Throughout the next three years of your law degree you will study both criminal offences and civil wrongs. While criminal offences are those which you are perhaps most familiar with right now, you will come to realise that criminal matters form only a small percentage of what you will study. You will, however, cover many forms of civil wrongs especially in your first year in both contract law and tort law.
A tort is simply a ‘civil wrong’, and tort law establishes the circumstances in which a person who has been harmed or wronged by another can be compensated through the civil courts. In very basic terms, the idea of tort law is to put the claimant back in the position he or she would have been in had the wrong not occurred – but of course, there are a lot of hurdles that must be jumped over before any compensation is awarded!
In the first semester you will start by understanding what interests the law of torts protects by considering in what circumstances there may have been a duty of care and where the defendant may have breached such a duty. The course will then take you through the type of loss or injury which may occur, and what remedies the law may be able to award. The second semester will give you a chance to learn more about civil wrongs you may be aware of now, such as nuisance, trespass to land, and defamation – all interesting topics which will no doubt allow for some thought-provoking debates in tutorials.
As with Contract Law, you will end the year with a three hour exam with a mix of problem and essay question, testing you on all you have covered since September. It cannot be stressed enough how important your lecture and tutorial notes are, and starting to learn case names as soon as you can will only help you. Tort law is an enjoyable course due to both the lecturers and the very interesting and sometimes bizarre cases you will cover: Donoghue v Stevenson being one of many that you will remember way past your law student days!