The word tort is derived from the French translation of “wrong” as well as the Latin word “tortum.” Basically, a tort usually involves the breaching of a duty of care that is owed to someone or something. In essence, a tort usually refers to a wrong that is committed against someone or something. All crimes are torts, but not all torts are crimes. Confused? Let’s say that a stranger walks up to you in a bar and punches you in the face. You’re left with a black eye, and the villain is left shackled at the police squad car. Because of the wrong that he committed against you, he can be charged with a crime. He also can be hit with a civil lawsuit and forced to pay money to you for the damage that he did to you in punching you. His sucker punch is a crime and a tort.
Now let’s assume that instead of punching you, this same stranger is driving on the road and his eyes wander off the road to check out a beautiful sunset. He accidentally crashes into the rear of your car, injuring you. The police determine that the guy did not crash into you purposely, but rather that he is just a lousy driver. While the chances are good that he won’t be charged with any crime, he still could be hit with a lawsuit from you for the damages you suffered in the crash. His negligence in rear-ending your car is a tort, but it’s not a crime. He owed a duty to you to drive his car safely, and he committed a tort in not paying attention and accidentally crashing into your car, but he did not commit a crime.
So while most people think they don’t have a legitimate claim if a crime was not committed, that’s not always the case. Be sure to speak to an attorney if you are injured in an accident in order to review your case and see what avenues of recourse are available to you.