What is TORT Law

Updated: Aug 22



Disclaimer: Tort law is dependent and can differ by each state's laws.


Tort law is a complex process by which you pursue fair and just compensation for special, noneconomic, and/or punitive damages that you have endured because of what some person, company, or other entity did or failed to do.

If you have sustained a personal injury, suffered economic loss, or have been psychologically impacted by the actions of some party, this blog entry provides important information for you concerning tort law. Q&As include:


  1. What is a tort?

  2. What is a civil wrong?

  3. What is the purpose of tort law?

  4. What is a tort claim?

  5. Why do they call it a “tort?”

  6. What are the three general categories of torts?

  7. What kinds of specific torts are there?

  8. What is “trespass” in tort law?

  9. What is “assault” in tort law?

  10. What is “battery” in tort law?

  11. What is “negligence” in tort law?

  12. What is “product liability” in tort law?

  13. What is “breach of warranty of fitness” in tort law?

  14. What is “intentional infliction of emotional distress” in tort law?

  15. What is “nuisance” in tort law?

  16. What is “defamation” in tort law?

  17. What is “invasion of privacy” in tort law?

  18. What are the different categories of damages relative to tort law?

  19. What does the “real value” of a tort claim mean?

  20. Why should you hire a tort lawyer?

  21. How much does it cost to hire a tort lawyer?


1. What is a tort?


A tort is an act (or failure to act) by some party that causes injury or harm to you. Thereby, it is a civil wrong for which a court imposes liability. When speaking of torts, an “injury” refers to an infringement upon one of your legal rights. A “harm” is a loss or detriment that you consequently suffer from that injury (see source).


2. What is a civil wrong?


A “civil wrong” is a noncriminal infringement upon your rights for which you can sue for damages (see source). The best way to understand civil wrongs is to contrast them with criminal ones. Consider:


  • Criminal wrongs are behaviors that are an offense against the public, society, or the state—even if the victim is an individual. E.g. murder, assault, theft, and driving while impaired. Only the federal or state government can initiate a criminal case, which is almost always decided by a jury. Punishment is often imprisonment and/or a fine paid to the government.

  • Civil wrongs are behaviors that cause injuries to a person, company, or some other entity. E.g. libel, slander, breach of contract, negligence resulting in injury or death, and/or property damage. Civil cases are initiated by private parties, commonly decided by a judge, and punishment almost always consists of a monetary award to the injured party bringing the suit (see source).

3. What is the purpose of tort law?


The main purpose of tort law is threefold:


  1. To provide relief to you for the harm you have endured because of what some other party wrongly did (or did not do)

  2. To impose liability on the party responsible for causing you harm

  3. To deter other parties from acting the same way in situations similar to the one that caused you harm


4. What is a tort claim?


An act committed by a person, company or some other entity that causes you injury is called a legal tort. As such, it is a civil wrong for which a court imposes a monetary penalty that is payable to you (as opposed to the government). In a tort case, the person, company, or entity that caused your injury is the defendant; and you are the plaintiff.


The primary objective of tort law is to compensate you for the harm the defendant caused you; to impose liability on the defendant, and to deter the defendant and others from behaving likewise in a situation similar to the one in which you were harmed (see source).


5. Why do they call it a “tort?”


Centuries ago, the Old French word “tort” was borrowed into English. Its root meaning is “twisted” (as in the opposite of “straight”). And as being “straight” with someone colloquially means being fair and just, the term “tort” evolved to denote the opposite, i.e. being unfair and unjust in the sense of being wrong. So, when you have been “wronged” by a party because of something he, she, or they did or failed to do, “tort law” exists to help you seek fair and just compensation (see source).


6. What are the three general categories of torts?


Torts fall into three general categories:


  • Intentional—a civil wrong arising from a deliberate act perpetrated by some party that causes you harm (see source). For example, somebody punches you for something you said, which would be battery. Other kinds of intentional torts are assault, false imprisonment, trespass to land, trespass to chattels, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

  • Negligence—a civil wrong that arises from a failure to behave with a level of care that anyone with ordinary judgment would have exercised under the same circumstances (see source). For example, causing an auto accident by recklessness and speeding.

  • Strict liability—a civil wrong that arises when a party does (or fails to do) something so that you are consequently harmed, regardless of what that party’s intent or mental state was at the time of the incident (see source). For example, product liability (see 12).


7. What kinds of specific torts are there?


There are numerous specific kinds of torts. These include but are not limited to trespass, assault, battery, negligence, product liability, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. There are also separate areas of tort law. Among them are nuisance, defamation, and invasion of privacy. All of these terms are described in this blog entry, below.


8. What is “trespass” in tort law?


Trespass occurs when someone knowingly enters your property or land without permission, which infringes on your privacy or property interests. This tort requires that the trespasser intended to remain on your property, irrespective of whether he or she knew it was owned by you, and you do not need to have suffered actual damages (see source).


9. What is “assault” in tort law?


Assault occurs when someone’s intentional behavior causes you to be reasonably fearful of imminent harm or offensive contact. No actual physical contact or injury is required, but the person’s actions must have been intentional, and it does not matter if his or her actions were merely to scare you or meant as a joke (see source).


10. What is “battery” in tort law?


Battery occurs when a person intentionally acts to cause harmful or offensive contact with you. However, if you gave implied consent to that act (e.g., if you were hurt playing football with the person) he or she is not liable. For battery, “intentional” means that the person wanted to bring about the contact or knew that it was likely to occur (see source).


11. What is “negligence” in tort law?


As well as being a category of tort (see 3), negligence is a specific tort, which can be defined as a failure to behave with a level of care that anyone with ordinary judgment would have exercised under the same circumstances. Four components are required to establish negligence:


  1. The existence of a legal duty that a person owed to you

  2. That person’s breach of said duty

  3. Your suffering a harm

  4. Proof that the person’s breach caused your injury (see source).


12. What is “product liability” in tort law?


These torts have to do with the legal responsibility borne by any or all parties involved in the manufacture, assembly, wholesale distribution, or retail sale of a product that caused you harm. The civil wrong can be based on negligence, strict liability, or breach of warranty of fitness (see 5) (see source).


13. What is a “breach of warranty of fitness” in tort law?


There are two kinds of warranty of fitness.


  • Warranty of fitness for a particular purpose—wherein if a merchant knows you are buying something for a certain purpose and that you are relying on him or her to sell you the right thing, then there is an implied warranty that what the merchant is selling you is suitable for that purpose. (see source). For example, if you lived in Minneapolis, asked a mechanic to sell you winter tires, and he or she sold you ones that were unsafe in snow, you would have a “breach of warranty of fitness for a particular purpose.”

  • Warranty of merchantability—wherein if a merchant is in the business of selling a certain product, there is an implied warranty that the product you purchase from him or her is of at least average quality (see source). For example, if you bought tires from a tire dealer and they failed in 5,000 miles, the dealer can be held liable for breach of an “implied warranty of merchantability.”


14. What is “intentional infliction of emotional distress” in tort law?


These torts occur when someone acts atrociously or outrageously with the intention of causing you to suffer emotional distress of such severity that it could reasonably harm your mental health (E.g., promising you future harm). There are also separate areas of tort law including nuisance, defamation, invasion of privacy, and a category of economic torts.


15. What is “nuisance” in tort law?


There are two categories of nuisance in tort law:


  • Public nuisance—when a party unreasonably interferes with a right that the general public shares in common. Examples of private nuisances include vibration, pollution, smoke, foul odors, excessive light, or loud noises.

  • Private nuisance—when the use and enjoyment of your land are substantially and unreasonably interfered with by something or activity (see source). For example, your neighbor’s dog barks all night and prevents you from sleeping.


16. What is “defamation” in tort law?


Defamation is a statement that injures your reputation. There are two kinds. Written statements are called “libel” and spoken ones are called and “slander.”


Defamation can be difficult to prove because the difference between someone stating an opinion as opposed to his or her stating a fact can be vague. In this regard, defamation tests the limits of First Amendment freedoms of speech and press (see source).

https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/defamation.


17. What is “invasion of privacy” in tort law?


“Invasion of privacy” is a collection of torts that include:


  • Intrusion into seclusion—when someone intentionally intrudes upon your solitude or seclusion, physically or through electronic surveillance

  • Appropriation of likeness or identity—when someone uses your name, likeness, or image for commercial purposes without your permission

  • Public disclosure of private facts—when someone makes a highly offensive disclosure of private facts about you

  • Portrayal in a false light—when someone publishes something depicting you in an untrue or misleading way that would be considered highly offensive or embarrassing to a person of ordinary sensibilities


18. What are the different categories of damages relative to tort law?


There are three categories of damages relative to tort law:


  1. Special damages are also known as “hard cost” or economic damages and represent the measurable amounts of money that you have lost and will continue to lose because of an at-fault party’s negligence (e.g., medical bills and lost wages).

  2. Noneconomic damages are commonly called “pain and suffering” or sometimes “general damages.” They are paid to you for the intangible losses you have and will continue to endure because of an at-fault party’s negligence (e.g., psychological injury).

  3. Punitive damages are awarded to you above and beyond the “real value” of your claim as a way to punish (and make a cautionary example of) the at-fault party (see 19).


Special and noneconomic damages (2 + 3) together are often called “compensatory damages.”


19. What does the “real value” of a tort claim mean?


Your tort claim will feature unique facts and circumstances that affect its value. After reviewing your case with your tort attorney, he or she can estimate what your claim might be worth. Issues you will discuss during an initial consultation might include:


  • How severe are your injuries? Logically, severe injuries receive more compensation than minor ones. E.g., a broken leg will heal and you will fully recover. Contrariwise, a shattered ankle will have lifelong consequences.

  • What is the nature of your injuries? Some kinds of injuries bring about additional physical and/or psychological challenges. E.g., a person who has permanent visible scars or burns from an accident will probably receive more compensation than one who has not.

  • What is your long-term prognosis? If a full recovery is impossible (as in a spinal cord or traumatic brain injury), a person will probably be awarded more compensation.

  • What is your total economic loss? This is summed across various sources including but are not limited to:


✓ Medical expenses

✓ Rehabilitation costs

✓ Lost wages

✓ Costs for replacement services (E.g. the need to hire cleaning, handyman, lawn care, or other services)


  • What is the impact of injuries on your life? This considers noneconomic losses. E.g., loss of consortium, pain and suffering, reduced quality of life, effects on relationships, your ability to live your life as you did before you were injured, and more.

  • What are the insurance policy limits of the at-fault party? Such limits might prevent you from collecting the full amount of your claim. E.g., in a car accident, if your tort attorney values your claim at $1.5 million, you might only be able to collect a nominal third because the at-fault driver was only insured to $500,000.

  • Are you at comparative fault? If you were partially at fault for your accident, the value of your claim might be reduced by the proportion to which that is so. E.g., if it is determined that you are 30 percent to blame, your claim might be reduced by that percentage.


20. Why should you hire a tort injury lawyer?


Tort law is not for amateurs. It is a complex process by which you pursue fair and just compensation for the special, noneconomic, and/or punitive damages that you have endured because of what some person, company, or other entity did or failed to do. Except if you are a tort lawyer yourself, if you try to negotiate without legal counsel, the representatives of an at-fault party’s insurance company will undoubtedly have an enormous advantage over you in terms of knowledge and experience.


21. How much does it cost to hire a tort lawyer?


Galindo Law does not charge any upfront or out-of-pocket fees. We are only paid a percentage of the settlement we’re able to secure for you. So, by working with Galindo Law, you incur zero financial risk.


Remember, when it comes to a tort claim, you are not asking for charity. You deserve to be adequately compensated for your loss.



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