People living in society cause each other injuries, or wrongs. Such injuries may be physical or economic. For example, if someone causes injury to another in a road traffic accident, it is a physical injury. If a person loses money when acting on the financial advice of a stockbroker, it is an economic loss. The function of the law of tort is to determine whether a person who has suffered such injury can recover damages for the injury.
The law of tort lays down the boundaries of when liability for the injury arises. It balances the interests of the person who has suffered the injury and wishes to recover damages for that loss, against the interest of the person who caused the injury.
Duty of Care
The standards laid down in the law of tort are expressed in terms of duty. It is necessary to discover in what circumstances a duty arises in tort. On what standards of behaviour are imposed by that duty. For example, in the tort of nuisance, it is possible to determine what civil duties are owed to neighbouring occupiers of land. In the law of tort, we try to determine what standard of behaviour or duties demand in every situation. Having established that, anyone who falls below that standard and causes injury to another will be liable in tort. He is to compensate the person injured for the loss.
The Claimant and the Defendant
In tort, the claimant is the person suffering from the injury due to the action of the defendant. The claimant can sue against the defendant and able to recover damages from the defendant.
Tort Law and Criminal Law
The criminal law determines what behaviour is acceptable to society and the State. It lays down punishment for those who break such standards of behaviour. The law of tort also determines what standards of behaviour are acceptable. However, if a person does an act which is below that standard of behaviour, then only the person who has suffered damage as a result of the behaviour can sue the person who has caused the injury.
The aim of the criminal law is to establish and enforce a code of behavior for society by punishing wrongdoers. The aim of the law of tort is to compensate injured parties.
For example, if a man drives carelessly and severely injures someone in an accident, under the criminal law he will be punished for driving without due care and attention. Under the law of tort, the victim of the accident may sue the driver for the tort of negligence and recover for any loss that he suffered, such as medical fees, loss of earnings, and damages for the physical injuries suffered.
Tort Law and Contract Law
A Tort is a civil wrong. Similarly, breach of contract also is a civil wrong. Both give rise to an action for damages. However, breach of contract is the infringement of a right or violation of a duty, created and defined by an express or implied agreement between the parties to the contract. The parties to the contract have themselves decided what their rights and duties are to be. Such rights and duties are personal to the contracting parties. In tort, rights, and duties owed to everyone and by everyone, and nobody can escape them.
When claiming damages, tort aims to compensate the claimant for his losses and seek to treat him as if the wrongful act had never occurred. But in breach of a contract, try to compensate the claimant for his lost expectations and attempt to put him into the position he would have been had the contract been properly performed.