A tort is a harmful act, or failure to act, for which the law provides a remedy. Tort law is based on the basic principle that an injured person ("plaintiff") should be compensated by the person who is responsible for the injury ("defendant"). Tort law provides a civil remedy, as opposed to a criminal remedy. Therefore, tort law does not provide for punishment in the form of imprisonment or fines. There are three types of torts: (1) Intentional Torts, (2) Negligence and (3) Strict Liability.
An intentional tort is an action taken with intent (rather than with recklessness or carelessness) resulting in the harm of another. To prove that a defendant acted intentionally, the plaintiff must show that they acted deliberately or willfully with actual or "constructive" knowledge that injury is a likely result from their actions and they made a conscious decision not to avoid such an action. This action must result in plaintiff's injury. Examples of intentional torts include assault, battery, false imprisonment, trespass and even defamation.
Unlike intentional torts, torts of negligence involve the degree of care a defendant took in causing an injury and how that relates to the degree of care, according to the law, they should have exercised. To prove a negligence claim, a plaintiff must show (1) defendant owed a duty to plaintiff to conform to a certain level of conduct, (2) defendant breached that duty, (3) defendant's breach caused of plaintiff's injury, and (4) that plaintiff was injured/damaged. In California, the doctrine of "comparative negligence" controls. Comparative negligence allows a jury to compare the relative fault of plaintiff and defendant when deciding on damages. For example, if plaintiff was 10% at fault for the accident, then defendant would only be liable for 90% of plaintiff's damages.
Under a strict liability theory, plaintiff contends that defendant is responsible for their injuries regardless of whether they were at fault. This "no-fault" liability theory was historically used in situations where defendant's actions were ultra-hazardous or abnormally dangerous. In the last 50 years, strict liability is most frequently asserted against manufacturers for defective products. Products liability claims encourage manufacturers to develop and produce safe products and reflects a societal change towards consumer protection. To prove a strict liability claim, plaintiff must show that (1) a product was defective, (2) that defect was the actual and proximate cause of plaintiff's injury and (3) plaintiff suffered harm or damages.
If a person is injured by the actions of another, they have a variety of legal theories for which a claim for damages may be based. It is important for injured individuals to find an experienced and knowledgeable personal injury attorney to analyze their claim and get them the compensation they deserve.
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