Law of Tort
What is tort?
A tort involves the infringement of a legal right (or breach of legal duty) and gives rise to a claim in the civilcourts. Essentially it means wrong. The law of tort is the body of civil law which governs what happens when one person sues another personbecause of what that other person has done. The person brining the case is the claimant. The person againstwhom the case is brought is the defendant. There are some general principles which apply to all torts, but each also has its own set of rules which must besatisfied for any claim to succeed.
Remedies in Tort
People use the law of tort because they seek some remedy for the wrong they have suffered. Claimants may seekfinancial compensation (damages) or seek an order to stop continuing behaviour (injunction).
Tort distinguished from Crime
Criminal law governs the relationship between an individual and the rest of the community as a whole, whereascivil law (of which tort is a part) governs the relationships between individuals. There are many situations where it is possible to have both tortious and criminal liability.Differences between tort and crime:
Tort claims are brought by the injured person who will be seeking a remedy to compensate him. Criminalactions are usually brought by a public official (Crown Prosecution Service) rather than the victim.
Main function of a tort claim is compensation of the victim. Main function of criminal proceedings ispunishment of the offender.
Tort cases are dealt with by the civil courts (county court or high court), criminal cases dealt with by thecriminal courts (magistrates or crown court).
Tort distinguished from Contract
Both are civil claims which will be brought about in the county court or high court.
Claimants in both contract and tort actions will usually damages as the principle remedy.
Functions of both areas of law are to compensate the claimant for the loss suffered due to the defendant’swrong doing.Differences:
In contract, the parties’ obligations are fixed by the terms of the contract.
In tort, liability does not depend on any consensus between parties; it is determined by rules (largely judgemade) which dictate whether the defendant’s wrongdoing constitutes a tort.
In contract only the parties to the contract can sue.
In tort, the potential scope of liability is much wider. As obligations in tort are imposed by law, they areowed to the world at large.
In contract, obligations are generally undertaken voluntarily (both parties agree to enter the contract), in tortobligations are imposed on a defendant by law.Because of the similarities between tort and contract, there will be occasions where a claimant has potentialclaims in both areas of law.
Functions of the law of tort
Compensation of victims is seen as the law of torts principle function. Although there are issues which couldhamper a victim’s ability to use the law of tort to claim compensation:1.
The need to go to court to achieve compensation, in an ideal world the victim would be compensated at thepoint of need and not have to wait.2.
The cost of litigation: to use the court system the victim must be able to afford to pay the legal costsinvolved.3.
Can the defendant afford to pay the compensation?
The importance of insurance on tort as a compensation system.