Tort law is the name given to a body of law that creates, and provides remedies for, civil wrongs that do not arise out of contractual duties. A person who is legally injured may be able to use tort law to recover damages from someone who is legally responsible, or “liable,” for those injuries. Generally speaking, tort law defines what constitutes a legal injury, and establishes the circumstances under which one person may be held liable for another’s injury. Torts cover intentional acts and accidents.
For instance, if somebody throws a ball and hits a pedestrian in the eye, the pedestrian may sue the ball thrower for losses occasioned by the accident (for example, costs of medical treatment or lost income during time off work). Whether or not the pedestrian wins will depend on whether he can prove the thrower engaged in tortious conduct. If the person threw the ball at the pedestrian on purpose, the pedestrian could sue for the intentional tort of battery. If it was an accident, the pedestrian must establish negligence. To do this, the pedestrian must show that his injury was reasonably foreseeable, that the thrower owed him a duty of care, and that the thrower fell below the standard of care required of him. One of the main issues in negligence law is determining the “standard of care” – a legal phrase that means distinguishing between when conduct is or is not negligent.
In much of the western world, the touchstone of tort liability is negligence. Unless the injured person can prove that the person they believe injured them acted with at least negligence to cause their injury, tort law will not compensate them. Tort law also recognizes intentional torts and strict liability, which apply to defendants who engage in certain actions.