What is a Tort? A Tort Law Primer

Tort Law is about civil wrongs and legal remedies

A tort is a civil wrong, and it may also be a crime. A punch in the nose is the tort of battery, and may also be the crime of battery. Intentional torts are those actions that a tortfeasor actually intended to inflict. Intentional torts include: assault; battery; conversion (wrongfully taking someones property); defamation of character (slander, a spoken defamation and libel, a written defamation.); false imprisonment; trespass; intentional infliction of emotional distress; fraud; and invasion of privacy. A negligent tort is one committed without intent.



Tort cases, most of which are personal injury cases, are the largest part of our court systems dockets. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics of the Department of Justice, about 60% of state court civil cases are torts, including automobile accidents, medical malpractice and product liability. If tort cases were fuel, the legal system would run on them. In addition to state court cases, torts are also prevalent in the federal courts, including cases arising under federal law and diversity of citizenship cases. A case where a federal court has jurisdiction because the parties are from different states is one based on diversity of citizenship, which means that a simple motor vehicle accident case can be brought in federal court. Tort cases present the American legal system with an endless rainbow of different facts, as diverse as the facts in two different car accidents.

A few years ago, while driving from Santa Fe to Albuquerque, New Mexico, I came upon one of the most amazing advertising road signs I had ever seen. Projecting from the sign was the rear end of a full-sized Buick, and was artfully designed to look as if it had crashed into the sign. In large letters the passing motorist is advised: Had an accident? Call Who said pain cant be fun and profitable?

What is Personal Injury Law?

Personal injury (PI) law is a subset of tort law, a civil wrong. Usually its based on negligence, but not always. If you punch me in the nose you have committed the tort of battery, which is an intentional tort, not negligence. But negligence is where the pay dirt is, because negligence means insurance, and a deep pocket. This is because you cannot buy insurance to cover you against intentional acts, which makes a lot of sense. No company is going to insure you for punching people, because you can control that. Insurance http://ficorama.net/blog/2015/06/finding-meeting-workers-compensation-attorney/ is meant to cover you for mistakes, for negligence. That is why a smart lawyer will always allege at least one count of negligence, even if the tort seems to be obviously intentional. The simple allegation of negligence in a lawsuit creates a duty on the part of an insurance company to defend you, and although the company can refuse to pay (indemnify) you if a jury finds no negligence, the very presence of the insurance company will lead to settlement discussions. Getting back to the punch-in-the-nose example, a diligent tort lawyer needs only allege in the complaint that the defendant carelessly punched plaintiff in the nose. Its at least arguable that the assailant only meant to scare the plaintiff and negligently misjudged his swing, resulting in a broken nose. Youre in good hands with Allstate!

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