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Rhode Island Personal Injury Attorney / Blog / Personal Injury / What’s The Difference Between Ordinary Negligence And Gross Negligence In Personal Injury Cases?

What’s The Difference Between Ordinary Negligence And Gross Negligence In Personal Injury Cases?


Rhode Island’s personal injury law recognizes two standards of negligence: ordinary and gross negligence. While ordinary negligence is the most common basis for personal injury claims in Rhode Island, gross negligence is also often encountered.

When another person or entity is negligent or grossly negligent, and their negligence causes your injury, you have a right to seek compensation for the damages and losses caused by the negligent party.

It is important to determine whether the at-fault party was guilty of ordinary or gross negligence when pursuing a personal injury claim. The determination can significantly impact the value of your claim. Consult with a Rhode Island personal injury attorney to discuss negligence in your specific situation.

What is Ordinary Negligence?

The legal term “ordinary negligence” refers to a party’s failure to exercise reasonable care. When a person or entity owes someone else a duty of care but breaches that duty, they can be held responsible for any harm caused to the party injured by the act of negligence or omission.

When negligence results in someone else’s injuries, the injured party can seek compensation by filing a personal injury claim in Rhode Island. However, the victim must prove ordinary negligence by establishing the four elements:

  1. Duty of care
  2. Breach of duty
  3. Causation
  4. Damages

Under Rhode Island law, ordinary negligence can be established by proving that the defendant failed to act as a reasonable person would under similar circumstances.

What is Gross Negligence?

While gross negligence is a breach of duty, grossly negligent conduct is much more severe than ordinary negligence. Gross negligence refers to a person’s recklessness and wanton disregard for the safety of others. Fraud and malice also constitute gross negligence.

In other words, gross negligence is a conscious and voluntary disregard of the need to exercise due care, which results in foreseeable harm, injuries, or deaths to others. An example of gross negligence is a driver running a red light and causing a serious car accident because of their failure to stop and yield.

As with ordinary negligence, you must prove that:

  1. The negligent party owed you a duty of care;
  2. The duty was breached;
  3. There was a direct link between the defendant’s actions and your injury; and
  4. You suffered damages due to the breach.

In addition to these four elements of negligence, your lawyer will have to demonstrate evidence proving that the negligent party acted with reckless disregard for the safety or lives of others.

What Happens if the Defendant is Guilty of Gross Negligence in a Personal Injury Case?

Gross negligence has a significant impact on the value of your personal injury claim. For this reason, you need to understand the difference between ordinary and gross negligence in your particular case.

When the defendant is guilty of gross negligence, they may be ordered to pay more than if they were guilty of ordinary negligence. In addition, Rhode Island law allows victims of reckless and malicious conduct to recover punitive damages, which can increase the value of your claim.

Get a consultation with our personal injury lawyers at Robert E. Craven & Associates in Rhode Island by calling 401-453-2700.

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