The Law of Tort

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Although the word "tort" is derived from Latin and is still active in several languages it has a purely technical legal meaning in English — a legal wrong for which the law provides a . Given that this is rather a vague definition, how is tort different from other areas of law, such contract or criminal?

Firstly. many (legal responsibilities) in tort arise by virtue of law and are not fixed by the parties as they are in contract law. For example, the claimant pedestrian who is injured by a drunk driver will probably never have met the defendant until the accident and subsequently decided to SUE that driver for breach of the common duty of that he or she owes to the public at large. The remedy for breach of duty is usually an action for which is usually known to the layperson as "compensation”. This amount will almost certainly be , which means that, unlike many cases in contract law, the amount claimed is not fixed but is at the of the court. Tort is therefore able to compensate both for tangible losses and things which are notoriously difficult to measure such as pain and suffering or mental anguish.

A second reason for basing an action in tort as opposed to contract is for the purposes of limitation. According to the law of contract, time begins to run when the breach occurs, whereas in tort time does not start to run until the damage occurs. This could be some time after the wrongful act has been and could therefore give the claimant a right to sue even after the limitation period in contract law has .

Let us say there is a road accident in which a pedestrian is injured by a driver who had clearly failed to take enough care and was therefore liable under the tort of . Why not just take action against him or her under criminal law? The answer lies with the priorities of each area of law. Both areas deal with breach of duties imposed by law but criminal law is concerned with the protection of society by wrongful behaviour with the threat of punishment whereas in tort this consideration is secondary to the notion of compensation.