What is the difference between a tortfeasor, a plaintiff and a defendant?


In the domain of legal liability, the "plaintiff", also referred to as "claimant", is the party which has incurred some kind of loss, and is suing for damages as a result of being harmed.

The terms "defendant" and "tortfeasor" are synonymous and refer to the liable party, or the person who is being sued.

Defendant or Tortfeasor?

Despite being synonymous, there is a slight difference between the semantic nuance of the terms "defendant" and "tortfeasor". While "defendant" is the general term referring to any perpetrator of a legal wrong, "tortfeasor" is more specific, applying to people who are responsible for committing a tort.

Law recognizes three basic violations of a person's legal rights. One type of legal wrong is the crime, another one - the breach of contract, and finally - the tort. The perpetrator of a crime can be punished by a fine, prison, and even capital sentence.

In contrast, the person who is found guilty for committing a tort is held legally liable and has to pay money damages to the plaintiff.

While the term "defendant" can be used in all three classes of legal wrongs, i.e. in the case of a crime, a breach of contract or a tort, "tortfeasor" is only used when the violation of legal right is a tort. The plaintiff is the party suing for damages and looking for compensation for their loss, or pain and suffering.

The tort as a legal wrongdoing can take on many forms. It can be intentional, as in the case of trespassing, slander, libel, fraud, etc.; strict liability - when inherently hazardous occupations result in people being harmed, regardless of fault; and finally - negligence - when loss is caused as a result of someone's failure to perform their legal duty.

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