A tort is a wrong that involves a breach of a civil duty owed to someone else. It is differentiated from a crime, which involves a breach of a duty owed to society in general.
The term “tort” is derived from the Latin word “tortum” which means crooked or something twisted. The acts of nuisance, negligence, defamation, assault , trespass, property damage are considered to be torts. Some are also considered to be crimes and are punishable with imprisonment. The primary goal of this law is to provide the victim with the relief from the damages and to serve as an example to deter others from committing this type of crime. In case of the tort the injured person may also be sued for monetary damages and injunction to prevent the tortuous act. In addition, the injured party may recover some kind of damages like reasonable medical expenses, pain and suffering and loss or earnings during that period.
Torts can be generally classified into three categories:
- Intentional – In this case, an act is done intentionally to harm someone. In this situation, the defendant is aware, or should have been reasonably aware, that the action or inaction could prove to be harmful to others.
- Negligent – These normally occur when the actions of the defendant are considered to be unsafe.
- Strict Liability – These types of torts generally apply to defective products.
Though many acts can be considered to be both torts and crimes, prosecutions for crime are mostly the responsibility of the state, private prosecutions are rarely used; whereas any party who has been injured may bring a lawsuit for tort.
In tort law it is important for the plaintiff to show that harm has been caused. Someone who commits a tortious act is known as a tortfeasor. The equivalent of tort in civil law jurisdictions is delict.
For more legal definitions, visit our Glossary of Legal and Investigation Terms.