What is a Tort Claim?
A tort is an act or omission that injures another. Torts give a victim the right to file an injury claim against their tortfeasor (the person who committed the tort and caused their injury). Most tort claims are based on negligence. However, these claims can also arise from intentional torts, such as battery and assault, or strict liability incidents, such as product defect and dog bite cases.
Tort claims provide compensation for a victim’s losses. One might pursue such compensation by filing an insurance claim or by filing a personal injury lawsuit. In some cases, they’ll do both.
Insurance Claims vs. Personal Injury Lawsuits
As mentioned above, negligence forms the basis of most tort claims. Negligence claims include motor vehicle accidents, slips and falls, medical malpractice, and premises liability incidents. Although the accident may differ, the elements of negligence are always the same: duty, breach, causation, damages.
Many tort matters start out as insurance claims, not lawsuits. After an accident, a victim will file a liability claim with a negligent party’s insurer to recover their losses. This process is most common after a car accident.
The insurer will assign an adjuster to investigate the victim’s claim. The victim will submit proof that the other party’s negligence caused them injury. They will also submit evidence of their losses, such as medical expenses and lost wages. Generally, the insurer will offer a settlement to compensate the victim.
If the victim accepts the settlement, they release the negligent party and their insurer from further liability for the accident. If the victim believes the offer is unfair, they can negotiate for a higher settlement.
If negotiations fail, the victim may initiate a personal injury lawsuit against the negligent party and their insurer. This process transfers the decision-making power from the insurer to a court or jury.
What Compensation Can I Recover in a Tort Claim?
Torts can cause a variety of injuries, both physical and psychological. Consequently, victims are entitled to recover compensation for their economic and non-economic damages after an injury.
These damages include money for financial losses and emotional/psychological losses, including:
- Medical expenses, past and future
- Lost income, including reduced earning capacity if your injuries limit your ability to return to work
- Costs of household services that you cannot perform
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Reduced quality of life
- Loss of consortium
Rare tort cases may be eligible for punitive damages. Punitive damages punish a defendant for egregious misconduct. They may be available in intentional tort cases, such as batteries or assaults. They are also available in select negligence cases, such as those involving drunk driving.
How to Pursue a Tort Claim
You can pursue a tort claim against the party who injured you by doing the following:
- Seek prompt medical care for your injuries to protect your health and preserve your injury claim
- Gather evidence and documentation of your claim
- Review your case with an attorney
- Permit your lawyer to file the claim and handle all correspondence with insurance companies
- Focus on your recovery while your lawyer handles your case
Hiring an attorney will give you the best chances of securing compensation for your tort claim. They will protect your best interests throughout the process.