Importance of tort law in our daily life

Last week, I wrote a post about compensation in tort law. Although ‘tort law’ is not often mentioned, many stories in the newspapers relate to this area of law.

Take your favourite newspaper. Look for stories about people who want compensation against somebody else who have done a wrong to them.

Let’s take an example. David is crossing the road at a pedestrian crossing. Philip who has just passed his driving test is running over David. David suffers a serious head injury which affects his abilities of thinking and concentration.

As a result of these injuries, David cannot go back to his office job as an accountant. David will seek to obtain compensation.

He will sue Philip who is likely to be liable for the tort.

Compensation in tort law and degrees of fault

Tort law is concerned with civil liability. Civil liability is imposed when a tort is committed. A tort implies a breach of a duty which is determined by the law. It can lead to litigation between the wrongdoer and the victim and the objective is to compensate the victim for the wrongdoing.

To my great surprise, compensation in the UK does not take into consideration the degree of fault when the wrongdoer acts.

This is certainly a major difference with the French tort system: according to the degree of fault, it will be more or less easy for the victim to show evidence of the harm done and obtain compensation, as a result of it.

In the British system, a defendant who lacks experience or is distracted for a second may end up paying the same damages as one who shows considerable carelessness.

There is certainly a lot to say about tort law which does not seem to compensate fully and adequately victims both in France and the UK. However, defendants seem to be in a better position in France than in the UK, where the system appears to cause injustice to some of them.

Click here to read an introduction to tort law in France

Disadvantages of pre-trial settlements

Following the recommendations of the Woolf report, the Civil Justice System in the UK has been reformed in 1999. As a result, less than 10 % of cases settle at the trial[1], while most of the cases settle much earlier.

There are however many cons.

Although pre-trial settlements have the advantage of ending the dispute quickly, the parties should weigh up what they get against what they could obtain if the case goes to trial.

Settlements also cause injustice, because the parties usually hold very unequal bargaining positions. For example, you have a physical injury and you want to take you insurance company to court. While the insurance company is in a strong financial position and is not in a hurry to settle the case, your position is different for obvious reasons. The insurance company is also a ‘repeat player’: litigation is routine and their staff are used to work with lawyers. In contrast, you are like a ‘one-shotter’: you are unfamiliar with the procedure and this can be traumatic.

This is the reason why going to court can be a better option: the judge will treat the parties equally and you can get the full compensation that you are entitled to.


[1] See Court statistics (eg. county courts p.7)

Contracts

Contracts come into different shapes and sizes. Some include a large sum of money, like commercial contracts. Others are trivial: when you buy a ticket at the train station or when you buy a book on the Internet, you make a contract. Because contracts are part of our everyday life, I want to know what happens when a dispute arises.

Breach of contract is a common example. Civil courts regularly hear cases where they have to decide whether or not the behaviour of one party has led to a breach of contract.

Following the advice of my friend who is a lawyer, I examined the civil justice system in the UK which is so different to the French system. There is no overriding objective and judges are not expected to invite parties for settling their dispute before the start of the proceeding.

Service public is a good website for learning more about the civil justice system in France.

Civil justice system in the UK

The current civil justice system is shaped by the new Civil Procedure Rules that came into force on 26 April 1999. These rules represent the most important reform of the civil justice system in the 20th century. They result from the Lord Woolf report, Access to Justice.

The main objective is to change the litigation culture in the UK. The 1st rule of the new Civil Procedure Rules put lays down an overriding objective: courts must be able to deal with cases ‘justly’.

In the old system, practitioners were responsible for managing cases. However, their tactics caused delays and costs. This did not serve their clients’ interests.

Litigation should now be regarded as the last option, since courts should always encourage parties to come to a pre-trial settlement at any stages of the proceedings. This is facilitated by the fact that courts are the active managers of cases. This is called case management. The aim is to deal with each case diligently and swiftly.

Link to the Woolf report
Learn more about the new Civil Procedure Rules

Workshop ‘Managing your Energy’

The ITI Cymru Wales, formally created in the spring (see ITI Bulletin July-August 2012), ran its second workshop ‘Managing your Energy’ on Saturday 10 November.

When this training event was announced, I initially wondered what benefits I would get from it. Hard skills, such as mastering CAT tools, are surely far more important than self-development. How short-minded I was! This workshop was in fact extremely relevant for both professional translators and interpreters who are self-employed. We are usually on our own when facing clients (including difficult ones). Most of us work from home (especially translators) and it is sometimes very hard not to get distracted by the everyday family chores. It is therefore our responsibility to renew our energy regularly, so that we do not exhaust ourselves in the long run. It was indeed a very stimulating exercise for me to write an article on this appealing subject.

The workshop was based on the research done by Tony Schwartz and his colleagues (see the website www.theengergyproject.com and the book ‘The Way We’re Working isn’t Working’). Each of us completed a survey at home and brought the results with them on Saturday. The presenter Fiona, who made us feel at ease, started with a warming up exercise. We were encouraged to introduce ourselves to the other members of the group in less than a minute. This rush and informal gathering was liberating: we felt good and more connected with one another. Our first lesson on the benefits of good energy!

According to the Energy Project, our energy level can be divided into four areas: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. Physical energy is our ability to look after ourselves in terms of diet, physical exercise, sleep and rest. It helps to maintain our mental and emotional capacities. Mental energy is about how we use our brain. Working per block of 90 minutes maximum with regular breaks in between is highly recommended. Positive visualisation and organising priorities are good tactics. Emotional energy relates to our sense of well-being and how we deal with stress. When we are under pressure, we should ideally resist the temptation of making up stories about what happened; it is best to keep to the facts instead. It is also our ability to seek enjoyable experiences which bring along positive emotions. Spiritual energy is about having a meaningful purpose in life and refers to the values we are strongly connected to. Because each individual is unique, values are subjective and personal. We worked in groups to consider what could be done for improving our energy level in each of these four areas. For those who are absolutely hooked to their smart phone (after all, that’s where our work mostly comes from…), the suggestion was made to check emails once or twice a day only during holiday time.

Fiona moved on defining the energy principles. When she explained the concept of energy renewal – taking regular breaks between phases of high concentration – we shared our experiences. Some of us have a glass of water or go for a walk. Others do yoga, go to the swimming pool or treat themselves to a session of alternative therapy (I would highly recommend reflexology and aromatherapy!). Fiona then emphasised the importance of stretching ourselves: pushing our comfort zone within reason in order to learn and grow. Beware to fully recover after each effort. Fiona finally encourages us for having a good routine. Strong and positive habits are easy to follow; they do not require any will or discipline. For this to succeed, we were advised to tackle one or two changes at a time only.

We ended the workshop in a happy mood and most of us made our way to an Italian restaurant where delicious food was waiting for us. Thank you Elvana and Trini for organising this energising event and the subsequent powwow in the afternoon.