What Is Negligence?

The lawyers at Slappey & Sadd focus almost exclusively on personal injury law. In most of these cases, the victim is suing the other party based on the theory that his or her negligence caused the victim’s injury. We use that term a lot, and so we thought we’d devote some time to discuss what negligence actually is and, more importantly, how it is defined by Georgia law.  

Negligence Defined

Generally speaking, negligence is when someone fails to act with “the level of care that someone of ordinary prudence would have exercised under the same circumstances.” Negligence can be an affirmative action, such as reckless driving, or the result of failing to act, such as car accidents that happen because the driver wasn’t paying full time and attention.  

Georgia Law

Every state recognizes some form of negligence, but Georgia is somewhat unique in that it has defined three kinds of negligence by statute. It is also interesting to note that each type of negligence is defined as the opposite of diligence. This is a little confusing at first, but actually makes sense – we are negligent when we fail to be diligent.    

Ordinary Negligence

Georgia Code Section 51-1-2 defines ordinary negligence as the absence of ordinary diligence. Ordinary diligence is then defined as “that degree of care which is exercised by ordinarily prudent persons under the same or similar circumstances.”    

This is the most common form of negligence.  Also, note that it relies upon what most people would consider to ordinary prudence in the same situation.  While it might be almost impossible to define what that is, most people can agree in any given case what an ordinarily prudent person would have done.  For example, most people agree that texting while driving is not prudent behavior.

Slight Negligence

Georgia law then goes on to define slight negligence in Code Section 51-1-3 as failing to act with “extreme care and caution which very prudent and thoughtful persons exercise under the same or similar circumstances.” (Emphasis added.) In other words, someone is “slightly negligent” when they fail to act as someone who is extremely cautious. Slight negligence may not be enough to find someone liable for the victim’s injuries.   

Gross Negligence

Gross negligence is defined in Code Section 51-1-4 as the absence of “that degree of care which every man of common sense, however inattentive he may be, exercises under the same or similar circumstances.” (Emphasis added.) Gross negligence is behavior that is not justifiable in any case with the same or similar circumstances. To put it another way, gross negligence is behavior that most people find to be shocking. If someone is found to have have been grossly negligent, it may lead to additional damages, such as punitive damages, to be awarded to the plaintiff.  

Contact an Atlanta Personal Injury Attorney Today

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. Speaking with a lawyer can help you understand whether you have a claim and your options for moving forward. The lawyers at Slappey & Sadd have been helping our clients in Georgia since 1992, and we’re here to help you. Schedule your free consultation today – call us at 404-255-6677 or email us via our online contact form.

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