Included under the law of tort are miscellaneous civil wrongs, ranging from simple, direct interferences with the person such as assault, battery, false imprisonment, or injury in an accident. Tort law also involves damage to property, as in the case of trespass or conversion, and includes intangible interests such as reputation as thought of with libel or slander (written or spoken) and commercial interests such as patent or intellectual property law.
Criminal law is different from tort law in that criminal law typically requires a direct intent to commit a wrong. One major difference is that insurance covers non-intentional acts that cause harm or damage but insurance will not cover an intentional act. If you decide to run over your ex, your insurance will not pay for it.
The idea of tort law is that you should have known better but did it anyway. Sometimes people run stop signs that they don’t know are there. In almost every case of tort law, people are careless in that they either didn’t see the other driver or they didn’t see the stop sign but they certainly did not intend to cause harm. Tort law is the law of carelessness and negligence. It’s creating a danger that could have and should have been avoided.
When lawyers think about the idea of this kind of law we think about the law of England that was handed down to us that is known as “Common Law”. Common Law is really the law of what a reasonable person under the same circumstances would do. If a person acts differently than a jury finds a reasonable person would have acted then in those instances where harm is caused the person who didn’t act reasonably is responsibly monetarily for the harm they caused. In criminal cases the penalties include fines, imprisonment and even death. In civil tort cases a jury assesses the harms and losses and balances the scales of justice with money damages.
I think that as we become more diverse in society, the reasonable person standard may be more difficult to agree upon and people charged with assessing damages on a jury are a little more comfortable with a specific rule that has been broken. This type of law dealing with specific codes and laws is based on the Napoleonic or French idea of law which we still find prevalent in the State of Louisiana. More often than not, we see a combination of someone being careless and a rule being broken. For example, they didn’t see the stop sign which is carelessness and they ran it which is breaking a rule. In either or both cases, that person is responsible for the harm they cause.
Buckle up and drive safely.
McCutcheon & Hamner, P.C.
2210 Helton Drive
Florence, Alabama 35630