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What is a Tort Case, and What does it Involve in Arizona?

Tort cases in Arizona are civil cases involving legal disagreements between entities such as individuals, businesses, corporations, or partnerships. These cases are usually concerned with compensation for personal injuries and damage caused by an entity’s conduct.

Amongst other entities, Arizona civil law also allows a person to initiate a tort case against government entities like the state, county, or city. An injured individual, the plaintiff, initiates the case within the Arizona Court system. The court where the claim is filed often depends on the type and value of the damage. The Rules of Civil Procedure for the Superior Courts of Arizona and Justice Court Rules of Civil Procedure govern the procedure of tort civil actions in the Superior and Justice courts in Arizona.

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.

Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.

What is Arizona Tort Law?

Title 12 (civil procedure) and Title 20 (insurance) of the Arizona Revised Statutes are the major laws governing torts and personal injury claims in Arizona. This body of law aims at ensuring that injured persons obtain compensation for the damages. Additionally, the law provides that the entity that inflicted the injury is held legally accountable. These damages may have been inflicted intentionally or negligently. Regardless, Arizona tort law ensures that the state courts can authorize any entity that inflicts such injury to compensate the injured party fairly and adequately.

What Kinds of Cases are Covered by Tort Law in Arizona?

The tort law addresses injuries inflicted intentionally (intentional tort cases) and negligently (negligent tort cases). Intentional tort cases occur when an individual or entity consciously performs an action that causes damage or injury to another individual. In contrast, negligence cases, the most common tort cases in the state, do not involve deliberate actions. They are cases that arise when an individual or entity inflicts damage or injury out of negligence and carelessness.

Examples of negligent tort cases generally include most types of vehicle and motorcycle accidents, slip and fall accidents, and medical malpractice cases. Intentional court cases covered by the Arizona tort law include instances of fraud, assault, defamation, battery, trespassing, and actions that inflict emotional distress.

What are the Differences Between Criminal Law and Tort Law in Arizona?

Although Arizona criminal and tort law are concerned with the breach of duties, they have different priorities. They govern the prosecution of criminal cases and civil wrongdoings in the state. Arizona criminal law, enclosed in Title 13 of Arizona revised statutes, guides government prosecution of criminals on behalf of the citizenry. It is concerned with deterring wrongful behavior and protecting society. Tort law in Arizona, enclosed in the Title 12 of Arizona Revised Statutes, is also targeted at preventing civil wrongs, but with the main objective of compensating injured individuals.

In a tort case in Arizona, if the court determines that a defendant committed a tort and the plaintiff suffered damages due to the individual’s actions, then the court orders restitution. However, a convicted defendant in a criminal case may be subjected to expensive fines, jail time, probation, and occasionally, all three.

Besides, Arizona criminal law and tort law differ in the burden of proof allowed to prove a party’s guilt. In criminal cases, the state prosecutor must prove a defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. In tort cases, the plaintiff must only prove that the defendant inflicted the alleged injury or committed a tort by a preponderance of the evidence. With this standard of proof, the plaintiff is tasked with providing credible, clear, and convincing evidence that the alleged situation occurred.

Another important difference between these laws is the significance of intent. While state criminal law often convicts defendants for their illegal activities after the prosecutor proves that the individual committed the criminal act and intended to do it, the tort law does not. Instead, it makes defendants liable for their actions regardless of whether the wrongful action was intentional or accidental.

What is the Purpose of Tort Law in Arizona?

Tort law in Arizona is primarily concerned with compensating individuals and entities that suffer personal injuries or property damages due to other entities’ wrongful acts and misconduct. The law seeks to ensure that citizens and businesses in the state do not suffer unnecessary loss. It balances the rights of parties in the case by preventing harm or providing remedies for private wrongs.

What is a Tort Claim in Arizona?

Tort claims in Arizona are legal actions that seek formal or informal resolution for wrongful action or wrongful inaction. This implies that it could be addressed in the appropriate court of law or out of it.

Tort claims are legal responses to a party’s failure to fulfill a legal duty of care. Entities that have suffered losses due to another’s failure to perform such duties have the option of filing a tort claim to receive compensation. The legal document usually describes the cause of action, the liabilities involved, the legal basis that justifies the harm, and restitution.

However, not all tort claims in Arizona become lawsuits. In most cases, many of the tort claims filed in Arizona are resolved without a trial. This is often beneficial to the parties involved because it helps to avoid expensive and time-consuming litigation.

How Do You File a Tort Claim in Arizona?

A tort claim in Arizona is only valid in court if it proves any of the following:

  • The existence of a legal duty of care,
  • The breach of that legal duty
  • Causation
  • Damages

Each of these elements is important to the case. If the plaintiff is unable to prove any, the entire claim may be lost.

Additionally, the Arizona statute of limitations also applies to tort claims. This is the set time limit for filing injury cases in an Arizona court. According to state laws, plaintiffs intending to file lawsuits related to a personal injury must do so within two years from the day of the damage.

However, if the individual discovers the injury later, the time limit begins to run from the day of the discovery instead.

Under the Arizona Revised Statutes, if the intended lawsuit is against a larger entity such as a city, county, or the state of Arizona, the plaintiff must file the claim within 180 days and the lawsuit within the year.

The litigation commences officially when the plaintiff files a complaint or petition in court. This formal document identifies and informs the court of the legal and factual basis of the case. It states why the plaintiff is suing the defendant and the actions that the plaintiff wants the court to take to impose liability.

What Does a Tort Claim Contain in Arizona?

A tort claim in Arizona typically contains:

  • The plaintiff’s full name and address
  • The defendant’s full name and address
  • A general description of injury caused by the defendant’s conduct
  • Date and place that the injury occurred, along with other relevant circumstances surrounding the event that caused the injury
  • The legal theories that support the defendant’s allegations, and facts related to the lawsuit
  • The plaintiff’s request for relief, including the amount of money in damages
  • The summons identifies the parties in the litigation and also informs the defendant of the filed case.
  • The proof of service that confirms that the defendant received the complaint and summons. It proves that the defendant was notified of the claim.

What Happens after a Tort Claim is Filed in Arizona?

After filing the tort claim with the relevant court, a copy of the complaint and summons are served on the defendant. It is important to serve the defendant to ensure that the court has jurisdiction to impose a judgment. The defendant must respond to the claim within 20 days. Failure to do so may get the court to give a default judgment in the plaintiff’s favor.

Otherwise, there are two ways that the defendant may choose to respond:

  • The entity may either file an answer in response to the complaint’s allegations by admitting or denying the allegations.
  • The second way of responding is to file a motion to dismiss with credible reasons. If granted, the court can refuse to acknowledge part or all of the complaint.

If the defendant chooses to deny that allegation and file a counterclaim, the case will proceed to trial. The parties involved are allowed to exchange information about the case; this is called Discovery. At trial, the court will decide the case based on testimony and evidence.

If the claim is against the state government, the plaintiff must file the case within 180 days, giving the state 60 days to respond. Without a response, the issue is automatically denied.

Why Do I Need a Personal Injury Lawyer for a Tort Claim?

Any party in a tort case could self-represent, provided they are comfortable with the legal process and confident that they can obtain fair results in court. However, seeking legal assistance is always an advantage in building or defending a tort claim, especially in cases that involve significant injuries. A personal injury attorney has more experience handling tort cases. As a result, the attorney will be better at anticipating and addressing crucial legal and procedural challenges.

How Can I Find a Personal Injury Lawyer Near Me?

On its website, the Arizona Judicial Branch features a self-service center that provides users with legal information and resources to address a personal injury case. This includes referral and access to a personal injury lawyer if required. The State Bar of Arizona also provides public services, Find-a-Lawyer for clients looking for personal injury lawyers.

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