What Is the Difference Between a Tort and a Crime?

A tort is an incident in which someone intentionally injures a person and their property and can result in a private lawsuit; a crime is a criminal action that the state prosecutes on the victim's behalf, according to the University of New Mexico. Although crimes are torts because of the resultant action on the victim, many torts are civil matters and therefore are not crimes.

When a plaintiff accuses someone of committing a tort, they must prove that they or their property have suffered damage as a result. When it comes to proving a tort, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the defendant has carried out an action and that they have suffered a loss as a result. In contrast, a victim accusing someone of a crime needs to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant actually did carry out the actions they were accused of.

Another way to distinguish between torts and crimes is to look at intent. Most criminal cases demonstrate that the defendant had a direct intent to cause harm. In contrast, tort cases do not have this requirement. The defendant therefore may have carried out an act negligently without intending to cause harm, but they become financially liable for the loss because of the result of their actions.