What is tort law?
Tort is a civil law that protects those who have suffered loss or harm as a result of another person’s intentional unlawful actions or as a result of their negligence.
If you have suffered a personal injury that was not your fault, then your case will be brought under negligence. When a person has a legal duty of care towards you and breaches that duty, they have acted negligently.
Negligence can result in injury, financial loss, psychological illness, and it can have numerous other consequences.
How are damages calculated in the law of tort?
Damages in tort law are subject to three principles:
- Causation; and
These three principles determine whether compensation will be awarded to the Claimant (person making a claim).
- Remoteness is whether the Defendant (the person who the action is being taken against) could be expected to have foreseen the accident.
- Causation is whether an injury was a direct result of a negligent act. If the injury or loss is likely to have occurred anyway, then causation would not be met.
- Mitigation is how far the Claimant has tried to mitigate their loss. For example, if their car was written off, did they arrange to go to work by bus, or did they stay at home? If they could reasonably have been expected to get to work without their car, then compensation for loss of earnings would not be awarded.
The types of compensation awarded are
- General damages - This is compensation for pain, suffering and emotional distress.
- Special damages - This is financial compensation that covers loss of earnings and all the other costs that the Claimant has incurred due to their injury or loss. Special damages may also include likely future losses.
In some cases, the Defendant may be ordered to pay punitive damages. This is extra money the Defendant pays as a punishment to deter them from repeating their behaviour in the future. Punitive damages are generally paid where behaviour is malicious or grossly reckless.
What is the difference between contract law and tort law?
In contract, the rights and obligations of each party are set out in a written or verbal agreement.
In tort, rights and obligations are set out by law.
The biggest similarity between contract law and tort law is that if one party breaches their duties (in the case of tort law, this is often ‘duty of care’), then legal action can be taken against them. The person who has suffered could claim compensation against the other party.
When compensation is awarded in tort, the aim is to put the injured party back into the same position they were in before the negligent or criminal act occurred. In contract, the aim is to put the injured party back into the position they were in before the Contract started.