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Torts Lawyers - Personal Injury Attorneys

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An Overview on torts or personal injury law, damages, and product liability law.

TORTS AND PERSONAL INJURY LAW

Torts are civil wrongs recognized by law as grounds for a lawsuit. These wrongs result in an injury or harm constituting the basis for a claim by the injured party. While some torts are also crimes punishable with imprisonment, the primary aim of tort law is to provide relief for the damages incurred and deter others from committing the same harms. The injured person may sue for an injunction to prevent the continuation of the tortious conduct or for monetary damages. Among the types of damages the injured party may recover are: loss of earnings capacity, pain and suffering, and reasonable medical expenses. They include both present and future expected losses.

There are numerous specific torts including trespass, assault, battery, negligence, products liability, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Torts fall into three general categories: intentional torts (e.g., intentionally hitting a person); negligent torts (causing an accident by failing to obey traffic rules); and strict liability torts (e.g., liability for making and selling defective products.) Intentional torts are those wrongs which the defendant knew or should have known would occur through their actions or inactions. Negligent torts occur when the defendant's actions were unreasonably unsafe. Strict liability wrongs do not depend on the degree of carefulness by the defendant, but are established when a particular action causes damage.

Tort law is state law created through judges (common law) and by legislatures (statutory law). Many judges and states utilize the Restatement of Torts (2nd) as an influential guide. The Restatement is a publication prepared by the American Law Institute whose aim is to present an orderly statement of the general law of the United States.

DAMAGES

Damages, in a legal sense, is the sum of money the law imposes for a breach of some duty or violation of some right. Generally, there are two types of damages : compensatory and punitive. (The term "damages" typically includes both categories, but the term, "actual damages" is synonymous with compensatory damages, and excludes punitive damages.)

Compensatory damages, like the name suggests, are intended to compensate the injured party for his loss or injury. Punitive damages are awarded to punish a wrongdoer. There are other modifying terms placed in front of the word damages like "liquidated damages," (contractually established damages) and "nominal damages" (where the court awards a nominal amount such as one dollar). For certain types of injuries statutes provide that successful parties should receive some multiple of their "actual damages" -- e.g., treble damages.

There are general principles governing what types of damages are awarded. Itt is generally recognized, for instance, that punitive damages are not available for breaches of contract except when it is proven that the breach was wanton, willful and deliberate.

PRODUCTS LIABILITY LAW

Products liability refers to the liability of any or all parties along the chain of manufacture of any product for damage caused by that product. This includes the manufacturer of component parts (at the top of the chain), an assembling manufacturer, the wholesaler, and the retail store owner (at the bottom of the chain). Products containing inherent defects that cause harm to a consumer of the product, or someone to whom the product was loaned, given, etc., are the subjects of products liability suits. While products are generally thought of as tangible personal property, products liability has stretched that definition to include intangibles (gas), naturals (pets), real estate (house), and writings (navigational charts).

Products liability claims can be based on negligence, strict liability, or breach of warranty of fitness depending on the jurisdiction within which the claim is based. Many states have enacted comprehensive products liability statutes. These statutory provisions can be very diverse such that the the United States Department of Commerce has promulgated a Model Uniform Products Liability Act (MUPLA) for voluntary use by the states. There is no federal products liability law.

In any jurisdiction one must prove that the product is defective. There are three types of product defects that incur liability in manufacturers and suppliers: design defects, manufacturing defects, and defects in marketing. Design defects are inherent; they exist before the product is manufactured. While the item might serve its purpose well, it can be unreasonably dangerous to use due to a design flaw. On the other hand, manufacturing defects occur during the construction or production of the item. Only a few out of many products of the same type are flawed in this case. Defects in marketing deal with improper instructions and failures to warn consumers of latent dangers in the product.

Products Liability is generally considered a strict liability offense. Strict liability wrongs do not depend on the degree of carefulness by the defendant. Translated to products liability terms, a defendant is liable when it is shown that the product is defective. It is irrelevant whether the manufacturer or supplier exercised great care; if there is a defect in the product that causes harm, he or she will be liable for it.

The law of products liability is found mainly in common law (state judge-made law) and in the Uniform Commercial Code. Article 2 of the UCC deals with the sales of goods and it has been adopted by most states. In it, the most important products liability sections are the implied and express warranties of merchantibility in the sales of goods §§ 2-314 and 2-315. Products liability is derived mainly from Torts law.

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