Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Feb 5, 2020

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A tort is a wrongdoing that results in injury to another person or damage to property. Torts differ from crimes in that crimes are punishable by the state in criminal court, whereas torts generally allow individuals to seek compensation for their injuries in civil court. Some acts can be both a tort and a crime. For instance, threatening to seriously injure someone is, in tort law, an assault; the victim may be able to sue the perpetrator in civil court for compensation for the emotional distress caused by the tortious assault, while the state may seek jail time for the perpetrator in a criminal court.

In order to win a tort lawsuit, the plaintiff (the person who initiates the lawsuit) must show that the defendant (the person accused of wrongdoing in the lawsuit) had a duty to act in a particular manner, breached that duty, and actual damages or injuries occurred as a result of the breach.

The Three Types of Torts: Negligence, Intentional, and Strict Liability

There are three types of tort lawsuits that are available to plaintiffs seeking compensation for injuries.  The difference in torts depends not only on the actions of the defendant, but also on the conditions surrounding the incident.  

  • Negligent torts are careless acts that cause injuries or damage to another, and a plaintiff will need to show all the elements of negligence in order to succeed. Negligence torts are the most common, and an example of one is injury after a driver looks down at the radio and hits another car because he was not watching the road. 
  • Intentional torts are intentional acts that result in harm to others. In these cases, the court must consider the defendant’s mind set and whether or not he acted with the intent to perform the act that caused the harm. An example of an intentional tort might be purposefully punching someone in the face and breaking his nose during a fight. 
  • A strict liability tort is one in which the defendant will be held responsible simply because the act occurred, regardless of other factors. An example of this might be a legal finding that a person who keeps wild and dangerous animals on his property is completely responsible for any injuries or damage the animals cause, no matter how careful the owner is in trying to prevent harm.

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Tort laws can be complicated and vary from state to state. If you believe you have a tort claim or are being sued for a tort, look for an attorney with expertise in handling your specific issues to discuss your situation and any legal rights and remedies that may be available to you.