What is a Tort?

A personal injury lawyer provides legal services to people injured as a result of various types of torts. A tort is wrongful conduct that results in civil, as opposed to criminal, liability. A tort case is brought by the party claiming to have been injured against the party whose wrongful conduct or omission is claimed to have caused the injury. Personal injury lawyers represent the claimant, who is the plaintiff if a lawsuit is filed.

Types of Torts

There are three broad categories of torts:

  • Torts arising from intentional conduct;
  • Torts arising from negligence; and
  • Torts that result in strict liability.

Intentional Torts

Intentional conduct may result in both civil and criminal liability.  But a criminal case is prosecuted by the State and may result in the defendant paying a fine or being imprisoned, while a civil case is prosecuted by a private party and may result in a money judgment against the defendant.  Examples of intentional torts are:

  • Assault;
  • False imprisonment;
  • Conversion;
  • Intentional infliction of emotional distress;
  • Fraud;
  • Trespass; and
  • Defamation.

Personal injury lawyers typically charge a contingent fee and finance the costs of pursuing a personal injury claim on behalf of their clients. Their clients typically do not pay anything as their case progresses.  The lawyer is only paid when their clients recover from another party and the amount of their fee is based on the amount of their client’s recovery.  Most auto and homeowner insurance policies exclude coverage for bodily injury arising out of intentional torts.  So personal injury lawyers frequently will not handle personal injury claims arising out of intentional torts, because there is no insurance available to pay for any recovery and their fees and costs.

Negligence Torts

Negligence is the failure to exercise ordinary care under the circumstances that causes injury to another.  This is by far the most common type of tort.  This is the type of tort auto and homeowners insurance policies are designed to cover.  Examples of negligence torts include:

  • Car, motorcycle, truck, pedestrian and bicycle accidents;
  • Slip and fall, and trip and fall accidents (premises liability); and
  • Medical and dental malpractice.

Strict Liability Torts

Strict liability torts are cases in which a wrongdoer may be held responsible for the claimant’s injuries without proof of negligence or other fault.  Examples of strict liability torts include:

  • Injury from defective products (products liability);
  • Injury from dog bite cases; and
  • Injury from abnormally dangerous activities.

In defective product cases a manufacturer may be held liable even though it did not intend for the consumer to be injured.  In dog bite cases, dog owners may be held liable even though they did not know their dog could be dangerous.