Tort law is the basis for many types of civil actions.
It’s a legal term for wrongdoing or misconduct, as well as a breach of rights. Under civil liability laws, if the tort of one person injures another person, then the person guilty of said tort owes financial compensation to the victim.
In simple terms, when you hear the phrase tort case, it’s referring to a civil lawsuit where one party is bringing a claim against another to recoup damages. The defendant is the party supposedly guilty of the tort, and the injured party is the plaintiff.
Civil actions include car accident cases, as well as product liability and claims involving pharmaceuticals and medical devices.
There are usually three types of torts. These include intentional torts, negligent torts, and strict liability torts.
An intentional tort relies on the accusation that someone intentionally committed an act and knew or should have known that it would lead to an injury. Examples of intentional torts include a battery, trespassing, and assault.
These examples can involve the criminal court system as well, which is entirely separate.
The underlying concept in negligent torts is that someone didn’t behave with a level of care a reasonable person in the same or similar circumstances would have.
There are a few elements of negligent torts.
First, there has to be a duty for the defendant to care for the plaintiff. This can simply be sharing the road with other people. The next element is that there was a breach of duty. That breach of duty must lead to the plaintiff’s injury.
There doesn’t have to be any intent in a negligent tort. The most important thing in these cases is proving there was a duty to care for the plaintiff.
Again, to go back to the driving example, when you’re operating a vehicle at all times you’re expected to act with a level of care that a reasonable person would. If you don’t and injure someone else, it could be proven that you breached your duty even if you didn’t mean to.
Examples of breaching your duty to other drivers can include running a red light or stop sign or speeding.
Strict Liability Torts
With strict liability torts, the defendant is responsible for injuries from their products or actions, even if there’s no proof of intent or negligence.
This means that even if the needed precautions and safety requirements are followed when you develop, market, or sell products that are harmful to someone in a foreseeable way, you are at risk for action under strict liability tort laws.
In some states, dog bite claims and dangerous activities or assumptions of risk can fall under the umbrella of strict liability.
How Tort Law Varies From Criminal Law
Again, tort law is civil. Civil references something between people. Criminal law, on the other hand, is a branch of government. The government in criminal law represents all of us—the people—against the accused individual.
In a criminal case, if the accused person is convicted of a crime, they will be sentenced to prison or executed. This isn’t the case in tort law
In tort law, it’s about a monetary remedy. Money compensates the injured person for their damages and losses.
Sometimes a tort case will also include injunctive relief. When a court order is issued to direct a person who is doing something wrong to stop, it is known as an Injunctive Relief.
What is Tort Reform?
There’s been a push in the United States for tort reform. Tort reform is a stance against tort cases because many lawsuits brought forward are frivolous.
More than 15 million lawsuits are filed every year in the U.S.
Tort reform advocates say this number is far too high. They also add that many suits are filed to intimidate people. Frivolous cases are expansive and use up resources that could be better put elsewhere.
Tort reform primarily focuses on lawsuits related to health care and medical claims. Even with pushes for reform, there are benefits to tort law.
Namely, the injured person receives compensation so they don’t have to take on all their losses unfairly. There’s also a disclosure of the wrongdoing. That can help prevent future injuries.
Finally, when there’s a verdict in a tort law case, it can send a message to the person who did wrong that they need to stop the behavior. This can be particularly powerful if the defendant is a corporation with the ability to continue causing harm otherwise.