Tort Law and Personal Injury Part I
Tort law is “the law of civil wrongs.” The word derives from the French word for “wrong” and from the Latin word tortum, which means twisted or crooked.
A tort is a wrongful act between private parties that causes pain and suffering in some capacity. It exists for at least three reasons: (1) to compensate the plaintiff, (2) to deter a person from acting in a way that may cause injury to another and (3) to punish people who wrongfully injure others (as was the case in Liebeck v. McDonald’s). The plaintiff must show, through a preponderance of evidence, that his assertions are more likely than not to be true, in order to be awarded damages.
There are three major categories of tort law: negligence, strict liability, and intentional torts.
The first part of a negligence case is showing that a legal duty existed. It means that a person has a reasonable responsibility towards others. If you driving a car, you have a legal duty to act reasonably to avoid harming others. This means that you are not texting and driving, and you are paying attention to the road. A doctor’s reasonable care means that the care provided is aligned with the doctor’s experience and expertise, and what others doctors with similar qualifications would do.
The second part is proving that the defendant breached this duty. If the defendant was texting on his or her cell phone, that violates his or her duty to make sure others are safe on the road.
The final two parts of a negligence claim are causation and harm. The question you should ask is: did the breach of duty cause the harm?
Let’s take the texting driver. If he or she was texting, staring at his phone, ran a red light and t-boned another vehicle, then it can be shown the texting caused the harm.
Strict liability is an action that automatically assigns liability, regardless of a person’s intent or mental state when committing the action. Finding and determining fault is not necessary.
Three common examples of strict liability torts are defective products, drunk driving, and possession of certain animals, like pangolins and gorillas.
Intentional torts are wrongful acts done on purpose – intentionality does not matter. An assault is an example of an intentional tort done on purpose. If you surprise someone who has a heart condition, and the person has a heart attack and dies, that is an intentional tort.
If you’ve been injured due to negligence or wrongful conduct, you may be entitled to damages. Contact us today at (202) 955-4529 for a free case evaluation.