If you ever get involved in a personal injury lawsuit or have a discussion with an attorney about possibly filing a personal injury lawsuit, then it is likely you will hear your attorney talk about torts. The actual word “tort” is an old English word that can be traced back as far as the 16th century. While it can sound like an intimidating term, it is relatively easy to understand what a tort is and how it applies to your case.
What is a Tort?
A tort is some wrongful or negligent act that was done to a victim that resulted in some kind of injury. It is a broad term that can be used in place of other terms like “slip and fall,” or “animal attack.” Any time someone files a personal injury lawsuit, they are alleging that some sort of tort has been committed. There are three types of torts, and the manner in which your case is handled depends directly on which type of tort has occurred.
There is a difference from being intentional with your actions and being careless but still negligent. In both instances, the accused is still negligent. But when an action is labeled an intentional tort, then the court has decided that the accused intentionally caused harm to the plaintiff. For example, if someone throws a beer bottle directly at another person in a bar fight and injures that person, then that is an intentional tort. But if someone, in the heat of having fun with their friends, throws a beer bottle against the wall and the glass pieces cause injury, then that would more than likely not be considered an intentional tort.
A negligent tort uses more of the language commonly found in personal injury cases. For a tort to be negligent, there must be:
- Proof the accused owed a reasonable amount of care to the plaintiff
- Proof the accused did not uphold their duty to provide reasonable care
- Proof the injury suffered was due to the actions of the accused
- Proof the injury was real and caused real damage
For example, if a store owner knew that there was a puddle of slippery liquid on the floor of his sales floor but did not clean it up, then it would be considered an negligent tort when someone slipped and fell in that liquid.
If you are directly responsible for something and that thing causes an injury, then you that is considered a strict liability tort. For example, if you leave a dangerous dog unchained in an open yard and the dog attacks someone, then that is considered a strict liability tort. The most commonly known types of strict liability torts are product defects that cause injury. Most personal injury lawsuits involving defective medical equipment, for instance, would be strict liability torts.
As a defendant or plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit, you are not expected to be an expert in the civil laws of your area. But when it comes to having a meaningful conversation with your attorney about your case, it always helps to know what your attorney means when they say that your case is covered by a certain type of tort law.