Tort law, defined in common law legal systems, “is a body of law that addresses and provides remedies for civil wrongdoings not arising out of contractual obligations. Torts are intentional, negligent, or strict liability.” Generally speaking, tort law defines what constitutes a legal injury and establishes the circumstances under which one person may be held liable for another’s injury. The two largest categories of conduct on which liability may be predicated are intentional and negligent torts.
Torts are divided into basic types:
2. Intentional harm to a person
3. Intentional harm to tangible property
4. Strict liability
6. Harm to economic interests
7. Harm to intangible property interests
Typically, the most common tort is due to negligence and the negligent use of an automobile.
Some torts are not from pure negligence but are intentional. Intentional torts are crimes because of the harm done by one person to another. Assault and battery is included in tort law as is false imprisonment and intentional mental distress.
With tort law, the difficulty of the case is based on the amount of negligence. One party must prove that the other party caused injury due to being negligent. Injury is also defined broadly with tort law. Injury does not just mean a physical injury. Injuries in tort law reflect any invasion of any number of individual interests. These interests include property rights.
Intentional harm to tangible property includes Trespass to Land, Trespass to Chattels and Conversion.
Among intentional torts may be certain torts arising out of the occupation or use of land. One such is the tort of nuisance, which connotes strict liability for a neighbor who interferes with another’s enjoyment of his real property. Trespass allows owners to sue for incursions by a person (or his structure, for example an overhanging building) on their land. There is a tort of false imprisonment, and a tort of defamation, where someone makes an unsupportable allegation represented to be factual which damages the reputation of another.
With strict liability, the tort is based on a product. The duty to warn is often applied to potentially dangerous products. For example, crashworthiness of cars; hazards and side effects of medications. This is why cigarettes have warning labels. Even ladders now have warning signs on them! Are the products safe for their intended use?
There is also what is called a “strict liability tort” which exists even though the person acted with extreme caution and did not intend to cause harm.
Tort law may also be used to compensate for injuries to a number of other individual interests that are not recognized in property or contract law, and are intangible. This includes an interest in freedom from emotional distress, privacy interests, and reputation. These are protected by a number of torts such as infliction, privacy torts, and defamation. Defamation and privacy torts may, for example, allow a celebrity to sue a newspaper for publishing an untrue and harmful statement about him. Other protected interests include freedom of movement, protected by the intentional tort of false imprisonment.
Workers’ compensation laws were a legislative response to the common law torts doctrine placing limits on the extent to which employees could sue their employers in respect of injuries sustained during employment.
Two types of damages may be recovered in a civil tort suit: compensatory damages and punitive damages, however, some states do not allow punitive damages in tort actions. Compensatory damages are as they are labeled- they have to do with compensation. The compensation that is awarded is usually required for the repair or restoration of property damages.
If damages were personal, then compensatory damages would also cover medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering and cover an estimated loss of future earnings.
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