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What is a tort?

Filed under FAQs, Insurance Claims, Types of Accidents on December 17, 2011


All drivers in Pennsylvania are required by law to carry certain types and minimum amounts of insurance coverage, including tort coverage. Drivers have the option of purchasing full tort or limited tort coverage, and your rights to sue for damages are affected by which tort coverage you choose.

Legal Definition: Tort

A Tort is a civil wrongdoing that establishes there are grounds for a lawsuit. It most civil lawsuits, in order to get damages for pain and suffering a tort must have occurred. Sometimes, a tort may also involve a criminal aspect. For example, a pedestrian is struck by a drunk driver. The victim (or victim’s family if the accident was fatal) can sue the driver in civil court for compensation including damages, but the driver could also be prosecuted for drunk driving or other charges in criminal court.

Even if someone is found innocent of a crime by a criminal court, they can still be sued separately in civil court.

In Pennsylvania, drivers have the option of purchasing full tort or limited tort auto insurance coverage. It is very important that you understand the difference between full tort and limited tort because selecting the wrong policy will limit your rights to sue someone in the event of a car accident.

Tort Damages Compensate the Victim and Punish The Offender

Tort law is mostly intended to provide a means for victims to be compensated from suffering a wrongdoing. Because tort law involves financial compensation as a punishment, a victim may be awarded “punitive” damages. Damage awards are sometimes rather large; this helps deter others from committing the same acts of harm.

There are many types of damages the injured party (plaintiff) may recover for present and future expenses and losses, including:

  • Lost income and loss of future earnings capacity;
  • Pain and suffering (emotional distress);
  • Loss of consortium (companionship);
  • Medical expenses;
  • Funeral expenses.

Types of Torts

There are many specific torts (including assault and battery) but the main three categories of torts that most often would apply in car accidents are:

  • Intentional Torts are created by actions that were purposely done with the intention to cause injury or harm such as purposely hitting another car or a pedestrian. Examples include road rage where a driver hits another car or ran down a pedestrian on purposes.
  • Negligent Torts exist when reckless or careless behavior caused, or substantially contributed, to the accident. For example, driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, distracted driving (i.e., texting while driving) or, failing to obey speed limits, running red lights, or driving aggressively (cutting others off, lane weaving, etc.)
  • Strict liability Torts Car and auto parts manufacturers and distributors can be held liable for accidents caused by making and/or selling defective products. In the case of strict liability torts, it must be proven that the defendant knew or should have known would about potential dangers; failed to warn consumers about danger(s); or their actions or inactions were to be considered unsafe. Examples include defect airbags, brake systems, cars that suddenly accelerate, or defective tires that “blow out” causing a serious accident.

Pennsylvania Car Accident Tort Lawyers

Insurance companies are risk takers. They charge premiums based on many factors, including your age, driving record, and if you have previously filed auto insurance claims. And one thing is certain, even if you were paying high premiums, when it comes to compensating you after an accident, the insurance company will look to find ways to pay you less than what you may be entitled to.

If an insurance company has told you it is in your best interest to accept their settlement offer, no matter how large you might think the offer is, our attorneys can probably do better for you because insurance companies want to pay you less — not more — than they have to.¬† For a free initial consultation contact our Philadelphia PA car accident lawyers today.


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