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Is a Tort a Crime, and What Is the Difference Between Torts and Crimes?




Some tort cases end up in criminal and civil courts, which is why there is a shroud of confusion over whether a tort is a crime. Let’s explore criminal torts and crimes more with some information we learned from Ehline Law in CA, and is a tort a crime video library transcript here.

What Is Tort Law?

Criminal and tort law are two different animals. A tort is a breach of an individual’s rights, a civil wrong that causes injury or harm to another person or a person’s property.

Under tort law, there are different kinds of remedies available for injured parties to pursue, such as monetary compensation, restitution remedies, and equitable remedies. Tort law focuses on remedies beyond what property or contract law provides.

Torts are further divided into three main categories, including the following:

Negligent Torts

A negligence tort arises when someone’s misconduct arises from their failure to exercise reasonable care and when someone fails to carry out their legal duty of care toward another person. Previously, there was a need for a contractual relationship (express or implied) between parties for a negligence claim to succeed.

However, the requirement for a contractual relationship faded away in the Donoghue v Stevenson case, where the defendant had a drink purchased by her friend and suffered a shock after finding the remains of a snail at the end of the bottle.

Although she did not have a contractual relationship between the manufacturer and herself since her friend purchased the drink, the defendant successfully brought a claim.

The injured party must prove the following elements of a negligence case to win successfully:

  1. Duty of care
  2. Breach
  3. Causation
  4. Damages.

Intentional Torts

Unlike negligence torts, which are wrongdoings arising from another’s negligence, intentional torts are wrongdoings by a person knowing that their actions could injure or harm another individual.

The difference between negligent and intentional torts is the person’s mental state, and intentional torts occur when the defendant is directly responsible for the damages.

In some cases, the person carrying out an intentional act may not mean the eventual outcome, but they can still be liable for the damages caused. For example, a prank causing an elderly heart attack can lead to liability for the prankster.

There are several types of intentional torts, including assault, battery, trespass, false imprisonment, defamation, and fraud.

Some intentional torts can also be a crime. For example, battery leading to bodily harm is a tort and a crime.

Strict Liability Torts

Under strict liability law, if the defendant possesses anything dangerous or carries out an abnormally dangerous activity, they will be liable for any injuries regardless of whether they took the necessary precautions to prevent accidents.

For example, in most states, dog bites fall under strict liability, and the dog owner will be responsible whether or not they were aware or should be aware of the dangerous nature of their pet.

According to the US courts, crop dusting, blasting, and storing flammable liquids are all ultra-hazardous activities.

In most states, manufacturing defects or selling defective products also fall under strict liability torts. Injured victims must prove the following in cases of product liability:

  • The defendant sold a defective product
  • The defective product resulted in the plaintiff’s injuries
  • The defect made the product dangerous for consumers.

What Is Criminal Law?

Unlike tort law, criminal law refers to an illegal act, a crime that injures or harms a person or their property. Tort law focuses on dispute resolution, while criminal law focuses on rehabilitation and punishment.

Although a crime and tort refer to a wrongful act, criminal law incorporates a broader range of illegal activities carried out intentionally, which is why an intentional tort may also be a crime.

However, crime affects society rather than a single person. It has a negative impact on law-abiding citizens’ standard of living, which is why it is the responsibility of the state or federal government to hold criminals accountable to compensate victims in a criminal court.

Torts vs. Crimes: Is a Tort a Crime?

There are several striking differences between torts and crimes. The major difference between the two existing laws is that a tort is a wrongful act that violates a person’s civil rights, while a crime is an illegal activity or an action that impacts the community or the local social order.

Crimes are acts against the laws that help protect society and are identified by the state legal system. Although it may include individual parties or victims, criminal law focuses on the punishment and sentences applicable according to the nature of the crime.

Most torts occur unintentionally and out of negligence. The actions may injure the victim’s health or property, for which they can go to the civil courts to resolve their grievances. On the other hand, a crime involves intentional acts affecting society, and the perpetrators are liable for their actions in criminal courts.

Since the tort claims end up in civil courts, the most common remedy for a tort involves monetary compensation for the victim’s loss. However, the punishments for crimes are far more severe in criminal courts and often involve incarceration, criminal fines, or a combination of both.

Another major difference between the two is the burden of proof. In civil cases, the injured party has the burden of proof and must establish a civil case by achieving the preponderance of evidence standard. The plaintiff must prove that it is more likely than not that the defendant caused them harm or damages.

In criminal cases, the burden of proof lies with the prosecutor. They must establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty of their actions. The prosecutor is responsible for showing that the defendant carried out the illegal acts beyond a reasonable doubt in a criminal court. The defendant does not have to prove their innocence unless in case of insanity or self-defense.

The burden of proof in a civil case is much lower than in a criminal case. Although achieving the preponderance of evidence standard in a civil court is easier, some serious civil cases may require convincing evidence.

Conclusion, Torts are Not Crimes, But Can Form the Basis of Crimes

We hope you enjoyed this information we learned from Ehline Law, a premier personal injury law firm in California that has protected the rights of many injured victims for more than 15 years. If you suffered injuries due to another’s fault in your state, contact an experienced injury lawyer for a free consultation, as you may be eligible for compensation.

Only the best personal injury attorneys will assess your case under the state and federal statutes and provide you with the legal guidelines during the consultation. Remember that a criminal court won’t be able to calculate a victim’s damages other than for restitution, even if they were unintentional injuries.


After working 4 years as a reputed journalist, Jerome wanted to explore internet-based journalism. He brought together the idea of USA Reformer to dispatch news that serves the need of readers with perfect information. He also contributes as a business news writer for the website.

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