Differentiating Between Tort and Crime


Differentiating Between Tort and Crime

In any well maintained society it is important to protect citizens from acts which may cause harm. To do this, laws are established to determine if acts are criminal in nature. A wrongful act that results in injury or is contrary to societal interests is typically considered a crime under the law in Georgia.

Other acts that result in harm may not constitute a crime, however. If an at-fault party collides with another vehicle, for instance, he or she is not usually found guilty of a crime. This type of action is resolved under tort law rather than criminal law. A tort may result in injury or damage to property. The action may be intentional, unintentional, or a tort of strict liability.

It is important to understand the distinction between a crime and a tort, as they are considered different under the law.

Tort Law

Tort cases are pursued through civil court proceedings. In a tort case, the person accused of causing injury is referred to as “the defendant,” whereas the injured party is referred to as “the plaintiff.” The purpose of the civil court proceedings is to determine whether the defendant is liable for injury or damages and the payment of compensation.

Criminal Law

Crimes are recognized under state or federal law. If a crime is determined to have been committed, criminal proceedings would take place. The at-fault party is still referred to as the defendant and the victim is the party who has suffered injury or damage to property. Any charges against the defendant are brought by the government and the defendant may face a jail or prison sentence.

Court Proceedings

An example of a criminal case may involve a person who sold illegal drugs to the victim. As the sale of such drugs is prohibited under law in Georgia, the defendant must stand trial for his or her actions. The victim in this case would provide witness testimony of the action in court.

Tort proceedings are significantly different. A case may involve nursing home negligence, for instance. The defendant has not committed a crime but can be found liable for negligence and therefore responsible for paying any awarded compensation.

Success in a tort case depends on the plaintiff’s ability to satisfy two conditions: that the defendant committed a tort, and the tort resulted in injury or damages. Proving both of these conditions may result in the plaintiff receiving compensation for the injuries suffered as a result of the defendant’s actions.

In some instances, actions are considered both a tort and a crime. A good example of this is when the defendant is guilty of assaulting the plaintiff in a heated argument. If you have suffered personal injury or damage to property and are not sure whether the act falls under tort or criminal law, contact H. Lehman Franklin, P.C. for a free evaluation of your case. You can reach us by phone (912) 764-9616 or email ( We can provide expert guidance and representation to help you pursue the compensation you deserve.