Legal Information on South Carolina Law

What is a Tort?

The short answer is a tort is a type of injury someone can cause to you in which you can recover civil damages.

In this article you will learn:

  • The two different types of torts.
  • The difference between unintentional and intentional torts.
  • The intentional torts codified into South Carolina law.

Torts fall into two major categories. Intentional and unintentional.

Unintentional vs. Intentional Torts

The tort laws allow recovery for civil damages opposed to criminal laws which allow for the government to punish the individual for the wrong act.

There are different types of torts: injuries done without intent and injuries done with intent.

Unintentional Torts: Negligence

The most common type of tort committed without intent is called “negligence.” In order to bring a claim for a negligence tort you must prove the following:

  1. The person owed you a duty. (You have a duty to exercise reasonable care).
  2. The person breached this duty to you through acting recklessly or without care.
  3. Due to this breach they caused you injury.
  4. You suffered damages as a result of their breach. 

For example, if you got in a car wreck where someone went through a red light. This lawsuit would be brought under negligence unless they intentionally ran the red light to injured you. Medical malpractice is another example of negligence. If a doctor missed a diagnosis but didn’t intend to injure you then he would be liable for damages under a theory of negligence. 

“A long time ago a bunch of very clever lawyers got together and determined all the ways it was possible to intentionally injure someone. They called these “Intentional Torts” based on the common law.”

Intentional Torts:

A long time ago a bunch of very clever lawyers got together and determined all the ways it was possible to intentionally injure someone. They called these “Intentional Torts” based on the common law. Upon our independence from England, the United States adopted the British laws as a matter of convenience because our lawyers were used to trying law under the English based common law system. Common law means law made by the judges from past cases. However, being American we added a Constitution and certain inalienable rights.

The intentional torts are based on common law which goes back hundreds, if not thousands of years. Most of them have been codified by various statutes in the South Carolina state legislature or congress. They are as follows:


Question: Did someone threaten you or attempt to cause you fear of harm? 

If the answer is yes, then you have been a victim of the intentional tort of assault. When someone does something that gives you the reasonable apprehension of harm, it is the tort of assault. This means if someone does something that makes you afraid, they will hurt you then you have been victim of assault.

For example, if you are at a park and someone walks up to you with a knife and says unkind things to you, then you are the victim of assault.


Question: Did someone impermissibly touch you and cause you injury?

If the answer is yes, then you have been a victim of the intentional tort of battery. When someone touches you intentionally without your consent or privilege it is the act of battery.

This means if someone comes up to you and pushes you to the ground during an argument it is the intentional tort of battery. You must be able to prove damages that because of their intentional act of touching you, you suffered injury. Emotional injuries count as damages.


Question: Did someone take control of your property without your consent?

If the answer is yes, then you may have a claim for conversion for that person. When someone exercises control or domination over another’s property without their consent or privilege it is the intentional act of conversion.

For example, if someone takes or uses your car without permission it is the intentional act of conversion. If someone breaks into your home and uses your house while you are out of town it is the intentional act of conversion.


False Imprisonment

Questions: Did someone without legal authority confine you in a place when you wanted to leave? Did you tell the person you wanted to leave?

If the answer is yes, then you have been victim of the tort of false imprisonment. False imprisonment can be difficult to prove if it was possible for you to leave the situation. You should always ask to leave the situation and then if you are prevented from leaving, then you have an action for false imprisonment.

For example, if an ex-boyfriend wants to have a talk and you don’t want to speak to him and he prevents you from leaving, you have been the victim of false imprisonment.

Trespass to Land

Question: Did someone come on your property without your permission? Did you suffer any injury as a result? 

If so then they are a trespasser and you may be entitled to compensation if they did any damage to your property while they were trespassing. The most difficult thing with trespass cases is proving injury.

For example, if someone walked across your property and did no harm then bringing an action for trespass is difficult. However, if someone came on your farm without permission and left large vehicle tire tracks causing harm to your planting fields you have damages.

Trespass to Chattels

Questions: Did someone interfere with your personal property? Did they do so intentionally?

If so then they have committed the intentional tort of Trespass to Chattels. Chattels are another word for property other than land.

For example, if someone entered your car without permission and damaged the vehicle it would be trespass to Chattels. The same is true for other property you or your business may own. The key to remember is if someone injured your property then they must pay for it, trespass to chattels is one the mechanisms the law has to make them pay.

Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

Question: Did someone do something intentional to hurt you emotionally or physically? 

If someone hurts you emotionally, then they deserve to pay. It is a horrible crime to injure someone emotionally and the law provides a mechanism for making you whole again. If someone does something to injure you physically it is assumed for purposes of the law that they acted to harm you emotionally because causing physical harm is known to cause emotional distress of fear.

If you are curious about this tort watch the old movie, Cruel Intentions. If lawyers had been involved, both the main characters would have been hit with multimillion-dollar damages for intentional infliction of emotional distress for what they did. Don’t give into bullying and hate. Take a stand make them pay for what they did.

Need help with your potential intentional tort case?

In many situations multiple torts can be involved. It is best to speak to one of our lawyers to let you know which ones apply and how to take the next steps.

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