What is a tort?

A tort is a civil wrong that causes a claimant to suffer loss or harm, resulting in the perpetrator of the tortious act facing legal liability. The main goals of tort law are to prevent future occurrences of the same harm and to compensate harmed parties for losses they have suffered.

Key elements of a tort

  • Duty

The existence of a legal duty from the defendant to the plaintiff.

  • Breach

A breach of that duty

  • Causation

A causal link between the breach of duty and the harm suffered by the plaintiff.

  • Damage

As a result, the plaintiff experienced actual loss or damage.

Types of torts

There are several types, including:

Failure to exercise the care that a reasonably prudent person would exercise under similar circumstances.

  • Intentional torts

Actions deliberately undertaken to cause harm, including assault, battery, and defamation.

  • Strict liability

Liability that does not depend on proven negligence or intent to harm, typically arising in cases involving inherently dangerous activities or defective products.

Many images depicting torts and a definition of tort law.
Image created by Market Business News.

Differentiating Torts from Other Forms of Liability

According to cornell.edu:

“Torts are distinguishable from crimes, which are wrongs against the state or society at large. The main purpose of criminal liability is to enforce public justice. In contrast, tort law addresses private wrongs and has a central purpose of compensating the victim rather than punishing the wrongdoer.”

Examples of tort cases

  • Personal injury

Car accidents, slip and fall incidents, sports incidents, etc.

  • Medical malpractice

This case is where a healthcare professional deviates from from the standards in their profession, which may cause injury and maybe even death to a patient.

  • Defamation

Harm to a person’s reputation by libel or slander. In defamation law, “slander” refers to harmful statements made verbally, while “libel” refers to harmful statements made in written form.

Solutions to torts

The main solution in tort law is financial compensation, or damages paid to the injured party. There are also others, such as:

  • Compensatory damages

Intended to compensate the plaintiff for the harm suffered.

  • Punitive damages

Aimed at punishing the defendant for harmful behavior and deterring similar future behavior.

Importance of tort law

Tort law is very important for many reasons:

  • Accountability

It ensures that individuals and organizations are held accountable for any harm they cause.

  • Prevention

Acting as a disincentive, the law discourages bad behavior.

  • Justice for victims

It provides a legal pathway for victims to receive compensation.

Challenges in tort law

There are several challenges an individual may encounter in tort law, including:

  • Proving fault

The plaintiff must prove that the defendant was at fault.

  • Complexity

Cases may be complex, often necessitating detailed evidence and expert testimony.

  • Cost and time

Litigation can be costly and time-consuming for everyone involved.

Written by Nicolas Perez Diaz