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The Major Differences Between Intentional & Unintentional (Negligence) Torts

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A tort is a harmful act that injures another person or their property. If you’re an injured victim, you have the right to file a claim against the other party for causing you harm. If your claim is successful, you can get economic and non-economic damages.

What kind of lawsuit you can file for a personal injury accident depends on the circumstances of your case. Under tort law, you can file two common types of claims: intentional tort and unintentional tort. Schmidt & Clark lawyers have years of experience with tort law and different kinds of torts.

Today we’ll talk about everything you should know about intentional torts and unintentional torts.

Summary of the Key Findings

  • An intentional tort results from intentional acts that cause damage to other parties.
  • Unintentional torts are careless actions. The other party suffers consequences because of the defendant's negligence. 
  • Injured parties will receive different damages, depending on the defendant’s actions and which personal injury tort they can file.

Intentional Tort

Physical and domestic abuse on woman

An intentional tort is when a party purposely causes injury to another person. This is a willful and deliberate action when one person knows their action will result in physical injuries or other damages to someone else [1]. An intentional tort can be premeditated, or the offender can decide to do it on the spot. In both cases, the offender is liable for their wrongdoing and can face criminal or civil charges.

The charges vary depending on the state but most commonly include fines, jail time, probation, travel restrictions, restitution, and more. Several actions are considered common intentional torts:

1. Assault

Threatening to punch someone For an action to be deemed an assault, three elements have to be met:

  • There’s an infliction of injury on another party.
  • The person has the ability to inflict harm.
  • The victim has imminent bodily harm or offensive contact.

Note: There doesn't necessarily need to be damage, and the attempt to inflict harm or a threat is enough for an action to be deemed an assault.

2. Battery

A battery happens when there is the intentional touching of a person’s body in a harmful or offensive way.

Even if there’s no actual injury but only apprehension, the battery still applies.

3. Conversion

Thief claiming gadgets as his ownConversion happens when a person takes something that’s yours and:

  • Doesn’t return it
  • Sells it
  • Changes your property
  • Damages your property

It’s also known as theft, and it only applies to physical property, not intellectual property.

4. False Imprisonment

False imprisonment is when a person unlawfully restrains another person against their will and without legal authority. False imprisonment can happen with and without physical force, with the use of physical barriers or unreasonable duress.

5. Trespass

Holding a wrench to trespass a private propertyFour factors that need to happen for an action to be considered trespass:

  • The person has to enter the land, either intentionally or not
  • Defendant has to enter the land without the owner’s consent
  • The landowner has to suffer damages
  • Only a person with a legal right to the property can bring a trespass claim

Essentially, trespass is using the property without the owner's permission, and it can be brought even without any significant property damage.

6. Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (IIED)

For IIED to be brought as personal injury claims, there has to be outrageous conduct meant to cause emotional distress intentionally. In the case of IIED, the defendant is liable for the emotional suffering and all the consequences that arise from it, such as anxiety, miscarriage, and more.

Also read: Can You Sue Someone for Emotional Harrasment?

7. Fraud

  • The defendant was aware they were saying a falsehood
  • They knew the other party would believe them
  • The plaintiff used that information
  • The plaintiff suffered damages because of the wrongful information

Unintentional Tort

Vehicle and bicycle accident

An unintentional tort is usually associated with negligence, and it means a person's conduct falls under the expected standard of care for people around them.

“The person who caused the accident is considered negligent because they failed to exercise the same degree of care that a reasonable person would have in the same situation.” Investopedia

The most important difference between intentional and unintentional torts is the defendant’s state of mind. In a negligence claim, a person didn’t set out to cause harm.  However, they are still legally responsible if their negligent action hurts someone else.

Most common examples of unintentional torts include car accidents, medical malpractice, workplace accidents, slip and fall, and more.

Intentional Torts vs. Unintentional Torts: Difference in Damages

Gavel close up image Tort cases are often brought under civil law, which is different from criminal charges.  The goal of a civil case isn't to punish the wrongdoer, as is the case in a criminal trial, but to get damages.

Damages for intentional torts are usually bigger than for negligence torts, and they include medical expenses, lost wages, personal property damages, pain and suffering.

To get damages for personal injuries in a negligence lawsuit, a person must show they suffered real harm. The plaintiff can get:

  • Compensatory damages — To try to return the plaintiff to the position he was in before the injury.
  • Punitive damages — Are awarded if the defendant didn’t act with reasonable care or was malicious.

FAQ

What Is Strict Liability?

Strict liability is a legal principle that imposes liability even if there’s no direct fault.  This usually happens in defect lawsuits, where an injury or a wrongful death is a consequence of a defective product.

File a Successful Claim with a Professional Law Firm

No matter if you were hurt in an intentional or an unintentional tort, you can get damages for the other party’s harmful conduct. This can be auto accidents, physical injury, parent’s negligence, or a mere breach of property. No matter which tort you need to file, lawyers at Schmidt & Clark can guide you through the process and provide legal advice.

Contact us for a free consultation as soon as today.


References:

  1. https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/intentional_tort

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