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California Tort Law

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What Is Tort Law?

Tort laws govern wrongful acts that cause harm, injury, or loss to another. Some common types of lawsuits that are covered by tort law include: personal injury suits, property damage and cases involving privacy rights. Tort laws vary from state to state, providing for different jury guidelines, court procedures, legal claims, defenses, and damage awards. 

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Is California Tort Law Unique in Any Way?

California tort law has several aspects that differ from federal laws and the laws of other states. Some elements of California tort law that may be unique include:


  • California Tort Claims Act: Generally, local governments and government agencies are not subject to tort claims for monetary damages due to the doctrine of sovereign immunity. The California Tort Claims Act allows individuals to bring tort claims against government entities but only if a proper written claim is filed within 6 months of the alleged injury.
  • Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA): This act places a cap (limit) on the amount of monetary damages that a plaintiff may obtain for medical injuries. For example, the act limits recovery for non-economic damages (e.g. damages for pain and suffering) to a maximum of $250,000.
  • Evidence Guidelines: Over the years, California has made many changes to its evidence guidelines from the standard Federal Rules of Evidence. Collectively, these changes are referred to as the “California Evidence Distinctions.” These changes can have a large impact if a tort claim goes to trial and makes it important to consult an attorney that has extensive knowledge of California rules of evidence.
  • “Reckless Misconduct” Provisions: Most states classify tort violations as either an intentional act or negligence (unintentional or breach of duty) or intentional acts. California includes a third category of liability, “reckless misconduct”. Reckless misconduct is basically a willful disregard of the rights or safety of others. The addition of this intermediate, hybrid category may often allow for a much higher amount of monetary recovery than a standard negligence claim.
  • Comparative Negligence: California has adopted the doctrine of “pure comparative negligence,” which allows a jury to divide blame between the parties to the claim according to their individual actions. Under this theory, a plaintiff can recover even if he or she is more than 50% responsible for the harm.

Do I need a California Lawyer for My Tort Law Claim?

California’s tort laws are constantly being revised due tort reform policies. If you have questions regarding a tort law, you may wish to consult with an experienced California personal injury lawyer for clarification. An experienced California attorney will be able to assist you with your tort claim and provide you with much-needed advice.

Photo of page author John Kirby

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 10-16-2017 02:29 AM PDT

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