The law imposes on us duties and standards. Those enforced through punishments such as prison, jail, fines, and probation fall under criminal law. In the civil arena, violations of legal duties constitute torts. Sometimes, the law addresses the same or similar conduct as both a crime and a tort. The distinctions between criminal law and tort law lie in the aims of these laws and how the consequences for the perpetrator.
Types of Torts
Torts carry different classifications based on the level of fault that gave rise to the tort and the right or interest violated.
Intentional vs Negligent
Certain torts require proof that the defendant intended to commit the act. In this group, you will find assault, battery, trespass, false imprisonment, and injury to personal property. The crime of stealing, which requires the intent to permanently deprive the lawful owner of the property involved, constitutes proof of conversion of personal property.
More often, a tort lawyer will deal with negligence cases. The crux of a negligence claim is the at-fault actor’s carelessness. If you’re injured in a motor vehicle crash, the potential torts can include a host of traffic violations — failure to stop at a stoplight or sign, failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident, not keeping a proper lookout, texting, driving while impaired and unsafe movements, to name a few.
Negligent acts occur off the road as well as on it. Such torts often involve creating unsafe conditions or products. A tort attorney may handle cases involving:
*Food or other contamination or unsanitary conditions
*Professional malpractice. These involve damages because professionals such as physicians, lawyers, engineers, accountants, and surveyors depart from accepted standards of practice and performance
A very small number of acts bring liability without the injured party’s need to show fault. These strict liability cases feature ultrahazardous activities, such as blasting.
Beyond Physical Personal Injuries
You may associate tort law with personal injury law. In these cases, especially automobile crashes, a plaintiff seeks damages for past and future medical expenses, pain and suffering, and lost wages and earning capacity. Certain torts cause losses beyond physical harm and associated damages. As such, here are some other classifications of torts by type of interest being protected:
Reputation and Privacy
*Appropriation of likeness
*Intrusion into seclusion
While defamation is universally recognized, not all states afford the right to sue for the other three claims.
*Tortious interference with contract
*Misappropriation of trade secrets
In a few states, a spouse can sue a paramour for alienation of the affections of the other spouse or criminal conversation (adultery). These claims for relief reside in the category of “heart-balm” torts.
To recover damages for the tortious act of another, you must file a civil lawsuit. As with most legal claims, you have a certain amount of time from the occurrence of the tort to start the lawsuit. Failing to satisfy the statute of limitations bars your recovery even if the defendant was clearly at fault and caused you harm.
The burden of proof and the end result of the legal action distinguish a tort lawsuit from criminal prosecution. In the latter, the prosecutor must prove the defendant’s proof beyond a reasonable doubt. A successful tort lawsuit requires that the defendant more likely than not committed the wrongful act and caused harm. Unlike a criminal action, where the chief purpose is punishment, courts in tort actions seek to compensate the victim as much as possible for losses. Plaintiffs can recover punitive damages when the tortious conduct involves or is accompanied by fraud, malice or a reckless disregard for the rights of the plaintiff.