Tort Law Defined

The Law Of Torts 

History

A tort is broadly defined as a cvil wrong. It is distinguishable from crime. Today, the term is rarely used in the actual practice of law,  but is still used as a academic subject category in most law schools. It’s historical roots come from English Common Law. Today, the law of torts refers to the area of law we know as personal injury.

Types Of Torts

Most torts are based on a theory of liability called negligence. Other tort theories of civil liability include strict liability and even intentional wrongs.

The Tort Of Negligence

Negligence is said to have occured when one person harms another due to ones carelessness. An example of negligence is the typical motor vehicle accident in which one driver is careless by not paying attention to current traffic conditions, such as not noticing that the cars in front have stopped. Causing a collision by rear-ending the car is almost always attributable to the negligent driver. In negligence cases, the person bringing the lawsuit, called the plaintiff, must prove that the defendant was careless and that this carelessness was the proximate cause of the injury to the plaintiff.

The Tort Of Strict Liability

Strict liability does not require a determination that the defendant was carelessness or intended to cause the harm. It is enough to establish that the damage was done and the defendant was the one who did it. Another words, the mental state of the tortfeasor is irrelevant in the determination of liability.

The legal theory of strict liability is driven by public policy. For example, if you are remodeling your home and decide to tear down a portion of it by using dynamite, if in the use of that dynamite, someone gets injured, the injured party does not have to prove anything other then the defendant used dynamite. This is because “dynamite” is considered to be such a ultra-dangerous activity and that the law will impose a very strict standard of liability against anyone engaged in ultra-dangerous activities. Fault will be imposed irrespective if the defendant was careless or did anything wrong in the process. The overriding public policy is to protect the general public.

The Law Of Intentional Torts

Examples of intentional torts include assault, battery, invading the privacy of another, and intentionally inflicting emotional distress on another.  Intentional torts while considered a civil wrong, can also be charged as a crime. In the latter, the plaintiff  would be the government and the remedy sought is against the defendant is punishment.  In the former, the accuser is the plaintiff (individual or corporation) and the remedy is money or some form of injunctive relief.

The statute of limitations, the legal time in which you must file your civil complaint or otherwise be barred from doing so in the future,  is determined by state law. You should also know that that there are different time limits depending on the kind of tort you are alleging.

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