DEFINITION of Tortfeasor

The tortfeasor is the individual, company, or entity that is found to have committed wrongdoing. Tortfeasors are said to have committed a civil offense – a tort - rather than a criminal offense. Civil offenses are typically disputes between individuals and corporations.


The primary aim of tort law is to provide a remedy for damages suffered by one party and caused by another. A tortfeasor is one accused of causing the damage and can be sued by a plaintiff in order to recover some of the costs of the damage. In some cases, more than one party may be responsible for the tort—a joint tortfeasor—and the courts will determine how much damage or loss each party is responsible for. Courts may divide up the reparations according to the proportion of the damage each party was responsible for.

Civil Cases

Tortfeasors may have committed a number of civil offenses. These offenses include negligence, fraud, trespassing, or emotional harm. Corporations, for example, may be held liable for faulty products. Torts are placed into three categories: strict liability, intentional, and negligence. Strict liability torts do not have to be the result of not taking reasonable care or intentionally causing harm and are determined once damages occur. Intentional torts are committed by a tortfeasor who understood that its actions could result in damages occurring. Negligent torts are those caused by a tortfeasor that failed to use reasonable care, and thus, caused an injury.

Insurance claims are associated with civil law, and thus have tortfeasors. When an insured party causes injury to another party, that other party may sue the insured party for the recovery of those damages. The amount recovered may vary according to the type of damage that the plaintiff claims to have suffered, including lost wages, physical injury, medical expenses, or even losses that may occur later. Insurance companies that indemnify the policyholder are required to defend the insured against civil claims.

According to, between 2009 and 2015, "Civil caseloads fell by over 4 million cases, an annual rate of about -3.5%. However, reported caseloads for 2016 were only 1% below the previous year, suggesting that the end of the decline may be near. The composition of Civil cases varies from state to state. Sorted by percent of contract cases, Kansas has the highest proportion of contract cases at 76% with just over 3% small claims. Conversely, North Carolina reports only 10% contract but 40% small claims. Kansas has a $4,000 limit for small claims cases versus North Carolina's $10,000 limit, which may help to explain some of this difference."