In law, tort is a term that describes any situation where one party wrongfully causes losses or damages to another party. The law allows for the injured party to recover money from the person who caused the tort. In fact, “tort law” and “personal injury law” are often used interchangeably.
Tort law is a form of civil law, the type of law that deals with disputes rather than criminal acts. Family law (such as divorce cases) and contract law, where disputes over contracts are resolved, are also branches of civil law. In civil cases, normally no one goes to jail or gets fined by the government. Instead, the goal is to reach a satisfactory conclusion that sets things right between the parties.
How does tort law make things right?
In tort law the party who caused the damage or injury usually has to pay money to the victim. In some cases, this money can fix the harm done—for example, paying to repaint a fence after backing into it with a car. In most tort cases, however, money cannot truly replace what was lost. For example:
- The victim of a home break-in sues the thief who committed the crime. Among the things stolen was an heirloom engagement ring. The ring has already been hocked and cannot be recovered. The thief is ordered to pay the victim money to replace the ring. The financial cost has been made up, but the emotional loss can never be fixed.
- A drunk driver strikes a child who was lawfully crossing the street. The child lives, but their leg is shattered. Even after surgery, they will walk with a limp the rest of their life. The drunk driver pays the hospital costs as well as additional money to compensate for the severe injury. The child’s family has more than recovered their financial losses, but the child’s life will be forever changed.
Even though money cannot undo the injury or tort in most cases, the money is considered very important by both the victims and the legal system. This money helps give the victim of a tort a chance to move on despite the loss they’ve suffered. It may help them make something good out of a tragic circumstance. Or, it may simply help them stay afloat financially after the tort leaves them unable to work, or with a permanent change in their life.
On another level, the money also helps send a message that people cannot be reckless with others’ lives, and deters people from acting negligently.
What are examples of common torts?
There are hundreds of types of torts that can come to the courts, but some of the most common include:
- Car accidents
- Pedestrian accidents
- Nursing home abuse
- Construction accidents
- Dangerous drugs
- Defective medical devices
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