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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

What is a "Tort"?

You hear people talk about "torts" and "tort reform" a lot, but not may people know what a tort is. According to a leading legal dictionary, here's the definition: a tort is defined as "a civil wrong for which a remedy may be obtained, usu. in the form of damages[.]..." Notice that it's a civil wrong as opposed to a criminal wrong. As we all know, the state or federal government prosecutes criminal wrongs (i.e., crimes).

Tort law exists to protect you and me. For example, if your car gets hit from behind, with you in it, you get hurt, and your car is totaled, tort law says you have a remedy for the harms to your property and body. Further, suppose a young husband with a wife and kids is wrongfully killed by another. The law --- specifically tort law --- says the dead husband's wife and kids have a claim for the wrong done to them. This way, the wife and kids have some form of compensation from the wrongdoer and won't have to rely upon family or others to get by after such a devastating loss. Doesn't this make sense? Doesn't this seem like the right thing to do? Shouldn't we as a society make a wrongdoer accept responsibility? That's what tort law is all about.

This is why I'm so baffled, shocked, and amazed when others speak of tort reform (which should actually be called tort deform); and when they say they want to get rid of our civil justice system. Frankly, the civil justice system that we have now has worked well for hundreds of years. As the old saying goes: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

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