In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan.


A tort is a civil wrong that causes harm to another person by violating a protected right. A civil wrong is an act or omission that is intentional, accidental, or negligent, other than a breach of contract. The specific rights protected give rise to the unique “elements” of each tort. Tort requires the presence of four elements that are the essential facts required to prove a civil wrong. Courts impose liability for torts to compensate an injured party for an act or an omission that causes harm. One is never “guilty” of a tort, as that is a term from the criminal law that implies a violation of some societal or state standard. One who commits a tort is a tortfeasor; the tortfeasor is “liable,” rather than guilty. Tort liability is meant to monetarily reimburse the tort victim for the harm caused by the tortfeasor. Other remedies are also possible, including restitution or injunctions. A tort may arise from intentional acts, from negligent acts (frequently an omission of action when there was a duty to act), or from the violation of a statute. The basis of tort law is that people are liable for the consequences of their actions. Under most tort laws, the injury suffered by the plaintiff does not have to be physical. Torts may include causing emotional distress or a violation of personal rights (e.g., the “right to privacy”). There are different types of torts based on the rights violated. Some acts like gross negligence that may endanger the lives of others may be both a tort and a crime.

Publication types

  • Study Guide