Legally, a motor vehicle accident can be considered a type of tort. In this article, we’ll offer the legal definition of the term “tort” and explain how it applies to motor vehicle accidents. 

Key Takeaways

  • A tort is an act or omission that leads to harm or injury 
  • Often, the party who committed the tort must pay damages to compensate the injured party
  • There are four elements to torts: duty of care, breach of care, injury, and causation
  • There are three categories of torts: intentional, negligent, and strict
  • Motor vehicle accidents are a type of tort for which the at-fault party can be held legally liable

What Is a Tort?

In law, a tort is an act or a failure to act that leads to harm or injury to another party. The term harm means a loss or detriment, while injury refers to invading somebody's legal rights. A tort is considered to be a “civil wrong” and people are able to be held liable for them. Examples of torts include things like defamation, invasion of privacy, trespass, assault, and products liability. 

Tort law is a category of law whose purposes are to:

  • Provide relief to the injured parties
  • Impose liability on responsible parties
  • Deter others from committing harmful acts

Usually, when somebody is seeking restitution for a tort, they ask for damages paid in the form of monetary compensation. 

There are four elements to torts:

  • Duty of care - the duty all people have to prevent injury from happening to others
  • Breach of care - the failure to live up to the duty of care
  • Injury - Loss or harm 
  • Causation - The breach of care resulted in the injury

There are three categories of torts:

  • Intentional torts - Such as assaulting somebody on purpose
  • Negligent torts - Such as an employer causing an accident to an employee by failing to offer safe workplace conditions 
  • Strict torts - Such as liability for making and selling defective products

Torts in Motor Vehicle Accidents

When they result in harm, injury, or damage to an individual’s property, motor vehicle accidents are considered a tort or, more specifically, a motor tort. These usually fall under the category of negligent torts as they are caused by the at-fault party failing to live up to the duty of care of driving safely on the road. The at-fault party (also called the tortfeasor) can be held legally liable for the accident and be required to pay damages.

If you are in a motor vehicle accident and suffer injury or property damage, you are entitled to seek compensation from the at-fault party. This process involves the following:

  • Demand letter - You or your legal counsel will begin the legal process by sending a letter to the at-fault party’s auto insurance company demonstrating why they were responsible for the accident. 
  • Investigation - The insurance company will then assign an adjuster to investigate the claim. As the plaintiff, you are responsible for proving that the other party was at fault. The adjuster will review evidence to come to a conclusion about the claim.
  • Negotiation - If they accept your claim, the insurance company will make an offer to you. This will lead to a process of negotiation for a payout. If you can’t agree, there is the option of filing a civil lawsuit. Note that most motor vehicle accident cases are settled outside of court. 

It is recommended to work with an experienced motor vehicle accident attorney who can guide you through this process and help you receive the fairest compensation.

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