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What is Tort Liability?

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  • Written By: Renee Booker
  • Edited By: E. E. Hubbard
  • Last Modified Date: 16 November 2016
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Tort law is the body of law that addresses injuries and provides legal remedies for victims to be compensated for those injuries. Tort liability refers to the responsibility that a person, or entity, has for injuries caused. Jurisdictions throughout the world differ in their approach to tort liability; however, there are some commonalities. In most jurisdictions, tort liability may be found through strict liability, intentional acts, or negligence. Car accident cases are the most widely recognized type of tort liability case, although other examples include product liability cases, professional malpractice cases, and workplace injury cases.

The person, or entity, who commits a tort is called a tortfeasor. A tortfeasor may be held liable based on a strict liability tort. Strict liability does not look at the intentions of the tortfeasor, or any precautions the tortfeasor took in order to prevent harm. Strict liability dictates that when a tortfeasor's actions or ommissions caused the plaintiff's harm, then he or she is liable and the plaintiff is entitled to compensation. Dog bite injuries by certain breeds of dogs are frequently considered strict liability torts due to the inherently dangerous nature of some dog breeds.

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At the other end of the spectrum are intentional torts. As the name implies, an intentional tort is an act or omission that was done intentionally by the tortfeasor. Battery is often considered an intentional tort. Although battery may also be charged as a criminal offense, under many legal systems, a civil lawsuit for the intentional tort of battery may also be filed against the person who committed the battery.

The vast majority of tort liability, however, is negligent liability. Negligence usually requires the plaintiff to show four elements in order to be entitled to compensation for his or her injuries. A duty of care from the tortfeasor to the plaintiff as well as a breach of that duty of care must be shown. The plaintiff must also prove that the tortfeasor's conduct caused his or her injuries and must provide evidence of damages or injuries.

Injuries in a tort liability case are not always limited to physical injuries. Financial injuries, emotional injuries, and injuries to property may also be compensable in an injury case. The type of compensation to which a plaintiff is entitled will be dictated by the jurisdiction in which the case is filed. A plaintiff is always entitled to actual damages—often referred to as special or economic damage—which represent the actual costs incurred by the plaintiff as a result of the tortfeasor's conduct. A plaintiff may also be entitled to aggravated damages which include compensation for emotional injuries, or to punitive damages which are intended to punish the tortfeasor for his actions.

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