What is an Intentional Tort?

lawyer standing next to a gavel with the scale of justice behind himPersonal injury cases fall under the umbrella category of what is referred to as “tort law.” A tort is “an act or omission that gives rise to injury or harm to another and amounts to a civil wrong for which courts impose liability.”

Most personal injury cases are based on a negligence theory, claiming that the at-fault person failed to take reasonable care, thus leading to the accident. The at-fault person didn’t mean to cause the accident, it just sort of happened. The question then becomes whether the accident would have happened if they had been more careful.

But what happens when that person did something on purpose that caused the accident?

The Element of Intent

As you may have figured out, an intentional tort is one where someone intended to cause you harm. As a result, you have to prove that the other person’s intent. This may sound straightforward, but it’s actually more complicated than you might think.

How do you prove someone’s intent? You have to consider the circumstances surrounding the accident. For example, let’s say someone runs a red light and hits a pedestrian. You could prove intent by introducing the following evidence:

  • The driver was paying full time and attention, with both hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.
  • The driver accelerated the car when he saw the pedestrian in the intersection and steered so as to hit them.
  • The driver and the pedestrian were enemies.

These facts strongly suggest that the driver fully intended to run down the pedestrian. However, let’s change the facts a bit:

  • The driver was running late for a very important meeting.
  • The driver knew they were running the red light, but it had just turned and they thought it would be ok.
  • The driver did not see the pedestrian.

In the second scenario, the driver intended to run the light but did not intend to hit the pedestrian. As a result, it’s unlikely that you can prove that they committed an intentional tort. You would have a much stronger basis for a negligence claim because intent is irrelevant when proving negligence.

Common Examples of Intentional Torts

Here are some examples of intentional torts that may entitle you to compensation:

  • Battery: hitting or touching in an offensive manner.
  • Assault: an attempted battery or threat of injury.
  • Intentional infliction of emotional distress: terrorizing someone or placing them in constant fear of harm.
  • Fraud: causing harm to someone by being deceitful or misleading.
  • Conversion (another term for theft).

As you can see, many of intentional torts can also be charged as crimes. It’s important to understand that you can still file a civil claim for an intentional tort, even if no criminal charges are filed or the charges are later dismissed. You also need to understand that you may not receive compensation even if the criminal case is successful – you still may need to file a civil case. Probably the most famous example that illustrates the overlap between criminal law and intentional torts is the OJ Simpson case. As you may recall, he was famously acquitted of murder but was later found liable to his ex-wife’s estate and required to pay millions of dollars in damages.

Injured? Contact Slappey & Sadd, Atlanta Personal Injury Attorneys

At Slappey & Sadd, we handle more than just car accident cases. Our experienced personal injury attorneys can help you receive full and fair compensation for just about any injury caused by someone else, whether intentional or not. If you’ve been injured and want to discuss your options, call us at 888-474-9616 or contact us online for a free consultation.

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