What Is a Tort Claim?

In a nutshell, a tort claim is a legal right to compensation for harm or injury caused by someone else’s negligence or intentional misconduct. A tort claim is not necessarily a lawsuit, although it can justify one. 

This type of claim can also justify seeking compensation directly from an insurance company, an individual, or an organization responsible for the harm or injury.

Categories of Tort Claims

Following is a list of the most common types of tort claims:

  • Negligence (carelessness)
  • Medical malpractice (negligent treatment of a patient)
  • Intentional misconduct
  • Product liability (defective products)
  • Defamation 
  • Trespassing
  • Nuisance

Personal injury lawyers typically do not deal with the last three of these categories.

How Tort Claims Work

Every category of tort claim has its own method of proof. See below for details.

Negligence Claims

Negligence” is just a fancy legal term for “carelessness.” You are negligent when you fail to meet the standards of the duty of care you owe to others. 

Every mentally competent adult owes a reasonable duty of care to others to avoid injuring them. If you’re driving, for example, you must drive safely, and that might mean more than simply avoiding traffic infractions.

Medical Malpractice Claims

When a doctor (or other healthcare professional) treats their patient in a negligent manner, it’s called medical malpractice. The differences between an ordinary negligence claim include:

  • The requirement of a doctor-patient relationship between the defendant and the victim
  • An elevated (professional) standard of care
  • The routine use of expert witnesses
  • Case complexity
  • High damages
  • Well-insured defendants
  • Procedural barriers, such as expert affidavits of merit

You almost certainly need a lawyer to win a medical malpractice claim.

Intentional Torts

An intentional tort involves intentional misconduct, such as punching someone in the nose or pointing a gun at them. Not every intentional tort is a crime–intentional infliction of emotional distress, for example, may or may not be a crime. 

You can sue someone for an intentional tort even while they are facing a criminal prosecution for the same conduct. You can also win your tort claim even if the defendant wins an acquittal in criminal court.

Product Liability Claims

Suppose you suffered a car accident and your airbag failed to deploy because of a manufacturing defect. You could probably win a product liability lawsuit against the manufacturer, and perhaps even the distributor of the product. 

What’s unique about a product liability claim is that you can win without proving the defendant was at fault.

Defamation Claims

You defame someone when you speak or write something about them that is false and that tends to cause them harm. That could mean a negative entry on their credit report, or an accusation of a crime. 

Spoken defamation is slander, while written defamation is libel. Truth is a complete defense against defamation liability.

Trespass Claims

You commit trespass when you invade someone else’s property without their permission. It doesn’t have to be your body that intrudes. Dumping trash onto someone’s property, for example, is trespassing too. 

There is also “trespass to chattels,” which involves personal property such as a motorcycle.

Nuisance Claims

Your neighbor has a nuisance claim against you if you do something on your property that interferes with their enjoyment of their own property. 

Playing loud music 24/7 is an example, as is turning your front yard into a garbage dump that emits an overpowering stench.

Incidents That Frequently Generate Tort Claims

The number of ways you can hurt someone through improper conduct is virtually unlimited. Nevertheless, here are some examples that frequently generate tort claims.

Vehicle Accidents

“Vehicle accidents” mean car accidents, truck accidents, motorcycle accidents, public transportation accidents, and even pedestrian accidents if a vehicle struck the injured pedestrian. 

Vehicle accidents are typically based on negligence, but other theories of liability can apply as well. A drunken driver is behaving recklessly, which is beyond negligence. And then there’s the “road rage” driver who intentionally causes an accident.

Slip and Fall Accidents

The owner or operator of premises has a duty to ensure that guests on their property encounter a reasonably safe environment. Premises liability cases typically involve customers who sue for-profit businesses for injuries sustained on their property. Slip and fall accidents are among the most common premises liability accidents.

Dog Bites

Arizona holds dog owners strictly liable for bites inflicted by their dogs even if the dog had never acted aggressively. New Mexico law is generally kinder to dog owners. The New Mexico law can get tricky, but the general rule is that a dog owner is shielded from liability if the dog had never before shown aggressive tendencies. 

Comparative Fault

Both Arizona and New Mexico will reduce or eliminate the compensation of someone who was partly responsible for their own injuries. For example, sharing 20% of the blame can reduce the victim’s damages by that same amount. 

Workers’ Compensation Claims Are Not Tort Claims

A workers’ compensation claim arises when you suffer a work-related injury. Although some work-related injuries are not workers’ compensation claims (injuries caused by third parties, for example), most are.  

Since these claims are no-fault, you cannot file a personal injury lawsuit over them. As such, they do not qualify as tort claims.

Discuss the Matter With a Personal Injury Lawyer

Most personal injury lawyers offer free initial consultations to potential clients. Take advantage of this opportunity if you suspect your claim might have substantial value. Answer the attorney’s questions, and don’t be afraid to ask your own.

Contact the Arizona Personal Injury Lawyers at Curiel & Runion Car Accident and Personal Injury Lawyers Today

If you were injured in an accident in Phoenix, AZ, and need legal help, contact our Phoenix personal injury attorneys at Curiel & Runion Car Accident and Personal Injury Lawyers to schedule a free case review today.

Curiel & Runion Car Accident and Personal Injury Lawyers
1221 E Osborn Rd. Suite 201
Phoenix, AZ 85014
(602) 595-5559