California Tort Law

What is Tort Law?

The term tort describes a noncriminal (civil) wrong that is recognized as having grounds for a lawsuit. Such wrongs injure or harm the injured persons and are the basis for a claim by the one who is injured.

Under criminal law, the wrongdoer is usually punished by being sent to prison. Under tort law, the defendant must usually pay the injured party for damages.

Although some torts are also considered crimes punishable by imprisonment, the main purpose of tort law is to compensate someone for damages and to discourage others from committing the same crime.

Types of Torts in California

Torts comprise three general categories:

  • Intentional torts
  • Negligent torts
  • Strict liability (an example of a strict liability tort is the manufacture of a defective product)

Unlike criminal law, in which case the charges are brought by the government, tort law involves charges being brought by the person who has been harmed.

Intentional torts are wrongs that the person who committed them should have known they are wrong, whether they are through someone’s action or failure to act. Negligent torts are those wrongs in which a defendant should have known his or her actions or lack of actions was wrong, but failed to curb those actions. Strict liability torts occur when a specific action results in damage. Strict liability torts do not depend on the defendant’s degree of carefulness.

Tort law is produced by judges, in which case it is called common law, or by legislatures, which create statutory law.

Certain tort laws are unique to California in contrast to federal laws or the laws of other states. These include:

  • California Tort Claims Act — This law permits persons to file a lawsuit against a government body. The person who files a lawsuit against the government must usually provide written notice six months ahead of time if they intend to file a claim.
  • Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act — This law places an upper limit on the amount of damages a person may collect for medical injuries.
  • “Reckless Misconduct” Provisions — This is a type of hybrid law between intentional acts and acts of negligence. Recklessness conduct means a willful disregard for the rights or safety of other persons.

Many California tort laws are included under personal injury law such as:

  • Injury in a car or other vehicle accident.
  • Injury caused by medical malpractice.
  • Injury caused by a defective product or a drug.
  • Injury caused by the aggression of someone else. These situations may include both tort and criminal charges.
  • Injury caused by economic circumstances. If one person has injured another financially, the remedy usually lies in tort law.
  • Injury caused by the failure of someone to act, such as a slip and fall accident due to the wrongdoer’s failure to repair a cracked sidewalk that results in someone falling.

Contact a Personal Injury Attorney in San Diego

For more information about California tort law, or to schedule a consultation to discuss a possible claim, please contact a personal injury attorney at the Law Office of Melinda J. Helbock today.