updated on 21 February 2022
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This LCN Says is part of a series looking at The University of Law’s (ULaw) Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) manuals that have been specifically designed to support law students in their SQE1 exams. This LCN Says will look at what students can learn in the Tort Law manual.
What is Tort law?
The word ‘tort’ comes from the Latin word ‘tortus’ which means ‘wrong’ and enables individuals to claim against any losses they suffer from another person’s action. Tort law falls under civil law, which is different to criminal. Criminal law requires jail time, whereas tort only requires payment of money to make up for the damage caused.
Tort law is essential because it ensures that members of society don’t suffer unnecessary losses such as personal injury, defamation, damage to property or negligence from breach of duty of care, pure psychiatric harm, employer’s liability and pure economic loss.
For example, “Respondeat superior” is a Latin phrase that means “let the master answer”. It suggests that an employer is responsible for the action of employees performed within the course of their employment; this is called vicarious liability.
If the law recognises a tort, the judge can award the claimant damages to restore them to their original position before the tort occurred and compensate for the loss suffered.
However, Tort law is crucial to claimants and businesses because it provides a way for employers to defend themselves against financial loss from an employee’s or an individual’s unlawful conduct. The primary purpose of Tort law is to hold those who cause others harm accountable to the full weight of the law.
Read this profile to learn about the personal injury solicitors’ practice area.
The most common type of tort case is negligence, when someone’s carelessness harms another person. Everybody owes a duty of care to society to behave like a reasonable person but those who fail to do this, could be negligent. There are three elements of negligence:
For a defendant to be liable in the tort of negligence, they must owe the claimant a duty of care and be in breach of that duty. To establish there’s a negligence case, the court must apply a two-stage test to establish whether:
Although the UK’s legal system has objective tests to establish tort claims, the facts of a case are not always clear and can often be deliberated on with no answer in sight. This is because judges must decide what standard of care each defendant is required to meet and this can vary depending on the circumstances of each case.
For example, judges tend to use the objective test of a ‘reasonable person, who is neither intelligent or stupid – the defendant must meet the standard of care expected of the average person. However, the courts have also applied exceptional standards where this test is deemed inappropriate to use due to an unexpected or hidden disability.
Why study Tort law?
Tort law is an area of law that protects the public from wrongdoing from an individual or public body. Even if you don’t wish to practice in this area of law, such knowledge can help your daily life because you will be aware of your rights as an employee and a member of society. This means you can claim damages under tort law if your rights to health and safety, a clean environment, property, economic interests or reputation have been tainted or damaged, in any shape or form.
Even if there hasn’t been any physical damage, you can still make a substantial claim of damages for economic compensation for emotional harm (intentional infliction of emotional distress).
If you're interested in other areas of law then read:
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Christianah Babajide (she/her) is the content and engagement coordinator at LawCareers.Net