your crash course to torts

Don’t know what a tort is? Check out this legal vocab guide to all things tort.

don't get lost in the legal spaghetti bowl.

The legal world is a spaghetti bowl of jargon that makes no sense unless you have a background in law, but you shouldn’t need a law degree to understand your rights. That’s why we’ve created this quick crash course to torts that will help you navigate the legal world and make sure you are represented if anything should happen to you or a loved one.

first off, what is the difference between a regular crime and a tort?

A crime affects society as a whole and is classified as a state or federal offense, whereas a tort affects a specific person or group of people by interfering with their property or income, making a tort a civil offense.

There are incidents where a both a crime and tort can occur at once, like if someone robs a bank and shoots a civilian while escaping from the robbery. The act of robbing the bank is a crime, since it occurred against a federal entity and affects members of society, while the act of shooting someone is a tort, or personal injury, and affects a specific person. Torts are often accidental or a result of negligence, while crimes are more pre-planned and deliberate.

what is a class action lawsuit?

You’ve probably heard of class action lawsuits in the media – they are usually lawsuits against big companies that have a product or service catered towards consumers. A class action lawsuit is when an individual sues a company or organization on behalf of a larger group of people who have similar legal claims against that same company.

This often happens when companies are not clear about the terms and conditions for their products and services. One recent case of a class action lawsuit occurred against Apple, where users were under the impression that the data that they were storing in iCloud was securely saved in Apple servers. However, Apple paid a settlement of $14.8M to its users due to claims that they were wrongfully storing data in third-party servers, which users were not notified about.

After a class action lawsuit happens, those who were affected have a certain amount of time to claim compensation. Sometimes you are automatically included in a claim without even knowing, but oftentimes you have to file for a claim within the statute of limitations for that claim.

what is a statute of limitations?

Any kind of offense, whether civil or criminal, has a legal time limit set on it within which you have to act. If you faced a wrongful act 30 years ago and tried to sue for it today, chances are that you are outside the statute of limitations for that offense. For example, if you were a victim of theft and tried to file a claim eight years after the incident occurred, you wouldn’t be able to since the statute of limitations for theft is six years after the initial incident.

The time set for different offenses usually depends on the severity of the offense, so something like assault would have a longer statute of limitations than theft. There are also some exceptions, such as medical malpractice, where the start time of the statute of limitations does not begin until a reasonable period has passed where the victim can discover that the incident occurred, since you can’t always tell something is wrong right after a medical procedure.

There are some crimes that also have very long statutes of limitations, such as arson (10 years), crimes against financial institutions (10 years), and art theft (20 years). Some more serious crimes, like murder, do not have a statute of limitations set on them, meaning it does not matter how much time has passed since the incident occurred for you to be able to take legal action.

what is summary judgement?

Sometimes a case can be decided on without having to ever enter court. This can happen if there is substantial evidence for one side, or lack of merits for some issues. If a party calls for a motion for summary judgement, the judge takes all presented evidence into account before coming to a decision before the case has even gone to court. 

Some class action lawsuits don’t ever make it to court and reach a settlement after a party files a motion for summary judgement. But even if a motion is filed, a judge can deny this if they decide that there isn’t enough evidence to come to a decision. If the motion is denied, the case then goes through the usual trial process.

what is negligence?

When an incident or injury occurs as a result of someone not doing something the right way, that is negligence. Examples of negligence include drunk driving, where a vehicle is not operated under the proper conditions, resulting in an accident or injury to the driver or any other third party. In the case of class action lawsuits, when a company knows that there are side effects or defects in a product and they fail to disclose this to the consumers, they are deemed negligent. In short, negligent can be described as a lack of responsibility by a party that results in accident or injury.

what is liability?

Contrary to negligence, liability literally means responsibility.Someone can be liable for something as a result of committing a tort, crime, or breach of contract and there isn’t always intent to harm. Liability can result from negligence, however. In the cases that we are dealing with, a company’s negligence usually results in them being liable for any damages caused by the consumers. In short, their failure to take essential steps to prevent harm(negligence) then resulted in them having to pay settlements to those who were affected (liability).

Don’t be in the dark on things that can severely affect you. The legal world can be a terrifying place to maneuver, but we are here to provide you access to justice. Follow us on our social platforms or sign up for our newsletter to stay up to to date on all things tort.

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