What is a tort? Well, in the law it has nothing to do with the delicious rich, multilayered, cake that is filled with whipped cream, buttercreams, mousses, jams, or fruits very popular in Germany (that is a Torte). So what is Tort law? To help you understand when you might have a tort claim, let's break down what torts are, what's involved in proving a case, and how a personal injury lawyer can help.
What Is a Tort?
A tort is an action or a failure to act that causes harm to another person. If person A acts—or fails to act—in a certain way, for example, and person B suffers harm as a result, then the matter could be considered a tort.
To be clear, torts are civil offenses. They are not the same as criminal offenses.
- When someone commits a tort, it's a wrongful act against an individual. Civil procedures exist to compensate the victim for the loss and harm suffered.
- When someone commits a crime, it's considered an act against society. The criminal justice system punishes the person responsible rather than compensating the victims or their families.
Can a tort ever be a crime? It depends on the type of tort, as I'll explain below.
Types of Torts
There are three main types of torts: intentional, negligent, and strict liability.
An intentional tort means someone deliberately harms another person. Examples of intentional torts include:
Negligent torts are the most common type. In these cases, the wrongdoer is expected to behave in a certain way or show a certain level of care towards others, and they fail to do so. Examples of negligent torts include:
- car accidents
- medical malpractice
- slips, trips, and falls
- truck accidents
With strict liability torts, there's no need to prove negligence or intent to cause harm. All that matters is that the act occurred, and the defendant is responsible for causing harm. Examples include:
- owning certain dangerous animals
- product defects
- transporting dangerous chemicals
- using explosives
All three types of tort—intentional, negligent, and strict liability—are prosecuted under civil law. Depending on the facts of the case, they may also be eligible for prosecution under criminal law.
The Purpose of Tort Law
In Connecticut Tort law serves two significant purposes.
First, it seeks to compensate people for the harm and losses they suffer.
Second, it seeks to deter wrongful conduct that causes harm to others.
Importantly, the Connecticut Courts have sated that the primary purpose of tort law is to prevent future harm
Tort Law and Personal Injury
All personal injury claims are torts. If you're physically injured due to someone else's actions or failure to take action, a personal injury attorney applies tort law to resolve your case and obtain compensation. Tort law is an extremely broad area that covers many types of civil wrongs.
Proving a Tort Case
There are various ways to prove a tort case. Since negligent torts are the most common, I'll use them as an example.
Basically, to prove a negligent tort case, you must prove four things.
- Duty of care: The defendant must owe the plaintiff a duty of care, which is a legal obligation to behave a certain way. For example, motorists owe other road users a duty of care, and doctors have a duty of care to their patients.
- Breach of duty: The defendant must have failed to uphold their duty in some way. Example: a trucker drove drunk, or a hospital employee gave out the wrong medication, causing harm.
- Causation: The plaintiff has to prove the defendant's actions caused the injuries and other damages claimed. Example: Driver A ran a stop sign and hit driver B's car. Driver B suffered injuries as a result.
- Damages: The plaintiff must be injured and/or suffered other harms. This step requires medical evidence (e.g. emergency room, doctor's treatment, medical bills, lost wages, pain & suffering, etc).
If it's an intentional tort, rather than proving the defendant breached a duty of care, you must show they intentionally caused harm. There's no need to prove negligence or intention for strict liability—the defendant is responsible for causing harm regardless of their state of mind. The manufacture or sale of defective products that injure consumers is an example of strict liability.
Remedies in Tort Cases
Under tort law, injured parties are entitled to claim damages.
The plaintiff can claim various losses caused by the defendant's actions, including:
- lost income—e.g., time missed from work
- medical bills—e.g., doctor's bills, prescription charges
- ongoing care—e.g., physiotherapy, rehabilitation
- travel costs—e.g., travel to and from appointments
- lost earning potential—e.g., reduced capacity to work
- Loss of ability to perform certain activities of daily living
- Physical pain and suffering (past, present, and future)
- Mental pain, anguish, or related emotional trauma
Punitive damages are designed to punish the defendant for their actions. They're less common than compensatory damages, but they may be awarded when the courts want to deter others from acting this way. You often see punitive damages awarded in product liability or in certain cases where the violation of a statute permits it.
How a Personal Injury Attorney Can Help With Your Tort Case
Tort law can be confusing if you haven't encountered it before. Rather than trying to navigate the process alone, you need a personal injury lawyer on your side. As an experienced attorney, I'm committed to giving your case the attention it deserves. I'll fight to help you secure the compensation you're entitled to, and I'll always ensure your legal rights are upheld.
If you think you have a personal injury claim, don't hesitate to contact me, attorney Jim Miron, for a free case evaluation. You can also call me today at 203.339-5991 or complete the online contact form.
Want to find out more about me first? Check out this video to learn how I approach personal injury claims and how I can help you.