The Institute for European Tort Law (ETL) aims to be an internationally-recognized centre of research excellence in the field of European and comparative private law, in particular to be the leading European research institute in the area of tort law. It pursues this objective through ground-breaking comparative legal research on fundamental issues of the law of tort and bordering legal categories. Where appropriate, its research also includes inter-disciplinary components (e.g. economic analysis).

The Institute also seeks to contribute to the understanding and development of European and comparative tort law by providing a forum for the publication of internationally-excellent research by other scholars (the peer-reviewed Journal of European Tort Law), and a source of up-to-date information and commentary about tort law in the national systems of Europe and in the law of the EU (the European Tort Law Yearbook, supplemented by the Eurotort database).

Additionally, the Institute supports the European Group on Tort Law in its ongoing work on the Principles of European Tort Law, involving updating, revision and the extension of the Principles’ scope.

The results of the above endeavours are intended to promote and facilitate the enhancement and harmonization of tort law in Europe, and to lay the foundations for political debate about a possible European Civil Code and alternatives such as an optional instrument, at the same time as encouraging “soft harmonization” by the identification of best practices that can be adopted within national systems, and indeed within EU law itself. 

The Institute is the centre of a large-scale international research network which has allowed collaborative research to be undertaken with leading scholars from across the EU and indeed beyond. It works in particularly close cooperation with the European Centre of Tort and Insurance Law (ECTIL), which is a private association seated in Vienna. The two institutions jointly edit the book series Tort and Insurance Law as well as the Journal of European Tort Law and the European Tort Law Yearbook. ECTIL’s emphasis is primarily upon applied legal research, so it provides an ideal complement to the Institute’s main focus on fundamental issues (“basic” or “pure” research). The ongoing collaboration between the two institutions demonstrates that the two emphases can very often be successfully combined, producing research outcomes that both illuminate fundamental issues and have practical relevance.

The Institute for European Tort Law (ETL) was founded as a Research Unit on 1 July 2002 by the Austrian Academy of Sciences. As of 1 July 2008, the Research Unit was upgraded to an Institute of the Austrian Academy of Sciences.

In January 2013, an international panel of evaluators appointed by the Austrian Academy of Sciences rated the Institute's research as 'internationally outstanding' (the top rating).