Tort vs contract: Contract is a legal agreement between two or more parties. We make legal agreements every day without even knowing that we are doing so; for example, buying a newspaper, renting a car, journeys on a train or bus are all examples of a contract. In other words, when you are paying for a service, such as hiring a taxi, the service provider in return has to provide you with a timely, safe and comfortable journey.
A tort on the other hand is a claim for civil wrong and its main function is to compensate for the financial loss or personal injury that a claimant may have suffered due to one’s negligence, for example, damage to one’s car by someone reversing his vehicle into it.
Mostly in tort cases what a claimant wants is to be compensated against the loss he has suffered whether economic or personal due to one’s negligence. But it is occasionally possible that the claimant does not want financial compensation but might be seeking an injunction to restrict or prohibit someone from doing something.
Who is who? In tort whoever brings a claim against someone is called a claimant. And the person against whom the claim has been brought is known as a defendant. If the same case goes to appeal court then the claimant is called the respondent and the defendant would be known as the appellant.
Tort vs. crime: The main difference between tort and criminal offence is that the criminal offence is brought up by the authorities such as the Crown Prosecution Service whereas the tort is brought up by an individual or an organisation against another person or organisation. In a criminal offence the main reason for bringing the litigation is to punish the culprit which can be in the form of incarceration, and the crime victim hardly gets any compensation for any damage or bodily injury he may have suffered. In tort, however, to compensate the individual for his economic loss or physical injury is the main reason.
There are different courts for a civil wrong (tort) or a criminal offence: A tort case is heard in a civil court, i.e., the county court, whereas a criminal offence, given its severity, will be heard in the magistrates’ court.
The level of evidence needed in a tort or criminal offence: Not only the functions, or courts where the cases of tort or criminal offences are heard, the level of evidence which are needed in both forms of litigation are different as well. In a tortious claim the evidence will be judged on the basis of ‘balance of probabilities’ whereas in a criminal proceedings the evidence must be judged ‘beyond reasonable doubt’.
One important point to note here is that it is sometimes possible that an act may constitute all the elements which might be valid under a claim for the breach of a contract, tort and criminal law – for example, a car garage selling a customer a faulty and unroadworthy car on purpose. Suppose that customer driving the car and the steering wheel fails resulting in an accident. In this case there can be three types of litigation; contract (selling a car), economic loss and physical injury (tort), and finally the garage may have committed an offence under criminal law (false representation and fraud).