What Does ‘Tort’ Mean?

If you were recently injured in an accident and you had a discussion or two about your situation with friends or family, you may have heard the word “tort” thrown around a bit, but do you know what it means and how it applies to you?

The word “tort” refers to an act or omission that injures or harms another person; the courts consider it a civil wrong and as a result, a court can decide that the wrongdoer is liable for any harm they caused.

For example, imagine a dog owner let his dog run loose in his front yard. A mother and child walked by the house on the sidewalk and the dog ran out and viciously attacked the toddler, mauling his face, arms and trunk. The dog owner would be held liable for the child’s medical bills, pain and suffering, and other damages because he was negligent in letting his dog roam freely without a leash or being confined behind a gate.

Three Primary Goals of Tort Law

The thing about torts is they are almost always preventable. Generally, a tort action arises when someone was careless, reckless, or negligent and as a direct result, someone else was harmed. For instance, if a woman were to drink two bottles of wine at her friend’s house then drive home and cause a drunk driving accident, seriously injuring another driver, the innocent party could then sue the drunk driver for her reckless behavior.

The primary goal of tort law is to provide the relief injured parties deserve when they’re harmed by others. The secondary goal is to make liable parties pay for the harm they caused, and the third goal is to deter others from engaging in careless and negligent behavior that can harm innocent people in the process.

Three categories of torts:

  1. Intentional torts (intentionally hurting someone, such as an assault)
  2. Negligent torts (e.g. accidental injuries like car accidents)
  3. Strict liability torts (e.g. product liability)

“In the vast majority of tort cases, the court will award compensatory damages to an injured party that has successfully proven his or her case. Compensatory damages are typically equal to the monetary value of the injured party’s loss of earnings, loss of future earning capacity, pain and suffering, and reasonable medical expenses. Thus, courts may award damages for incurred as well as expected losses,” according to Cornell Law School.

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