Civil Wrongs Vs Criminal Wrongs: What’s The Difference?

Well-known personal injury attorney Melvin Belli was known as the “King of Torts.” At the time I first heard this moniker used to describe Mr. Belli, my father was a second-generation attorney serving the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area, specializing in personal injury and workers’ compensation. Thus, I knew exactly the “kingdom” that Melvin Belli ruled, as I was aware that a tort was a civil wrong. However, a lot of my friends and peers knew absolutely nothing about torts, although they clearly knew that murder and robbery were criminal wrongs. Many people today are still unaware of the distinction. What is a tort and how is it different from a crime? What’s the difference between a civil and criminal wrong?

A civil wrong is an act that an individual (or tortfeasor) Civil Wrongs Vs Criminal Wrongs: What's The Difference?commits against another, giving rise to a cause of action for damages and other appropriate relief such as replevin, a remedy which restores seized or stolen property to its owner. Tort actions may be based upon intentional or negligent conduct and include actions for injuries resulting from motor vehicle accidents and slip and fall occurrences. Tortfeasors may also be found strictly liable for certain inherently dangerous actions. The acts or omissions that constitute a tort are tortious by law and not by agreement of the parties, as in a breach of contract action. As personal injury actions are generally based in tort, the attorneys at Powell Law offer experienced and knowledgeable assistance to all victims of torts or civil wrongs.

In contrast, a criminal wrong is an act that a person performs in violation of a statute, which imposes a penalty in the form of a fine or jail sentence. A person injured or harmed because of a crime may not file or bring criminal charges against the perpetrator. Only a District Attorney or prosecutor has the authority and virtually absolute discretion, to charge an individual with a crime.

It is important to note that many torts are also crimes and many crimes are also torts. A person striking another with his fist may be charged with criminal assault and found guilty for the act (the crime of assault) in a criminal court. Because crimes often include harm to other persons, such individual victims may also have a civil cause of action (the intentional tort of assault) for damages. While a successfully prosecuted case will result in the court punishing the criminal perpetrator with the imposition of fines or a jail sentence, a successfully litigated tort lawsuit will result in the Court entering a monetary judgment against the tortfeasor.

The attorneys at Powell Law can help victims of crime recover damages for compensable torts or civil wrongs. If you or a loved one has been injured in any type of accident resulting in personal injury, contact Powell Law at (570) 961-0777. The consultation is FREE and you don’t pay anything unless we win.

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