Israeli tort Law and Damages
The field of tort law is broad, dealing with damages, various circumstances in which injuries are caused, and the question of who is responsible for the occurrence of the damage. Apportioning risk among various wrongdoers, and in some cases between the wrongdoer and the victim, is an integral part of tort law. This means that the wrongdoer – that is, the one responsible for the damage – should bear the economic burden of the damage to the one harmed.
The world of tort law covers many subsets, such as: medical negligence, student accidents, road accidents, negligence by local governments, personal injury, road or vehicle accidents, damage to property, etc.
In this article by our legal office we will explain about civil wrongs, provide examples, and discuss the responsibility for the damage.
The legal source – the Civil Wrongs Ordinance
The Civil Wrongs Ordinance (new version), 1968 (hereafter: “the Civil Wrongs Ordinance”) is the central law that regulates Israeli tort law. It is accompanied by additional legislation regulating specific areas of tort law (for example: road accidents).
The Civil Wrongs Ordinance specifies the various types of civil wrongs. These wrongs are forbidden behaviors which create responsibility for damages.
Civil wrongs are divided into two types: specific and framework. In order for a person or entity’s behavior to be considered a civil wrong, and one for which that person or entity may be sued, the behavior must meet the criteria for a civil wrong.
Among the specific wrongs indicated in the Civil Wrongs Ordinance, we will mention the following: false imprisonment, trespassing on land or possessions, assault, damage by a dog, harrassment and causing a breach of contract.
Thus, for example, trespassing on property is defined as entering a property illegally, causing illegal damage or disturbance to a person or property. However, it is explicitly stated that someone cannot sue for damages from trespassing if no damage was caused by it. That is, the section’s conditions require proof of damage to the plaintiff.
In contrast to specific civil wrongs, framework wrongs do not determine that a particular behavior should establish obligation for damages; rather, they establish principles according to which each case shall be examined, and whether responsibility should be assigned. According to the Civil Wrongs Ordinance, the two framework wrongs are negligence and breach of a statutory duty.
Negligence is the framework wrongdoing which features most frequently in Israeli tort cases, and it is defined in Section 35 of the Civil Wrongs Ordinance. By virtue of this definition, one must evaluate whether a particular person or entity behaved negligently towards someone, and whether this negligence resulted in damage to that person.
By virtue of Section 35 of the Ordinance, an action must pass four cumulative evaluations which are used to determine whether the wrongdoer was negligent towards the claimant:
- Whether there is a duty of care towards the claimant – the concept of duty of care includes both a conceptual obligation and a concrete one. A conceptual duty of care is a general duty of care between the wrongdoer and the victim. A concrete duty of care is evaluated according to the circumstances of each specific case. This takes into account the question of whether in the circumstances of that event, the defendant had duty of care towards the plaintiff. This duty of care is evaluated in light of the question of whether a “reasonable person” should have expected, in those circumstances, that their act or lack of action would cause damage to the plaintiff. Thus, for example, not all damage caused to a patient during an operation would lead to the conclusion that the surgeon and/or operating team were guilty of negligence. The court considers the question of whether, in the given circumstances, a reasonable physician would have behaved thus.
- Was the obligation of caution violated – In this stage, the question is considered whether the defendant deviated from the standard of caution that applied to him, the obligation to take reasonable precautions to prevent damage.
- Was the plaintiff caused damage as a result of the violation of the obligation – The damage could be monetary or non-monetary – pain and suffering, emotional anguish, etc.
- Is there a causal connection between the violation of the obligation and the damage – In most cases, this is not a simple question. A torts attorney who builds the case must prove to the court both factual and legal causation.
Factual causation means that there is a factual link between the negligent act and the result. Legal causation involves an evaluation of normative expectations.
If causation is proven, the next stage is proof of the damage caused to the plaintiff. The attorney representing the plaintiff will generally prove the damage via a professional medical opinion or professional opinions in other fields – according to the topic of the suit and the damage that was caused.
Breach of a statutory duty
This type of civil wrong is defined in Section 63 of the Ordinance. This category deals with the question of whether the defendant was derelict in a statutory duty intended to protect the plaintiff, people in general or people in the plaintiff’s category, and whether this breach of duty caused the plaintiff damage of the type intended by the statute and due to the defendant’s negligence.
Thus, for example, by law (Municipalities Order, Section 235(2)), the local authority is responsible for drainage on streets under its jurisdiction. The local authority fulfills its obligation itself or via a local drainage authority. In the case of damages, flooding, and harm to a resident, the question to be considered is whether the authority was derelict in its statutory duty and whether it took the required precautions to prevent flooding.
If it is found that that the defendant was derelict in its statutory duty, the next step is to prove the damage caused as a result of this breach of duty.
The claim of contributory negligence is one of the defenses available to the defendant. The claim is set out in Section 68 of the Ordinance, and according to it, the plaintiff bears responsibility for the damage they suffered – either fully or partially. If the defendant succeeds in proving their claim, the amount of compensation will be proportionally reduced, depending on what portion of the damage he is considered responsible for. In cases where the court accepts the claim fully and rules that 100% contributory negligence is ascribed to the plaintiff, the plaintiff will not receive any compensation.
Statute of limitations
One should not overly delay in filing a claim for damages. The rule is that the prescriptive period for a damage claim expires 7 years from the date of the event leading to the suit (there are exceptions to this rule). Therefore it is important to consult with an attorney specializing in tort law so that he or she can file your claim in time, including all the documents and other proof that will support your claim.
Regarding minors, the statute of limitations runs differently; the clock begins to run when the minor reaches the age of 18.
If you have suffered damage to body or property as a result of an accident or other event, it is important to act wisely, and consult with a torts attorney as soon as possible so they can advise you how to proceed. It is important to document the damage, go to the hospital (for bodily damage – for example, after falling into a pit in the road and suffering an ankle injury), collect evidence, keep receipts from any expenses, and check whether you have an insurance policy that grants you rights after an injury.
In our legal office you will find attorneys specializing in torts law who will evaluate your case, advise you whether it is possible to file a suit, and accompany you through the process until you obtain your compensation.
Our well-established office, which deals with many specialities in different legal worlds, recently established a Damages Department, with the goal of assisting our clients and providing them with the appropriate counsel and treatment in torts cases as well. Attorney Nirit Flaishman heads the Damages Department in our office, and she will be happy to assist you with any question in this area.