Tort Law

What is Tort Law, and How Can Tort Lawyers in Greensburg, PA, Help You?

Are you dealing with an accident that left you feeling too drained and helpless to begin understanding what your insurance companies mean by “tort law”? Have you heard this terminology regarding a wrongful death claim but are unsure what that means? If you have these or any other questions surrounding tort law, you need help from the tort lawyers in Greensburg, PA, at Westmoreland Injury Lawyers.

What is Tort Law?

Tort law is the part of civil law that deals with acts or omissions that violate general social duties and cause harm. Such an act or omission is called a “tort,” from words in French and Latin that mean a “wrong” or something “twisted” and unjust. In other words, if someone has wronged you, tort law might be the way to right that wrong.

But that’s a heavy definition, so let’s break it down slightly.

You probably know you have been wronged because you have suffered some kind of harm. We usually think of physical injuries, but harm could also mean property damage or loss.

When someone wrongs you by not honoring an agreement with them, that would generally be a question for contract law, not tort law. Instead, tort law deals with wrong actions or omissions because society has generally decided we all have specific duties of treating each other even if we haven’t specifically agreed to those rules in a contract. For example, we all have duties not to punch people, steal things, or drive dangerously and cause car accidents. And notice that we usually say “acts or omissions” because sometimes people do things they should not do, and sometimes they fail to do something they should do.

So tort law differs from contract law on the one hand, but it also differs from criminal law. If someone punches you, steals your property, or drives recklessly, they might be committing both a tort and a crime. But criminal law is about the government holding people accountable for committing wrongs against the public order, which harms society in general.

Tort law aims to right wrongs between private parties, mainly by making the wrongdoer compensate the tort victim for the injuries and other harm they suffered. The fact that it’s about disputes between private parties (individuals, businesses, organizations, or even the government in certain situations, such as poor road design) makes it part of “civil law.”

What Are the 3 Types of Torts?

Three general categories of tort law include intentional torts, negligence, and strict liability torts.

1.      Intentional torts

The definition of an intentional tort is apparent: it’s a deliberate act that causes someone harm. Someone could commit an intentional tort even if they didn’t necessarily intend to cause harm—if they took action on purpose, they might be liable. This area is where the overlap between tort law and criminal law is most obvious. For instance, physical contact that causes harm, like punching, is the tort of “battery,” while “conversion” is a term for the private tort version of theft.

2.      Negligence

Negligence occurs when someone fails to live up to a social duty to act with reasonable care toward other people. Their action was not intentional—just careless—but it still caused harm. Tort law generally says someone is negligent if a reasonable person in the same situation acted more carefully. Negligence cases arise in many different situations, such as auto accidents, slip-and-falls, and medical malpractice.

If you are still unsure how to define this type of tort, think about insurance companies. If you purchase insurance, you are paying for coverage in case something happens, and you are a victim of some type of negligence. With car insurance specifically, the type of tort insurance you have can make a major difference in what kind of compensation you can try to get from the negligent party in the accident to cover things like medical bills or pain and suffering costs.

3.      Strict Liability

Intentional tort law holds people responsible for deliberate actions that cause harm, and negligence law holds people accountable for careless actions that cause harm. Strict liability law holds people responsible for certain kinds of actions that cause harm, even if they did not act intentionally or carelessly. The main situations in which the law may impose strict liability involve abnormally dangerous or ultrahazardous activities, animals, and products liability.

Some activities are so inherently dangerous that society has decided that people should be held responsible for harm they cause even if they’re being careful—the classic example is using or storing explosives. Other examples involve animals and products:

  • Animals can be dangerous and unpredictable, so the law generally holds animal owners strictly liable for harm the animals cause (especially when people own animals that are normally wild).
  • In product liability cases, such as those involving defective drugs or recalled defective products, it doesn’t matter if the manufacturer was careful when it designed or made the product. Victims only have to show that a product had a dangerous defect that caused them harm.

What Are the “Elements” of Negligence?

Of the three types of tort discussed above, the one most likely to have affected you or a loved one is negligence, so you might be curious to know a little more about what makes a negligence case. Generally speaking, lawyers say that negligence has four “elements.” That just means there are four things a victim of negligence must prove to have a successful claim: duty, breach, causation, and damages. Of course, if you are the victim of negligence, you don’t have to prove these things yourself—an experienced tort attorney in Greensburg, PA, at Westmoreland Injury Lawyers can make your case.

1.      Duty

Duty can be a tricky concept. Before the development of modern tort law, courts would only impose duties on people when they had particular relationships—if you didn’t have that kind of connection to someone who hurt you, you might be out of luck. In modern times, the law generally imposes a duty to act with reasonable care toward anyone you might foreseeably injure.

Often in negligence cases, the question is not whether there is a duty but rather the nature of that duty in different situations. For instance, the duty a driver has to drive carefully is different than the duty of a doctor to treat a patient using the same level of care as any other reasonable doctor with the same training in the same community. That’s why duty is an enormous factor in medical malpractice claims or car accident tort cases. Similarly, a property owner may have a different duty toward guests than to trespassers.

2.      Breach

Once we show someone had a particular duty to you, we next prove that they violated—or “breached”—that duty. This may be a simple question of whether they lived up to the specific limits of the responsibility we’ve already defined. Still, the law generally asks whether a reasonable person would have taken more precautions, considering the relative burden of being more careful and the severity and likelihood of injuries that might result without greater care.

3.      Causation

It may seem obvious that the defendant’s negligence caused your injuries, but many factors may have often contributed to the harm suffered by a victim of negligence. Having a tort lawyer for your Greensburg, PA, tort law case will help you establish that the defendant’s action or inaction led to your injuries.

Sometimes our tort lawyers in Greensburg, PA break causation into two parts: “Factual cause” just means that your injuries would not have actually happened (or at least would not have been as bad) if it were not for what the defendants did. “Proximate cause” usually means that what happened to you was foreseeable enough that the defendants should have realized it and been more careful—in other words, the law doesn’t make people pay for every single thing that happens as a result of their actions in a distant chain of events. Still, we can help you show that the defendants could have foreseen your injuries and should be held accountable.

4.      Damages

“Damages” is just a legal term for the injuries you’ve suffered as a victim of negligence. Technically, you must show physical injuries to a person or property. Simply put, to show that you’re entitled to compensation, you must prove that you’ve been harmed. The basic fact that you were injured is usually pretty simple. We will help prove the extent of your injuries and other losses to ensure you are fully compensated.

Common Law and Statutory Law

Tort law is mainly shaped by the “common law,” which refers to the rules developed by courts over time, as opposed to statutory law, which is the formal legal rules written by elected legislators. But statutes do affect tort law in some ways.

Maybe the most obvious way is through statutes of limitation that control how long you have to bring a claim to court. In Pennsylvania, under 42 Pa. C.S. § 5524, tort claims generally must be filed within two years, though there are details and exceptions about when that period runs out, and we can help you figure out if your claim is still timely.

Also, some statutes are about safety and make proving negligence claims easier. The simplest example is the speed limit law. If someone injures you in an auto accident, the fact that they were speeding may automatically establish that they were negligent, and we’ll just have to prove they caused your injuries.

Finally, statutes determine the rules of what is called “comparative negligence.” A long time ago, you could not sue someone for negligence if your injuries were partially your own fault. Most states have changed this by statute. Pennsylvania has a “modified comparative fault” statute that says you can sue and recover some compensation for your injury or injuries unless you yourself are 51% or more at fault.

Burden of Proof

In a tort case, plaintiff victims have the burden of proof, which means they must produce persuasive evidence that the defendant wrongdoers should be held responsible (and defendants don’t have to prove the opposite). But it’s important to remember that this burden is much easier to meet in tort than in criminal cases.

You are probably familiar with proving criminal guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt,” but in civil tort cases, plaintiffs only have to prove their claims by a “preponderance of the evidence.” This means they just have to tip the scales enough to show that the facts they’re alleging are ever so slightly more likely to be true than not true. So if you have been injured or harmed somehow, you may have a successful tort claim. But tort law is complicated, and pursuing your claim through negotiation and litigation takes expertise and experience.

Do You Need Help From the Best Tort Lawyers in Greensburg, PA?

If you think you might have a claim, you must contact a lawyer with the experience and knowledge to help you navigate a tort-related case. When you work with Westmoreland Injury Lawyers, you can rest assured knowing you will get the best help from tort lawyers in Greensburg, PA. We understand the ins and outs of tort laws and live here, too. Contact us now for a free consultation.

© 2024 , Westmoreland Injury Lawyers LLC. All Rights Reserved. Website, Hosting & SEO services provided by EZMarketing