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Tort vs. Criminal Law: What You Need to Know

Thursday, August 22nd, 2019 By

Tort vs. Criminal Law: What You Need to Know

Legal jargon can be confusing for everyone, and torts and crimes are technical terms in the legal world that are often misunderstood and improperly overlapped with one another. Tort and criminal law are especially difficult to distinguish from one another, so in this article we are setting the record straight and providing you with everything you need to know about both legal fields.

Here are the fundamentals:

  • A tort is something that occurs when one person’s negligence directly causes property or personal damage to another individual.
  • A crime is legally defined as any ubiquitous wrongdoing against society.

By understanding the basic principles associated with each field of law, you’ll be able to have a much clearer understanding between the differences of torts and crimes, so let’s dig deeper…

What is a Tort?

A tort is a private breach of someone else’s civil rights, and in the legal world a tort is what occurs when someone’s negligence directly causes damage to a person and/or their property. There are all types of torts, but every tort directly results in the injury to a person or damage to a person’s property.

Negligence is one of the most common causes of torts, but there are distinct differences between unintentional and intentional torts. An example of an unintentional tort would be someone being injured by a faulty product or someone’s pet, while an intentional tort could comprise of something like defamation of character or battery. Typically, the injured party will sue the tortfeasor (person who committed a tort) for damages to a person’s health or their property that was derived from the tortfeasor’s negligent behavior.

Intentional torts are often confused with crimes, and this is probably because these types of torts will coincide with criminal behavior. But if an injured individual decides to sue for compensation purposes, then the case is brought to a civil court (as opposed to criminal court) and the criminal case becomes a tort. Some of the best examples of torts can be seen within all aspects of personal injury law, including car accidents, medical malpractice, product liability, workplace accidents and essentially all of our many practice areas.

One example of a tort being involved with criminal activity is when a drunk driver causes bodily harm and property damage to another individual involved in an accident. In this situation, the crime is the drinking and driving and the tort is the injury sustained by the victim.

The following are the main reasons why torts are illegal:

  • They cause physical or psychological injury and can potentially impair another individual’s lifestyle.
  • Torts ultimately will always go against an individual’s civil rights.
  • Torts are something that can be prosecuted against, but the outcomes of these prosecutions may vary depending on the legal guidelines pertaining to the case’s specific legal and civil rights.

What is a Crime?

The generic definition of a crime is any kind of wrongdoing that affects society, and crimes are always identified via a state’s legal system and prosecuted accordingly to a state’s laws and criminal court procedures.  In many personal injury situations, an injured party is technically classified as the society and the criminal laws broken were ultimately set up to protect members of society.

Crimes are always brought to justice within criminal courts of law, and the punishment that is given to the criminal will fit the structure that was set up by the state’s criminal laws. Crimes are always punishable acts that go against the laws that are established to keep peace and the protection of all people.

The following are the main reasons why crimes are illegal acts:

  • Crimes contest our existing laws that were established to protect society.
  • Crimes have negative effects on law-abiding citizens’ standard of living.
  • Crimes are deliberately against the law and human rights.

The Three Main Differences Between Torts & Crimes

We are a team of Silver Spring, Bowie, College Park, Landover and Upper Marlboro Injury & Accident Attorneys who have become experts within ever aspect of personal injury law, and it’s through our multiple decades of combined experience representing our clients that we’ve been able to successfully distinguish the primary differences between torts and crimes. The three main differences include the following:

1. Method

A tort is something that is classified as a wrongdoing against an individual, while a crime is classified as an illegal act that affects the entire social order our communities live within.

2. Intent

Torts can be unintentional, and many times they involve accidents caused by negligence. This negligence certainly can still cause serious damage to the accident victim(s), which is why torts are tried in civil court and compensation is metered out based on the victim’s losses due to damages and the measure of wrongs involved with the tort.

A crime is an intentional, planned wrongdoing that affects society. There are situations in which an innocent individual may suffer during criminal activities, but usually crimes are a direct act against the law that aim to gain in some way from the specific wrongdoing.

3. Effect on Society

The ways in which torts and crimes affect society differ, but the impact is always going to be negative no matter what the circumstances are.

A tort is something that ultimately distresses the well being of another individual who then seeks out legal action and other forms of compensation.

A crime affects society on a more grand scale, and the criminal laws established within any given state will make certain that criminals are adequately punished for their committed crimes.

There are situations in which torts and crimes coincide with each other within the same criminal activity, and this predominately entails an individual being injured on the scene of a crime due to the criminal’s illegal activity.

Want more Information? Contact Our Team of Personal Injury Attorneys Today!

We understand how difficult it can be to determine your best course of legal action when you’re involved in an accident of any kind, which is why we always offer free consultations so you can provide us with the details of your case and we can begin taking the necessary first steps towards legal recourse.

So contact us at our Silver Spring or Baltimore offices today to see how we can help you or your loved ones receive the compensation you rightfully deserve!

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