Many people know at least a little about criminal law. We know that the state can bring charges against us if we break the law and that we could end up paying fines or even serving jail time if we are found guilty. Fewer people have been exposed to the concept of a “tort,” although it, too, involves wrongful conduct. The same act can be both a crime and a tort. However, the consequences are different.
It is frequently said that a crime involves a public wrong while a tort involves a private wrong. In most cases, crimes are defined by state laws. For example, Title 35 of the Indiana Code defines the wrongful acts that are crimes in Indiana such as the following:
- Offenses against the person such as assault and battery, murder, and burglary
- Theft and conversion offenses such as trade secret theft and conversion
- Offenses involving controlled substances
- Gambling Offenses
The state of Indiana, through a prosecutor, can bring a charge against someone who commits a crime. If the person is found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, the judge can impose penalties such as jail time, a prison sentence, and fines.
In contrast, while some torts are defined by statute, many are not. Much of the law that governs torts was developed by judges. If a person has been civilly wronged, such as in a car wreck that was largely someone else’s fault, he or she may choose to bring a lawsuit against the wrongdoer. If he or she prevails, the wrongdoer may be required to pay money damages to right the wrong.
Some wrongful acts may be both a crime and a tort. For example, an assault generally requires an offensive touching. If someone assaults you, the state may decide to prosecute that person under the criminal law. If the state proves its case beyond a reasonable doubt, the person is considered guilty of the crime and may be penalized criminally. In addition, you may decide to bring a civil tort lawsuit against the wrongdoer. Your lawsuit would be separate from the criminal proceedings. If you prove that the person assaulted you in your tort case and that you suffer damage as a result, you may receive money damages for the wrongful conduct.
At Blackburn & Green, our personal injury attorneys have decades of experience with Indiana tort law. If you were injured in an accident, contact us today by calling (800) 444-1112 or (260) 422-4400, or fill out our online form to schedule a free consultation.