In order to understand contract law, you must first understand what it takes to have a valid legal contract. A contract is a legally binding agreement between two or more parties, which obligates those parties to perform specific acts. In order for a contract to be enforceable, each party must exchange something of value, which is known as “consideration.”
Additionally, all involved parties need to have a sound understanding of every term of the contract, and they must be in mutual agreement on the terms. Thus, a legally valid contract exists if there is:
- A valid offer;
- An acceptance of the offer; and
- An exchange of some form of consideration.
If either party breaches their duty to perform or obligations under the contract, contract law aims to provide damages to the injured party. Typically, damages for a breach of contract are awarded with the intent to compensate the non-breaching party for losses suffered as a result of the contract breach. Other damages that may be awarded in contract breaches include restitution, liquidated damages, nominal damages, rescission of the contract, or in some cases punitive damages may be awarded.
Tort law is another body of law that falls within the broader civil law umbrella, which covers violations where one person’s behavior or actions cause injury, suffering, unfair loss, or harm to another person. Tort law is based on the premise that people are liable for their actions, and is a very broad category of law that includes many different types of personal injury claims.
Similar to breach of contract damages, tort law aims to compensate victims for any injuries or losses suffered by the unreasonable acts of another, as well as discouraging the defendant from repeating the violation in the future.
As noted above, both tort law and contract law are both branches of civil law in which a civil wrong is committed by one person, which results in injury or property damage to another person. Additionally, both frequently involve monetary compensation being paid to the injured party.
Simply put, both contract laws and tort laws are in place to address a breach of duty that results in an injured party. As mentioned above, in contract law, this breach is known as a breach of contract. It occurs when one party fails to adhere to their duties outlined in a contract.
In tort law, a breach of duty involves the failure of one party’s duty to harm another. For example, the most common type of tort lawsuit is one that is based on a theory of negligence. In order to succeed in a lawsuit based on negligence, the injured party must prove that the defendant breached a duty of care owed to them, and that the breach was the cause of their injuries or losses.
One major distinction between contract law and tort law lies in the issue of consent and agreement. As noted above, in order to recover in contract law, the injured party must show that there was a valid contract, and that the breaching party failed to meet their expectations under the contract.
This means that in contract law, both parties knowingly entered into an agreement without coercion, consenting to both the contract and its outcomes. However, in tort law, the injured party is generally not a consenting party to the actions taken by the wrongdoer. Typically, torts occur by the intrusion of one party on another that results in some type of harm.
Additionally, in the case of torts, the duty that is violated is a duty that is imposed by law and owed to everyone. Whereas, in contract law, the duty violated is fixed from the consent of the parties and is only owed to the parties mentioned in the contract.
As for damages, in tort law, the measure for damages is not fixed or limited; however, the measure of damages in contract law are determined by the contract that was agreed to by the parties. This means that courts will award damages in a contract case based upon the contract agreed to by the parties, with the intention of restoring the injured party to where they were before the breach occurred.
In contrast, in a tort case, courts will award damages to compensate the victims for the harm or losses they suffered as a result of the defendant’s actions. Another major difference between tort and contract law, is that exemplary (punitive) damages may be awarded in tort cases, but they are rarely awarded in breach of contract cases.
Yes, it is possible to bring a civil lawsuit based upon a contract claim and a tort claim at the same time. There are cases in which a tort claim and contract claim will be included within the same lawsuit, such as cases where one party physically prevents the other party from performing their duties under a contract.
However, due to the difference in the duties owed, the damages sought, and elements needed to prove a tort and contract claim, tort claims and contract claims are often brought separately.
As can be seen, both tort law and contract law are expansive branches of civil law that cover many different types of injuries and violations. For this reason, both areas of law can be very complicated. Thus, if you are in a situation where you are dealing with issues regarding contract law, tort law, or both, it may be in your best interest to consult with a knowledgeable and well-qualified attorney.
If you need assistance with tort law, an experienced personal injury lawyer in your area will be able to assist you with evaluating your claim, filing your claim, and representing you in court, if necessary. If you are involved in a breach of contract dispute, you should contact a well-qualified contract attorney in your area.
An experienced contract attorney will represent your best interests and help protect you from legal liabilities, help you recover for your losses, and even represent you in front of a court of law, if necessary.