If you have ever needed to hire an attorney, you may have heard the phrase “tort law.” The meaning is very simple, as you’ll see from the tort law basics below.
What is tort law?
Tort laws covers the legal area that includes most civil suits. Usually, every claim that comes into civil court, except those dealing with contractual disputes, will fall under the umbrella of tort law.
Thus, if you hire a Long Island personal injury attorney, this professional will represent you in a case covered by tort law. Tort’s original intent was to provide victims with full compensation for proven harm, so the concept is simple; to redress damage or injuries suffered with monetary compensation.
Anyone found guilty of harming others under tort law basics must compensate the victim. Typical scenarios classed as harm are:
- Loss of income – Past, present and future
- Medical bills
- Payments for any pain and suffering
A court can also order payment of punitive damages. The intention is an extra punishment on top of the full compensation the plaintiff will have to pay out.
Tort law categories
There are separate categories that together form US tort law. These three torts are:
- Strict liability
Negligent torts cover harm done to others, due to a certain level of care not being exercised. Accidents, including slip and falls, are one of the best examples of a negligent tort.
Intentional torts, in comparison, deal with those harms decreed to have been carried out intentionally. Common examples fraud, theft, assault, and wilful misconduct.
Lastly, unlike intentional or negligence, strict liability torts don’t concern themselves with the culpability of whoever did the harm. Instead, this tort focuses on the act itself.
Thus, if somebody or some entity commits an act like producing a faulty product, this individual or company will be held responsible for any damages. That’s regardless whether it was intentional or not.
Examples of tort law
Tort law basics make even more sense when you read some real-life examples. Here are three different cases, with each one illustrating a distinct category of tort law.
1. Self-driving car accident under strict liability tort law
Let’s start with a Google self-driving car crashing into a bus in California in 2016.
In this case, the car sensed that sandbags surrounded a storm drain, and it swerved to avoid this hazard. That’s when the vehicle went straight into the side of the bus.
That event was the first time that a self drive car was reported as being the cause of an accident. Now think back to the strict liability category.
According to the strict liability tort law in the US, drivers are able to seek compensation from the manufacturer if a car has a faulty part, such as a tire or airbag. As this law has now been extended to include self-drive cars, Google would be liable for the damages as the car failed to recognize the bus as a hazard.
Related: Find out what to do if you’re in an Uber accident.
2. Intentional category: Hulk Hogan vs. Gawker
Former wrestler Hulk Hogan, whose real name is Terry Gene Bollea, sued Gawker Media after the Gawker website published a sex tape of him. His argument against the media company was invasion of privacy.
The ruling between the celeb and Gawker, which came after four years of litigation, is a fine example of intentional tort. Hogan was awarded compensation totaling $140 million after Gawker was found guilty of intentionally invading Hogan’s privacy in order to get video evidence of him taking part in a private act.
The compensation that Hulk Hogan received from the lawsuit was to cover emotional distress. Interestingly, the argument from Gawker’s legal team during the trial was that the video tape is newsworthy, protected by the US First Amendment, and that there was no reasonable expectation of privacy for Hogan in this instance.
3. Amy Williams sues Quest/Athena under negligence tort
This final example of tort law basics is a heartbreaking scenario. In 2016, mother Amy Williams filed a negligence tort lawsuit against the lab Athena Diagnostics and its corporate owner, Quest Diagnostics, for the wrongful death of her child.
In this legal case, Williams put forth the argument that the centre had misclassified a gene mutation in the child, which had directly resulted in him suffering a massive seizure. Sadly, he died from this seizure, an event that happened a year after the lab’s diagnosis.
Under negligence law, William’s legal argument was that certain tests had not been carried out and due to this negligence the child had been misdiagnosed and not received the correct treatment. This particular case is still ongoing, over a decade after the fatal event.