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Tort law is the name given to a body of law that creates, and provides remedies for, civil wrongs that do not arise out of contractual duties. A person who is legally injured may be able to use tort law to recover damages from someone who is legally responsible, or "liable," for those injuries. Generally speaking, tort law defines what constitutes a legal injury, and establishes the circumstances under which one person may be held liable for another's injury. Torts cover intentional acts and accidents.
For instance, if somebody throws a ball and hits a pedestrian in the eye, the pedestrian may sue the ball thrower for losses occasioned by the accident (for example, costs of medical treatment or lost income during time off work). Whether or not the pedestrian wins will depend on whether he can prove the thrower engaged in tortious conduct. If the person threw the ball at the pedestrian on purpose, the pedestrian could sue for the intentional tort of battery. If it was an accident, the pedestrian must establish negligence. To do this, the pedestrian must show that his injury was reasonably foreseeable, that the thrower owed him a duty of care, and that the thrower fell below the standard of care required of him. One of the main issues in negligence law is determining the "standard of care" - a legal phrase that means distinguishing between when conduct is or is not negligent.
In much of the western world, the touchstone of tort liability is negligence. Unless the injured person can prove that the person they believe injured them acted with at least negligence to cause their injury, tort law will not compensate them. Tort law also recognizes intentional torts and strict liability, which apply to defendants who engage in certain actions.
In tort law, potential "injuries" are defined broadly. Injury does not just mean a physical injury such as where the pedestrian is struck by a ball. "Injuries" in tort law reflect any invasion of any number of individual "interests." This includes interests recognized in other areas of law, such as property rights. Actions for nuisance and trespass to land can arise from interfering with rights in real property. Conversion and trespass to chattles can protect interference with movable property. Interests in prospective economic advantages from contracts can also be injured and become the subject of tort actions. A number of situations caused by parties in a contractual relationship may nevertheless be tort rather than contract claims, such as breach of fiduciary duty
Tort law may also be used to compensate for injuries to a number of other individual interests that are not recognized in property or contract law, and are intangible. This includes an interest in freedom from emotional distress, privacy interests, and reputation. These are protected by a number of torts such as infliction, privacy torts, and defamation. Defamation and privacy torts may, for example, allow a celebrity to sue a newspaper for publishing an untrue and harmful statement about him. Other protected interests include freedom of movement, protected by the intentional tort of false imprisonment.
The equivalent of tort in civil law jurisdictions is delict. The law of tort can be categorised as part of the law of obligations, but, unlike voluntarily assumed obligations (such as those of contract, or trust), the duties imposed by the law of tort apply to all those subject to the relevant jurisdiction. To behave 'tortiously' is to harm another's body, property, or legal rights, or, possibly, to breach a duty owed under statute. One who commits a tortious act is called a "tortfeasor". Torts is one of the American Bar Association mandatory first year law school courses.