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.
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.