A tort is a wrong that one person, through their conduct, causes to another person (or their property).  Torts are generally broken down into two categories: intentional torts and accidents/negligence.  There is also no-fault liability for some torts, but those are fact-dependent situations, or they might come about through legislation.

When talking about intentional torts, it is possible the defendant might face both criminal charges and civil suits for assault, battery, or conversion (theft).  The word “intent” is somewhat of a misnomer since a defendant’s recklessness is often enough to satisfy the requirement that their actions me intentional.

In order to demonstrate a defendant is liable for either an intentional tort or an accident, the injured person must prove that the defendant was both the factual cause of the injury and that their actions and the injury are so closely related that they must be held accountable.  This becomes somewhat difficult to prove in cases of negligence when there are independent intervening acts of a third person.  Depending on whether the defendant should have been expected to anticipate the later act, they may still be held liable.

In Washington, punitive damages that punish egregious behavior are new awarded unless a specific statute authorizes them.  Therefore, the damages that are generally awarded by juries are broken into two categories: Special Damages and General Damages.  Special Damages include medical bills, lost wages, retraining costs, out-of-pocket expenses, and other expenditures that have a set dollar amount associated with them.  In contrast, General Damages compensate injured persons for their pain, suffering, trauma, and loss of enjoyment of life.  The jury is the ultimate authority that determines what the damages calculate to be.

By Joseph Gehrke – Associate Attorney

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