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All You Need To Know About Tort Law

Negligence or failing to meet an expected standard can negatively impact a person’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being. If you or a loved one has suffered physical, emotional, or financial loss because of another person or organization’s actions, you can seek compensation to remedy their actions. This is because of the rules set by tort law. 


Everyone must understand their rights under tort law. The best way to seek recourse is to discuss one’s situation with an experienced lawyer. If you are wondering, “What is tort law, and how can I file a claim against a person or entity?” Here is an overview of tort law, its various types, and how those affected by personal injuries may seek just compensation. 


What Is Tort Law?


Tort law is a branch of civil law that covers situations where one person or entity causes harm or injury to another person or their property. A tort is an act or omission that results in injury or harm to another person. In a tort case, courts can hold a person or entity liable for the damages another person experiences. 


Tort law aims to provide remedies for wronged individuals through compensation. Unlike criminal law, which punishes individuals for breaking rules, tort laws focus on compensating victims of negligence, intentional tort, or liability caused by another. 

Types of Tort


Tortious acts can be generally classified into three types: intentional torts, negligence, and strict liability.


  • Intentional Torts: These occur when someone deliberately harms another person or their property. Examples include assault, battery, defamation, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Intentional tortious acts can also be prosecuted as a crime. 


  • Negligence: The most common type of tort that occurs when someone fails to exercise reasonable care, resulting in harm to another person. This can include failing to maintain safe premises, negligent medical treatment, or careless driving.


  • Strict Liability: Strict liability applies when someone is held responsible for harm regardless of their intent or level of care. Tort liability often applies in cases involving defective products or dangerous activities, where the focus is on the inherent risk of the activity or product.


Tort Law vs. Criminal Law


Tort law and criminal law are handled differently. Some of their key differences include:



Tort Law

Criminal Law

Purpose

Provide compensation and remedies for wronged individuals for damages, losses, and other injuries.

Punish offending individuals to maintain social order and safety. 

Parties

The injured (plaintiff) and the party that allegedly caused harm (defendant)

The government (prosecution) and the accused offender (defendant)

Penalty

The defendant must pay compensatory damages for property damage, medical expenses, loss of wages, and additional compensation for non-tangible aspects, such as emotional distress. 


However, if the defendant’s actions are particularly malicious, the plaintiff may be awarded punitive damages to punish the defendant and deter others from repeating the actions. 

The defendant may face imprisonment, fines, community service, and other punishments. 

Intent

Depending on the type of tort, the defendant’s intent may or may not be a factor. 

There must be proof of the defendant’s intent to commit a crime. 


While tort law and criminal law are separate legal systems, an action can be both a tortious act and a crime. For example, X was drunk driving and caused the death of Y in a driving accident. Y’s surviving family could file a civil lawsuit against X for damages such as lost wages (especially if Y was the breadwinner), medical and funeral expenses, pain and suffering, and possibly punitive damages. Additionally, the state would also prosecute X for driving under the influence. 


Examples of Tort Law


Some common cases of tort law include several cases:


  • Automobile Accidents: A driver causing harm or injury to another driver, passenger, or pedestrian due to negligence, reckless driving, or other factors. 


  • Medical Malpractice: Healthcare professionals providing substandard or negligent care that results in patient harm or injury. Examples include surgical errors, misdiagnosis, delayed diagnoses, wrong prescriptions, or providing treatment without patient consent.


  • Product Liability: Product liability cases involve injuries or damages caused by defective or unsafe products. Manufacturers, distributors, or sellers may be liable for injuries resulting from design defects, manufacturing defects, or inadequate warnings or instructions.


  • Premises Liability: Injuries or damages that occur on someone else's property due to hazardous conditions or negligent maintenance. Examples of premises liability cases include slip-and-fall accidents caused by wet floors, tripping hazards, or inadequate lighting.


What Is South Carolina's Tort Claims Act?


South Carolinians who are wondering about tort law should also consider the state’s Tort Claims Act. This law sets rules in case accidents or injuries were caused by government employees or on government property. Under this act, individuals must follow specific procedures when filing a claim against the state, including providing notice within a certain timeframe and adhering to statutory limitations on damages. 


Some examples of tort cases covered by the Torts Claim Act:


  • Slip-and-Fall: If you slip and fall on a sidewalk maintained by the state government and suffer injuries, you could potentially file a claim under the Tort Claims Act.


  • Negligent Maintenance: If a driver or passenger is injured because of a pothole on a state road that has not been fixed despite numerous complaints, they may have grounds to file a claim under the Tort Claims Act for negligent road maintenance.


  • Medical Malpractice: If you receive medical treatment at a state-run hospital or clinic and suffer harm due to the negligence of a government-employed healthcare provider, you might pursue a claim under the Tort Claims Act.


  • Property Damage: If a government employee, such as a municipal worker, damages your property while performing their duties, you could seek compensation under the Tort Claims Act.

  • School Injuries: The actions of public school staff would fall under the Tort Claims Act. If a student is injured on school property due to negligence, such as a slip-and-fall on a wet floor that wasn't properly marked, or if a teacher’s actions cause harm to a student, the Torts Claims Act would govern the legal proceedings. 


Talk to an Experienced Attorney in South Carolina 


Understanding what tort law is and your right to just compensation is essential if you want to seek just remedies against someone else's negligence or wrongdoing. Knowing your rights under tort law can help you seek the compensation you deserve.


In case of tort cases and other cases of personal injury in South Carolina, we invite you to schedule a consultation with Littlejohn Law LLC. We have the experience to provide reliable legal guidance and careful representation for your best interests. 


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