punitive damages


Hello, I’m attorney Kyle Bachus. The legal world is full of overly complicated jargon and terminology that can be intimidating if you don’t know what it means. In my law 101 video series, I’m breaking down some commonly used legal terms so you can be informed and confident should you ever need to take legal action. In this episode of law 101, I want to tell you what the word tort means in the legal world.

In the legal world, we have criminal cases, and we have civil cases, right? Criminal case is when the government is bringing a case against you for violating the terms or laws of society. A tort is a type of civil case. Civil cases are brought for money damages. A tort is a civil case that is brought because somebody either committed an intentional act against somebody else, or they were negligent in their treatment of somebody else. That’s what a tort means in the legal world. It is a civil wrong.

An example of a tort would be an automobile collision, where somebody rear-ends the back end of somebody else’s car. That’s actually a tort; it’s a civil wrong. There might also be a criminal ticket that the government brings against you, but the civil claim is a tort claim. It is because the person who rear-ended you failed to act reasonably under the circumstances; in doing so, they committed a tort.

At Bachus and Schanker, one of the things that we do is we represent victims of torts in tort claims in civil court. So we would bring a claim for money damages, on behalf of the person who was hit by the tortfeasor, that’s the person who commits the tort. And we bring a civil claim in civil court. To learn more about law topics that can help you feel informed and confident about the legal world, make sure to check out more videos in this series. Or contact us directly at Bachus & Schanker.

FAQ – Torts

In order to understand tort cases, it’s essential to know the difference between torts and criminal law. A tort is a civil wrong done by a person who was negligent or intentionally committed the act. Rather than a crime that breaks the rules of society or the government, a tort is an act against another person that results in monetary damages.

Put simply, tort law says that if you hurt someone, you owe them for their injuries and suffering. A tort law system is meant to hold the responsible party accountable for careless or intentional actions that caused financial, physical, and emotional harm to another person. 

Colorado is an at-fault state that applies modified comparative negligence when a tort is committed. According to Colorado Revised Statute 13-21-111, a victim must be less than 50% at-fault for the accident to recover damages. The monetary compensation awarded to the victim is reduced by the percentage of negligence assigned to them.

Some common types of torts include:

  • Physical personal injuries (intentional or accidental)
  • Personal property damage (intentional or accidental)
  • Assault and battery
  • Infliction of emotional distress
  • False imprisonment

Common ways these torts occur are car accidents, slip and fall accidents, medical malpractice, dog bites, and product liability.

Torts can be broken down into three main categories:

  1. Intentional Torts – A person intentionally commits a wrong and causes injuries to the victim.
  2. Negligent Torts – A person breached a legal duty to another person, which resulted in damages to the victim.
  3. Strict Liability Torts – The defendant is liable regardless of intention or negligence because the issue is crucial.

When an individual intentionally harms another person, the victim may be able to claim financial compensation for damages. One example of an intentional tort is assault, which is a threat of violence or an attempt to harm another individual. In this example, the defendant acts with the intention to cause injury to the victim, even if no actual physical harm occurred.

With negligence torts, a person causes injuries and suffering to a victim by acting carelessly. They did not take the same care that a reasonable person would take under the same circumstances. An example of a negligent tort is a car accident. If a driver was negligent and failed to stop at a red light, they may have to pay damages to the car crash victim.

Strict liability applies to cases involving tortious injuries, where it’s crucial to hold wrongdoers accountable in a particular category. The most prevalent example of a strict liability tort is product liability. When a person is hurt because of defective products, poor manufacturing, or faulty design, victims can claim compensation from the responsible parties. 

Strict liability in product liability cases is meant to hold manufacturers and product designers to a high standard to keep consumers safe. Also, it removes the victim’s burden of proving how the defect happened. They only need to show their injuries were a result of the defect.

Tortious measure of damages is compensation that will return the victim to their pre-accident status or the position they would be in if the accident did not occur. The damages are meant to compensate the victim for the losses incurred due to the tort.

In general, contract law is separate from tort law. This means that a breach of contract is not considered a tort. There are also criminal acts that do not fall under tort law, including murder. If it does not fall into a category of civil wrongdoing that caused damages to the victim, it is most likely not a tort.

Any person who suffers harm due to another party’s negligence or intentional actions may qualify to claim compensation through the civil law system. However, there are requirements victims must meet before they take legal action. For example, you must prove four elements to win negligence cases:

  1. A duty
  2. Breach of duty
  3. Causation
  4. Damages

Victims have rights and legal options to seek justice. Speak with a lawyer to see if you qualify to bring a tort lawsuit to recover damages and what your claim may be worth.

Typically, injured parties are able to claim compensatory damages under tort law, including:

  • Medical bills
  • Future medical expenses
  • Property damage expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Loss of future earnings capacity
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional anguish

Additionally, a court may award punitive damages to victims when the defendant’s actions were particularly harmful or intentionally malicious. Punitive damages are designed to both punish the defendant and deter them from repeating the same behaviors.

If you’re looking for tort lawyers who can help you claim monetary compensation for damages, there are different kinds of specialized attorneys to consider. For example, if you were in a motor vehicle accident and want to sue the responsible party for your losses, you should work with an experienced car accident attorney. Likewise, a medical malpractice attorney can help you if a doctor’s negligence caused you harm.

Working with a legal specialist means you have the experience and skill of a professional on your side. Consult with an attorney to see how much your case may be worth and how they can help you get the maximum settlement for your damages.


CRS 13-21-111