduct that is a significant leap from the guidance by which a competent and reasonable person would act
  • A serious or high degree of negligence
  • Behavior which was taken out of line from a normal, reasonable person
        • Typical care is not taken
        • An absence of any kind of diligence
        • No care is taken whatsoever

Courts have characterized gross negligence as a reckless and unmistakable abuse of duty to the legal rights of others.  Under a wrongful death statue, proving gross negligence is mandatory in order to qualify for punitive damages.

Willful, Wanton, Reckless Conduct

Willful misconduct is considered further along the misconduct charts since willful misconduct is:

  • Intentionally or voluntarily committed
  • Reckless or intentional

When trying to prove willful, wanton, reckless behavior, a prosecutor will try to provide evidence that a significant harm was the result of the defendant’s actions. The two main differences between negligence and willful, wanton, reckless conduct are:

  1. The defendant intentionally or knowingly disregarded all risk
  2. The risk would most likely result in substantial harm

Plaintiffs looking to seek punitive damages from injuries must prove that the defendant engaged in willful, wanton, or reckless behavior.

Willful misconduct and gross negligence insurance policies vary by state, but the general terms say that acts of:

  • Negligence are covered
  • Gross negligence are not covered
  • Willful misconduct are not covered

If you have been injured due to someone else’s negligence, contact a lawyer, especially if you have missed work and have accruing medical bills.  Call our experienced team at Losi & Gangi today for a free consultation at 716-854-1446.

Article adapted from: https://www.upcounsel.com/willful-negligence