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What Is a Tort Lawsuit?

A tort lawsuit is a legal proceeding where one individual sues another for doing physical harm to them.
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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 12 March 2014
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A tort lawsuit is a legal proceeding in which a person sues another party for injuring him. For example, a person may file a tort lawsuit after someone breaks his nose in a fight or hits him with his car. Additionally, tort lawsuits are often filed because of medical malpractice or some other type of negligence. In most jurisdictions, tort lawsuits are filed when a person wants compensation for his injury rather than, or in addition to, criminal prosecution. The laws of many jurisdictions allow a person to be compensated for pain that he has suffered as well as lost wages and medical expenses; some allow a person to sue for emotional suffering as well.

In most cases, a tort lawsuit is filed by the person who suffered an injury or his legal representative; a person often chooses to retain a lawyer to represent him in a tort lawsuit. In some cases, however, the family members of a person who has been injured may sue on his behalf. For instance, a parent may sue on behalf of a minor child or a spouse may sue on behalf of a spouse who can no longer speak for himself. Sometimes people even sue on behalf of loved ones who have died because of another person’s actions or lack of action.

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Many people think of tort lawsuits only in terms of the money that may be awarded. These lawsuits may serve another important purpose, however. They may help to discourage certain types of actions and encourage people to be careful in the things they do. For example, a person may drive more carefully if he knows he can be sued for hitting another driver. Likewise, a person may be more likely to refrain from starting a fight if he knows he can be sued for breaking another person’s nose.

The laws regarding tort lawsuits and the compensation amounts a person can sue for may differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction; the grounds for beginning a lawsuit may vary as well. In many jurisdictions, a person can represent himself in a tort lawsuit, but that isn’t always the best option. Tort law can be complex, and proving one's case may be difficult. For this reason, many people turn to lawyers to help them put together a case or mount a defense against one. Choosing a lawyer who has significant tort experience in the jurisdiction is typically beneficial.

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Discuss this Article

MrsWinslow
Post 3

@robbie21 - While there's no protection against your rates going up, a good way to protect yourself against lawsuits is to take out a personal liability umbrella policy. They're not that expensive and they can cover up to millions of dollars in liability, much more than most people have available through their homeowner's or car insurance.

The umbrella coverage kicks in if you are found liable for pretty much anything and the amount of damages exceeds the limit of the car or homeowner's insurance. It's a good idea for anyone to protect their assets!

dfoster85
Post 2

@robbie21 - I am truly sorry for your brother's situation, and I hope that it is temporary as the accident fades into the background. I'm sure he meant no harm; even a good driver can have an at-fault accident.

But I don't think that the solution you propose is workable. If people had to pay their lawyers up front, then unscrupulous people would know that it was safe to take advantage of poor people because they would never be able to file a lawsuit! Bad doctors would know that they could do whatever they wanted to indigent patients without fear of getting sued.

Besides, it might not reduce the number of lawsuits. If lawyers got paid win or lose, they would have an incentive to drum up cases by telling people they were sure to win, then just pocketing the fees!

There are bad people in any field, and personal injury law is no exception. But a friend of mine is a personal injury lawyer, and he's not what you imagine. Sure, he likes to make money. But he's really careful what cases he chooses and he really feels for his clients. Remember, they've been injured. When he gets a settlement for someone who's going to be in a wheelchair the rest of his life, he really feels like he's helped.

robbie21
Post 1

It's horrifying to me how vulnerable we all are to this kind of lawsuit. If someone slips on the ice in front of your house, you could wind up going bankrupt! We live in such a litigious society now.

It's so easy to file a lawsuit because personal injury lawyers don't charge anything up front. I think that it should be illegal for them to take cases on contingency like that. People should have to pay their lawyers a flat rate, whether they win or lose. That would discourage them from filing frivolous lawsuits.

I just don't know how they live with themselves when they ruin someone's life like that. My brother injured someone in a car accident. Key word, *accident.* His insurance paid the claim, but now he is almost uninsurable because of it. He has to pay incredibly high premiums through the state high risk pool. It's keeping him from going back to school or saving up to buy a house.

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