What is Tort Law?
In short tort law is the practice of law to get relief/compensation for someone who has been injured or harmed by another due to their wrongful acts. Typically tort law cases are settled by awarding monetary damages compensation to the injured/harmed party or by an injunction being issued, we will discuss this more later.
But let’s break this down a little more to better understand what torts are, who is a tortfeasor, and look at some real-life examples.
What is a Tort?
According to Cornell Law School, a tort is an action taken by another or an action not taken by another that causes injury or harm to another. The person harmed/injured can make a legal claim against the person taking the action or not taking the action, for legal liability.
The person performing the wrongdoing is a “tortfeasor.” A tortfeasor is defined as a person or entity that performs a wrongful act that causes another individual or business to suffer a financial or personal loss.
What makes a Tort Claim?
In order to have a tort claim you must first have a tort/wrongdoing occur. Typically a tort that occurs will fall into one of these three categories:
1. Intentional Torts
As the name implies these events occur when the tortfeasor is committing a wrongdoing knowingly. In order for a tort to be considered an “intentional tort” general or specific intent will need to be able to be proven. Examples of intentional torts include, but are not limited to:
- false imprisonment
- trespass to land
- intentional infliction of emotional distress
2. Negligence Torts
Negligence torts, the most common torts, occur when someone fails to do something they should do which results in harm to another person. This can include both actions being taken or the omission of actions. Negligence torts occur when the tortfeasor’s actions were unreasonably unsafe.
Proving negligence does require a few factors.
- A breach must be determined
- It must be determined there was a duty to act
- Injury or harm must occur
An example of negligence torts would be the failure to obey traffic laws and causing an accident.
3. Strict Liability Torts
Strict liability torts are different than the previous two mentioned as they do not rely on degree of care. These types of torts focus on the result or harm caused to an individual. Strict liability torts can occur even if the wrongdoer didn’t intentionally hurt someone or have any direct fault. These can occur when someone is injured even if the tortfeasor took every precaution to prevent injury and didn’t intentionally harm another. Product liability claims would typically fall in this category.
An example of a strict liability tort would be when a company makes and sells a defective product.
Tort categories sourced from Cornell Law School
How are Tort Claims Resolved?
Typically there are two outcomes from tort cases, monetary damages or cessation (injunction) of an activity.
For example, if someone commits a negligent act and causes harm to another and a lawsuit is brought against them, if they are found to be liable the court would award monetary damages for injury sustained.
If a claim is brought against a company for a strict liability tort then it is likely the court would issue an injunction which would require the company to stop making the defective product.
Proving a Tort Claim
It is important to understand in order to have a successful tort claim you must be able to prove a tort claim, to do so you will need to prove 4 things:
- Duty – the defendant owed a legal duty to the person bringing the claim
- Breach – the defendant’s actions/inaction caused harm/injury to another
- Causation – proof that the action taken by the defendant caused the injury/harm
- Damages – quantifying the injury/harm to another caused by the defendant (medical bills, property damage, etc)
Examples of Tort Law
Let’s do a quick easy to understand view of some real-life examples
|Incident||Tort Law?||Type of Tort Law||Explanation|
|Driver runs a red light and hits another car||Yes||Negligence||The driver owed a duty to other drivers to stop at the redlight|
|There is water on the floor and you fall at a restaurant but there IS a wet floor sign||No||Since there was a wet floor sign, the business took appropriate action to try and prevent an incident|
|You go in for surgery and the surgeon leaves a surgical sponge in your body which then develops an infection and causes you to need additional surgeries||Yes||Negligence||It was the surgeon’s responsibility to ensure there were no foreign objects left in your body, the failure to do so results in negligence.|
|You catch someone on your property damaging your things and you have NO TRESPASSING signs along the perimeter of your property||Yes||Intentional||They knowing broke the barrier of your property and begin causing harm to your things.|
|You visit someone’s home and their dog attacks you||Yes||Strict Liability||While the homeowner did not intend for you to be injured by their dog, since their dog is their liability if it attacks and injures someone they can be held liable.|
Now that you better understand what a tort claim is, do you have a possible tort claim you have questions on? Reach out to our experienced certified lawyers for a consultation!
This article is intended for informational purposes only and is not be considered as legal advice. For any legal matter, you should always contact a licensed attorney to get a legal opinion.
Chris Costello, ESQ.
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