What to Know About Tort Laws in California
In California, those who believe that they have been harmed by another person, company or government agency may pursue civil litigation. A civil case may also be referred to as a tort case, and unlike a criminal proceeding, no one will go to jail after a ruling is made in the matter. Instead, the defendant will likely be ordered to provide compensation to the plaintiff to help that person recover any financial losses incurred because of the defendant’s negligent behavior.
California Law Recognizes Three Different Types of Torts
In California, a tort may be classified as an intentional tort, a negligent tort or a strict liability case. An intentional tort takes place when the defendant engages in an act that he or she knew was wrong. Let’s say that the defendant in a personal injury case saw you walking on the side of the road. Upon seeing you, that person decided to hit you with his or her car despite knowing that doing so would be a violation of his or her duty of care.
A negligent tort occurs when a person unintentionally engages in an act that would constitute negligence on his or her behalf. Let’s say that the driver of the car that hit you did so while driving too fast for road conditions. Although that person should have known that driving above the posted speed limit was risky, there was no actual intent to cause you harm.
In a strict liability case, it doesn’t matter what the defendant’s intentions were. As long as it can be shown that another party’s actions caused you to incur a financial loss, you will likely obtain a favorable outcome in court. Strict liability laws often apply in cases involving vicious animals or defective products.
What to Know About Reckless Misconduct Cases
If a person acts in a reckless manner, he or she may face additional penalties in a civil case. Reckless activity occurs when an individual engages in acts that have a wanton disregard for a person’s life. As a general rule, it is considered to be a cross between an intentional tort and a negligent tort. However, typically, reckless behavior is seen as more severe than negligent behavior.
It’s possible for a defendant to face a reckless misconduct charge even if he or she didn’t intend to cause a specific amount of property damage or a specific type of injury. For example, a person may have acted in a reckless manner by driving 65 miles per hour through a residential street. Despite that, it doesn’t mean that the defendant intended to run you over or drive a car through your house.
How Do You Prove Negligence Occurred?
To obtain a financial award in any type of civil case, you’ll need to prove that the defendant acted in a negligent manner. To do this, you will first need to show that the defendant violated his or her duty of care in allowing your injuries to happen.
In a car accident case, you may be able to establish that by showing that he or she was driving while impaired or was operating an improperly maintained vehicle when the crash occurred. In a premises liability case, you might be able to use witness statements or security camera footage to establish that a hazard wasn’t dealt with properly.
After establishing that a duty of care was violated, you must show that the defendant’s actions were the proximate cause of your injuries. This is why it’s generally in your best interest to seek treatment immediately following any type of accident.
By doing so, you can establish a stronger link between a defendant’s actions and your injuries. Otherwise, it may be possible for that person to assert that a back injury occurred years ago at work or that your pain was caused by some other condition that you have failed to treat.
Finally, you’ll need to show that the defendant’s actions resulted in some sort of financial loss. For instance, if you went to the hospital after a car accident, you would likely be charged for services rendered. Presenting the bill that you received into evidence would generally be enough to satisfy this requirement.
What Types of Damages Might You Be Entitled To?
California tort laws allow you to collect a variety of damages based on the facts of your case. For instance, if you have to go to the hospital, you will likely be able to recover the cost of prior, current or future treatment. If you were forced to miss work, you’ll likely be able to recoup any wages that were lost, and in the event that you can’t go back to work, a settlement will likely include lost future earnings.
If you have to refurbish your home or car to make them easier to use, the defendant in your case may have to pay to make that happen. The defendant may also need to pay to repair or replace any items that were damaged or lost as a result of that person’s negligence.
Finally, you may be entitled to reimbursement for the cost of in-home care or any other costs that are somehow related to a defendant’s irresponsible behavior. In the event that your case goes to trial, it’s possible that the defendant may appeal an unfavorable jury verdict.
If that happens, interest will likely accumulate on the balance of any award that a jury says that you’re entitled to. In some cases, appeals take years to resolve, which means that the final amount that you’re paid may be significantly higher than what you were initially awarded.
Your personal injury attorney may be able to provide more information about the types of compensation that you may receive in your case. An attorney may also be able to talk more about the steps involved in calculating the size of your award.
How Long Do You Have to File a Lawsuit?
Under California tort laws, you have two years from the date of a negligent action to file a personal injury lawsuit. California law does generally toll the statute of limitations clock for a number of reasons. For instance, if you were under the age of 18 when you were hurt, you’ll typically have two years from your 18th birthday to take legal action.
If you are incapacitated, mentally deficient or incarcerated after an accident occurs, the statute of limitations tolls until your situation changes. For example, if you’re in a coma for three years after being hit in the head by the defendant in your case, you would have two years after emerging from it to file a lawsuit. Of course, this assumes that you have the mental capacity to do so on your own.
This clock may also toll if you aren’t immediately sure that you were hurt as the result of a defendant’s actions. It isn’t uncommon for symptoms of a concussion, internal bleed or other injuries to take days or weeks to present themselves. In such a scenario, you’ll be given two years from the date that a reasonable person would have figured out how they were injured.
It’s worth noting that you may have significantly less time to take legal action against a government agency. Under the California Tort Claims Act, you must generally provide up to six months advance notice before filing a lawsuit. A personal injury attorney may be able to provide more information about your rights as it relates to taking such a step.
If you are hurt for any reason through no fault of your own, it may be in your best interest to hire a personal injury attorney. Your attorney will likely review your case, develop a legal strategy, and take other steps needed to maximize your chances of obtaining a favorable settlement or jury award.