What is a Delict?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A delict is a legal wrong. This term is used in civil law to refer to actions which cause injuries to other people and result in a subsequent liability for the person who committed the action. In civil law, demonstrating that a delict occurred and showing who is responsible is necessary to collect damages or take other actions. Delicts may also be known as wrongs, offenses, or torts. In all cases, the actions of one person lead to an injury sustained by another; the person who causes the injury is considered liable under the law whether or not the harm was intended.

Delicts may include malpractice.
Delicts may include malpractice.

Civil law distinguishes between delicts and quasi-delicts. A quasi-delict is a wrong which occurs unintentionally, as a result of something like negligence, in contrast with a true delict, which requires intentional action. Thus, someone who commits murder has committed a delict, while manslaughter would be an example of a quasi-delict.

A wrong may be purely civil in nature, or it may have civil and criminal elements. When a case has a criminal component, someone may be tried and sentenced in criminal court and then tried again in civil court. The civil case may result in awarding damages to the person who was injured by the criminal act. It is possible to be found responsible in one court and not in another, which is why people are sometimes forced to pay damages for crimes they were acquitted of in criminal court. Purely civil cases are tried only in civil court.

In the case of a private delict, a specific single individual is injured as a result of someone's actions. Public delicts are actions which cause community damage. Distinguishing between these two types can be important during a trial, because they may involve different types of damage awards. Establishing degrees of responsibility can also be an aspect of a case. Courts view cases differently depending on whether they relate to malice or innocent mistakes.

Being found responsible for a delict can have an impact on someone beyond the damages which she or he will be forced to pay. People convicted of civil wrongs may experience a decline in their credit scores if the wrongs are financial in nature, or may fail background checks used by employers. Since civil matters are in the public record, someone who has committed a civil wrong can also suffer a decline in reputation in the community. Delicts like malpractice can result in being barred from certain types of employment.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


@SauteePan - I heard about those cases and it was really sad. I wanted to say that another case that really represented the legal definition of a delict was the famous OJ Simpson trial. In the criminal case, he was charged with the murder of his ex wife and her friend, but was later acquitted of the charges.

He was then sued in civil court for these murders even though he was acquitted in criminal court case and was found guilty and the jury awarded a judgment to the families of the victims for $35 million dollars.

This was a case that proved that just because you are not found guilty in a criminal case does not mean that you are off the hook.


@Suntan12 - I agree with you and I wanted to say that I was reading about some cases regarding the deaths of many people as a result of a car manufacturer’s faulty brake system and sudden acceleration problems and to me this really could define a delict.

There was information that was leaked out that the company was aware of the manufacturing defects but chose to do nothing until the publicity surrounding these cases became so great that the company had to take action.

I think that according to the law of delict this could be a criminal as well as a civil case because the company was aware of the defective problems yet they failed to do a recall until it was too late.


I was reading a case that occurred in Illinois that was really a quasi delict. The parents hosted an underage drinking party and promised that no one would be driving home drunk. Well, an eighteen year old left the party and not only was he drunk but he crashed into a tree and died as a result of his drinking a driving.

The parents were convicted but only given probation. I imagine that the parents of the deceased teenager are probably going to file a civil lawsuit because this is really outrageous that people that are this irresponsible and even host an illegal underage drinking party in their home get off with just probation.

The parents that hosted this party should have served serious jail time in my opinion because a poor kid is dead because they did not pay enough attention to notice that he was unfit to drive.

I know that in many states the bar owners are liable when adults drink and drive and I think that there should be a federal law regarding this because too many people are giving parties without taking responsibility for their actions. Underage drinking is completely illegal and that should also offer stiffer penalties.

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