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What Is a ‘Tortfeasor’ under Tort Law, and Can There Be More than One?


Video Transcript

“0:00 What is a tortfeasor? The tortfeasor 0:03 comes from ancient Latin, and it just 0:05 simply means someone who has caused a 0:07 tort or an injury to another.”

You may have come across the term “tortfeasor” when reading about civil claims or acts of civil offenses, but you are unsure what it means. Let’s explore what a tortfeasor is with Ehline Law and our personal injury attorneys.

What Is a Tortfeasor?

A tortfeasor is a person or an entity that commits a civil offense or wrongful act and injures another party.

Tort law lays guidelines pertaining to civil liability to resolve such civil offenses under the civil justice system, providing the victims with a remedy for damage caused by another party.

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Understanding a Tortfeasor

In a civil lawsuit, a plaintiff is an individual or an entity that suffers damage due to the actions of another party. The lawsuit filed is a way for the plaintiff to seek redress, mainly monetary compensation for the damages suffered.

In some civil cases, there may be more than one party responsible for the damages, and in such situations, each person or entity responsible becomes a joint tortfeasor. 

The court or jury will assess the evidence provided by the plaintiff to help determine the losses each party is responsible for.

Finding Responsibility

A tort is an act or inaction that harms another individual or an entity.

A tortfeasor may be responsible for several civil offenses or wrongful acts, including negligence, emotional harm, and others. A corporation may be responsible for selling a defective product that harms an individual.

In the United States, small claims courts allow plaintiffs or injured victims to pursue a claim against the tortfeasor (the defendant) up to a certain amount.

The benefit of pursuing a claim in a small claims court is that it is inexpensive, and the decision to redress damages suffered is made quickly.

Categories of Tort Law

There are three categories under tort law, including the following:

  • Strict liability tort: This type of tort addresses cases involving unintentional damage by a tortfeasor and holds them liable. For example, in certain states, dog bite attacks come under strict liability, meaning that even though the dog owner did not have malicious intent, the law will hold them responsible for their dog attacking another individual.
  • Intentional torts: Intentional tort involves serious misconduct by a person who understands that their actions or inactions can lead to harm. A person carrying out a criminal offense and harming an individual falls under intentional tort, and the victim or their family members may pursue compensation for their loss.
  • Negligent torts: Unlike intentional torts, where there is malicious intent, negligent tort arises when a person or an entity fails to take reasonable care resulting in damage or injuries to another party. For example, a grocery store owner failing to mop the floor dry will be responsible if someone slips on it and injures themselves.

Can There Be More than One Tortfeasor in a Tort Lawsuit?

It is possible to have more than one tortfeasor in a tort claim or a lawsuit. In cases where two or more people or entities are liable or share responsibility for damages in a tort action, it is referred to as joint liability.

Example of Joint Liability Case

Joint liability cases are often complex as multiple parties are legally liable for the plaintiff’s damages. 

For example, in a car accident where two tortfeasors are responsible for injuries to a plaintiff, one of them does not have the financial means to pay for the damages or dies during civil proceedings, the other tortfeasor may have to compensate the plaintiff for the entire damages amount.

Is There a Difference Between Several Liability and Joint Liability?

Several liability in law is a system that the court uses to distribute responsibility in cases where there are multiple negligent parties.

There are several types of liability systems that several liability may refer to, and some of these include the following:

  • Pure several liability holds the tortfeasor responsible only for the damages the plaintiff suffered because of their action or inaction. Suppose a jury found tortfeasor A 30% responsible and tortfeasor B 70% responsible for $50,000 of damages to the plaintiff. In that case, the plaintiff can only recover $35,000 if tortfeasor A passes away or does not have the financial means to pay their share of the damages.
  • Joint-and-several liability holds each tortfeasor independently liable for all the damages in a civil case. For example, if three parties are equally responsible for $100,000 in damages to the plaintiff, the plaintiff may recover the entire amount from one party if the other two cannot pay.

There are different types of tort liability involving various factors. A tortfeasor may be responsible for injuring multiple parties, or multiple tortfeasors may be liable for wounding one person. In some cases, the victim may also be liable for contributing to their own injuries.

Liability in civil torts can take one or multiple forms, depending on the case’s circumstances, such as joint liability, vicarious liability, strict liability, and parent liability.

What Role Does Insurance Play If a Tortfeasor Is Responsible for Damages?

Insurance companies must defend their policyholder against civil claims brought against them.

However, if they’re unsuccessful, the insurer will have to reimburse the tortfeasor for the damages they must pay the plaintiff under civil law.

What Can the Plaintiff Recover from the Tortfeasor?

The plaintiff may be able to recover medical bills, lost income, property damage, emotional distress, and other types of damages, depending on the severity of their injuries, the type of injuries, and many other factors.

Every state follows its tort law that governs a civil case. A tortfeasor may be held liable in one state, but under another state’s tort law, they may not.

An injured victim must speak to an experienced personal injury attorney to learn more about their legal rights following an accident.

Difference Between Criminal Law and Tort Law

Crime is also considered a wrongful act, but they are illegal, and under criminal law, there may be severe fines, imprisonment, and other remedies. 

Torts are wrongful conduct that results in state or federal law violations; in most cases, the remedy is monetary compensation.

Schedule a Free Consultation with Ehline Law Tort Attorney

If you suffered injuries due to another’s negligence, contact us at (833) LETS-SUE for a free consultation, as you may be eligible for compensation.

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