What Is the Difference Between a Tort and a Crime?

Tort law and criminal law both work to provide justice for someone who was wronged by another person or organization. To believe these two areas of law are the same is a common misconception.

A tort is an unlawful act that results in injury or damage to a person or property, while a crime is an unlawful act against society as a whole.


The main difference between a tort and a crime is the effect it has on the parties involved. Because a tort is a private infringement on someone’s civil rights, it’s classified as a civil offense. There are different types of torts, but they are all caused by negligence.

A tort is against the law because:

  • it can cause bodily or psychological harm to an individual that could ultimately impair their lifestyle; and
  • it goes against the civil rights of an individual.

Someone can unintentionally or intentionally cause a tort. An unintentional tort would be if someone is accidentally injured on another person’s property, like a slip and fall or an animal bite. An intentional tort would be if a company sent a faulty product into the world knowing it could hurt someone.

Regardless of intention, any person injured as a result of a tort has the right to seek legal action against the offending party. For the best chance at winning the case, help from an attorney with experience in tort cases is strongly advised.


Crimes are offenses dealt with in a criminal court of law. Rather than the injured party being a single person, the injured party is the entirety of society. The punishments can be more severe than the punishments of a tort.

A crime is against the law because:

  • it goes against existing societal laws;
  • it affects the standard of living for law-abiding citizens; and
  • it is a deliberate act that goes against the law and basic rights of humanity.

A tort can become a crime (or vice versa) if the action is severe enough. For example, if a burglar enters a home to steal items and ends up injuring the occupant in the process, the act is a crime that can also be prosecuted as a tort.

Reach Out to the Law Office of Pamela C. Bratcher Today

If you have been the victim of a tort or a crime, our law firm can help you. We can offer you proven  representation in your legal case and will do everything we can to get you the results you seek.

Call our firm today at (270) 977-8910 or contact us online for a free consultation.