Why The Types Of Negligence And Liability Matter In Injury Law

An injury lawyer will largely deal with cases that hinge on some theory of the defendants' negligence and liability. In injury law, though, the different types of negligence and liability can dramatically impact the outcome of a case. Let's take a look at how this might affect your situation.

Ordinary vs. Gross Negligence

When a personal injury lawyer mentions ordinary negligence, they're talking about everyday failures to prevent bad things from happening. If someone who runs a store doesn't send anyone to clean up a spill, for example, that's ordinary negligence. Someone might slip in the wet spot, but jurors probably would understand that people overlook things like this or don't deal with them in time. In other words, ordinary negligence covers what many folks would explain in terms of "stuff happens."

Gross negligence is a higher order of negligence. A juror would likely be upset and think that the defendant should have known better. For example, if someone tore up a sidewalk and dug a hole without putting up warning signs to prevent members of the public from falling in, that would be gross negligence.

Negligence Per Se

Another form of negligence emerges from illegal conduct. This is negligence per se. For example, a building owner might commit negligence per se by failing to keep handrails up to code. Similarly, criminal conduct is often considered negligence per se.

Strict Liability

Negligence is a form of liability in its own right. There is, however, a different breed of liability. Strict liability applies in situations where the law doesn't care whether a defendant was negligent or not. Even if they took appropriate precautions, the law holds these parties strictly liable if anyone is harmed by their actions.

Suppose someone operates a gun range. Even if they've installed bunkers to prevent rounds from going off the range, they are likely to be strictly liable if a bullet strikes someone off the property.

Why It Matters

Much of this boils down to what the level of difficulty will be for a claimant or plaintiff. If a defendant is strictly liable, there isn't much else to the case besides drawing a connection between the defendant and whatever injuries you suffered.

While gross negligence and negligence per se aren't quite as simple as strict liability, it's still easier than dealing with ordinary negligence. With these two scenarios, you'll only have to show that the defendant's conduct was reckless or illegal. To prove ordinary negligence, you'll have to prove the defendant failed to take reasonable precautionary steps.