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What Is Tort Law?

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What Is Tort Law?

Tort law is that body of law which covers violations where one person’s behavior causes injury, suffering, unfair loss, or harm to another person.  This is a broad category of law that can include many different types of personal injury claims. 

Tort laws serve two basic, general purposes: 1) to compensate the victim for any losses caused by the defendant’s violations; and 2) to deter (discourage) the defendant from repeating the violation in the future.

How Are Torts Classified?

Torts may be classified into three broad categories:

  • Intentional torts such as battery
  • Unintentional torts such as negligence in a slip and fall case
  • Strict liability torts such as those involving ultrahazardous materials that are dangerous in and of themselves

Torts are categorized under civil laws, rather than criminal laws. This means that some torts may involve conduct that is not necessary illegal, but causes harm to another person. However, some tort cases may involve an overlap with criminal laws (such as assault).

What Are Some Examples of Torts?

Some common examples of torts include:

  • Negligence-related claims
  • Civil assault/civil battery
  • Wrongful death claims
  • Trespassing
  • Products liability and dangerous products
  • Intentional inflection of emotional distress

Probably the most common type of tort lawsuit is negligence. In order to prove negligence, the victim needs to prove that the defendant breached a duty of care owed to them, and that the breach was the cause of their injuries or losses. 

For instance, if the defendant had a duty to keep their shop floor clean, but failed to do so, the plaintiff may be able to sue them if they were injured due to a slip on the dirty shop floor.

What Are Some Common Remedies in a Tort Case?

Remedies in a tort case will of course be different depending on the type of violation involved, and depending on how the victim was injured or suffered losses. Some common remedies in a tort case may include:

  • Monetary damages awards for economic losses
  • Damages awards for other related losses, such as emotional distress, pain and suffering, lost wages, or other costs
  • An injunction, which is a court order requiring the defendant to cease their harmful actions or to begin taking a specific action (such as reducing pollution or cleaning up after a toxic spill)

You should note that some tort cases may also allow the plaintiff to recover a “punitive damages” award. This is an additional monetary damages award meant to punish the defendant for their conduct. This can sometimes be a very high amount in comparison to the victim’s losses. 

However, punitive damages are usually issued only in connection with very offensive or damaging behavior by the defendant.  Some states may also place limits on punitive damages (such as up to two or three times the amount of economic losses).  

Do I Need a Lawyer for Assistance With Tort Laws?

Tort law is an expansive area of law that covers many different types of injuries and violations. For this reason, tort law can also be very complicated. Each state also has different tort laws of its own. If you need assistance with the tort laws in your area, you should speak with a qualified personal injury lawyer. Your attorney can help you with the legal research, and can represent you in court if you need to file a civil lawsuit.

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 07-31-2014 11:34 AM PDT

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