A tort is an act or omission that harms or injures another person. In other words, another person causes you to sustain an injury or other harm because of their actions.
Torts are generally based on negligence claims, but they could arise from intentional acts or strict liability. Claims are causes of action against other parties based on facts that create a right that can be enforced in court.
A tort claim arises when one is seeking compensation for damages caused by another party’s conduct. For example, an injured person files a tort claim to recover reimbursement for financial losses and compensation for pain and suffering when they sustain injuries and other losses.
Filing Insurance Claims and Lawsuits Seeking Compensation for Torts
Most accident victims pursue tort claims by filing an insurance claim with the at-fault party’s insurance provider. The person may file a personal injury lawsuit if the insurance company refuses to settle the claim for a fair amount.
Most tort claims settle without filing a lawsuit. Instead, the injured party submits evidence that the other party’s conduct caused their injuries and damages.
For example, a driver ran a red light and caused a car accident. As a result, the accident victim sustained a broken leg and traumatic brain injury. In addition, the person incurred financial losses, including lost wages and medical bills. The victim also experienced pain and suffering because of the injuries.
The insurance company investigates the claim to determine if the insured is liable for damages. If the insurance company accepts liability, it might make an initial settlement offer. Generally, initial settlement offers are lower than the value of the claim.
The victim has the right to negotiate a higher settlement amount. If settlement negotiations fail, the accident victim may file a personal injury lawsuit. However, filing a personal injury lawsuit for a tort claim does not mean the matter goes to trial.
Many lawsuits settle after the discovery phase. During discovery, the parties learn more about the other side’s case. Learning the weaknesses and strengths of the other party’s case can encourage a party to settle the case for a reasonable amount.
If the matter goes to trial, both parties present their evidence and witnesses. The jury members consider the evidence to decide if the driver is liable for the victim’s injuries. If so, the jury awards the victim an amount for damages.
Circumstances That Can Result in a Tort Claim
Numerous accidents and incidents can cause injuries that result in tort claims. A party may have a tort claim for injuries caused by:
A party is negligent when they fail to exercise the level of care a reasonably prudent person would have used in a situation. Examples of negligence torts include, but are not limited to:
- Car accidents
- Wrongful death cases
- Dog bites
- Slip and fall accidents
- Medical malpractice
- Construction accidents
- Bicycle accidents
- Pedestrian accidents
- Nursing home abuse
- Daycare injuries
The injured party must prove the elements of negligence: duty of care, breach of duty, causation, damages. If you cannot prove all elements of negligence, you cannot recover compensation for a tort claim.
Strict Liability Torts
Strict liability holds the party liable for an injury and damages even if they did not intend to cause the injury. An injured person does not need to prove negligence to hold the party strictly liable.
Examples of strict liability torts include:
- Defective product claims
- Keeping wild animals
- Engaging in an abnormally dangerous activity
All the person needs to prove is that the party’s conduct was the proximate and direct cause of their injury. They must also prove that the injury resulted in damages.
Intentional torts include assault, murder, and other deliberate acts of violence. An intentional tort might result in criminal charges. However, the criminal charges are separate from any civil claim that the victim might file seeking compensation for damages.
What Compensation Can a Victim Receive for a Tort Claim?
Torts can result in catastrophic injuries, permanent impairments, and wrongful deaths. The compensation victims might receive depends on the facts of the case. Compensation for damages might be reduced under comparative fault laws if the injured party is partially to blame for the cause of the accident.
- Past and future cost of medical treatment, personal care, and long-term nursing care
- Current and past loss of income and benefits
- Future reductions in earning potential
- Permanent impairments, disfigurement, and disabilities
- Physical pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Mental anguish
- Reduced quality of life
- Emotional distress
In some tort cases, a jury might award punitive damages. These damages do not compensate the injured party for damages. Instead, punitive damages “punish” the defendant for specific types of conduct.
Texas law states that punitive damages may be awarded when there is clear and convincing evidence the harm was caused by gross negligence, malice, or fraud. However, only a few tort cases justify punitive damages awards.
How Can You Pursue a Tort Claim?
If another person causes your injury, taking the following steps can help you recover compensation for a tort claim:
- Report the injury immediately, such as calling 911 for a car accident or reporting a fall the property owner
- Seek immediate medical attention for your injuries and complete the treatment plan
- Do not admit fault for the cause of the accident or your injury
- Gather evidence and documentation of your injuries and damages
- Do not agree to provide a written or recorded statement for the insurance company
- As soon as possible, contact a Houston personal injury lawyer to discuss your case
The insurance company for the other party seeks to limit liability for damages. Claims adjusters and other insurance company representatives are not trusted sources of legal advice for injury claims.
Instead, talk with a lawyer about your case. Discuss your legal options for filing a claim. An accident lawyer has the resources, skills, and experience necessary to investigate claims, identify liable parties, and pursue compensation for tort claims.