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What Is an Intentional Tort?
Everything You Need to Know

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Collen Clark Published by Collen Clark

Schmidt & Clark, LLP is not currently accepting these types of cases and has posted this content for information purposes only. We encourage you to seek a qualified attorney, if you feel you might have a case.

Over the years, I have noticed that most civil lawsuits mainly result from "torts." According to tort law, some torts can be intentional, while others could be negligent.

As a personal injury lawyer, I have handled people accused of committing an intentional tort and individuals who have been personal injury victims of such offenses. 

In this article, I will explain everything you need to know about intentional torts to help you better understand the term.

Quick Summary

  • Based on how severe your offense is, you will be able to receive compensation from the person who committed the intentional act.
  • Intentional torts are not as severe as criminal cases.
  • Although there is some shared territory, criminal and intentional tort cases are different.

What Is An Intentional Tort?

A lawyer writing down notes on a book

An intentional tort is an unlawful act done on purpose rather than out of negligence [1]

The intentional act of harm can have serious, long-term consequences, such as bodily harm, infliction of emotional distress, real property damage, harmful contact, offensive contact, personal property loss, and other serious side effects.

Negligence vs. Intent in Law

The type of tort committed depends on the mindset of the person committing it. So, for example, in a vehicle accident, if two cars collide, and neither driver meant to hit the other vehicle, then it's a case of simple negligence. 

However, if the person that hit you decided to crash into your car to cause you bodily harm, he has committed the intentional tort of battery. 

7 Types of Common Intentional Torts

A lawyer writing down notes on a large book

There are many types of intentional torts; however, the following are the seven most common intentional torts in court:

1. Assault and Battery

Assault is the legal term for when someone intentionally causes another person to fear harm. This kind of case focuses on the defendant's actions' impact on the plaintiff, like anxiety or emotional trauma. For example, being held at gunpoint is considered assault.

A battery happens when someone causes harmful or offensive contact with another person by touching them against their will. For example, being punched in the face is considered battery.

Related Article: UC Berkeley Harassment Lawsuit

2. False Imprisonment

False imprisonment occurs when a person unlawfully confines another person without their consent or legal authority. 

False imprisonment can be physical or psychological, such as telling the victim they are not allowed to leave, or that law enforcement is on the way.

3. Fraud

Fraud is an abstract term that is used to describe a wide range of scams, misrepresentations, and misstatements. 

"Deceit" is a more specialized form of fraud that is generally utilized to describe the intentional act of making a destructive lie or false statement to the plaintiff.

4. Intentional Infliction of Severe Emotional Distress

Intentional infliction of emotional distress occurs when the defendant causes severe emotional distress to the plaintiff by engaging in outrageous or extreme behavior. 

Extreme or outrageous conduct is difficult to define, but it is generally considered to be beyond all bounds of decency and civilization.

5. Invasion of Privacy

Invasion of privacy is the illegal intrusion into another person's life without their consent. 

This can be done through various means, such as using a person's picture or likeness without permission, breaking into their home, or listening in on conversations without their knowledge.

6. Trespassing

Trespassing is when the defendant unlawfully enters the plaintiff's land or interferes with the plaintiff's property ownership. 

To be held liable, the plaintiff only needs to prove that the defendant intentionally committed actions that led to said entry.

7. Conversion

In civil law, conversion is the equivalent of theft. When a person uses unlawful domination or control over another's property without permission, it is known as a conversion.

"The difference between negligent and intentional conduct can be subtle, but it's also very important to both plaintiffs and defendants in intentional tort cases. "
- David Goguen, Legal Attorney

Intentional Tort Case vs. Criminal Case

Although they sometimes overlap, criminal cases and intentional torts are different in some aspects.

The Victim

Intentional torts are when one person commits an intentional wrongful act towards another private citizen or private entity. 

However, criminal charges concern acts that violate the state or society.


The punishment for an intentional tort is generally a monetary damages award. The plaintiff usually sues the defendant in civil court to receive this type of compensation.

Criminal cases, on the other hand, are punitive. The government sues the offender, and if they are found guilty, they may face jail time or other penalties set by statute.

The Burden of Proof

Intentional torts only require a preponderance of the evidence, whereas criminal cases require guilt to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

Sometimes intentional torts can get complicated. For example, a plaintiff may sue a defendant for assault and battery and file a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Related Article: Tort vs Criminal Law

Intentional Tort Elements

A lawyer reading a book while holding a pen

A personal injury lawsuit or civil suit usually has a couple of key components that you can look for.

In this case, an intentional tort occurs when these four elements are met:

  1. The first element is the defendant's intention to commit damage, which means that the person must have deliberately caused harm to another person.
  2. The second element, causation of damages, can be a little more tricky. For the defendant to be found liable, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant's actions were the cause of the damages.
  3. The third element is that the plaintiff has suffered because of the defendant's actions.
  4. And finally, the fourth element, the availability of a civil remedy, means that a legal remedy in the form of compensation must be available to the plaintiff.

If you think you may have a valid legal claim, you must speak with an experienced personal injury attorney or law firm to help determine your position.

How Can You Recover After Suffering From an Intentional Tort?

A lawyer holding a book while standinfg upYou can recover after suffering from an intentional tort by receiving compensation for damages. The compensations available include medical bills, lost wages, physical or emotional suffering, and other economic and non-economic damages.

Based on years of experience, I must advise you that the money you may get for a civil wrong from the individual who committed the offense is determined by your losses.

Sometimes, the judge or jury will award punitive damages if the defendant's actions were extreme. These are meant to punish wrongdoers and hopefully prevent them from harming anyone in the future.

What Should You Know When Going to Court With Your Claim?

A lawyer talking to a client

When going to court with your claim, you should know that the party claiming injury from an intentional tort must provide evidence, or a preponderance of evidence standard, to show that the defendant deliberately caused harm. 

The plaintiff must supply enough evidence to support the following claims:

  1. The defendant purposely intended to harm you.
  2. The incident caused your injuries.

After that, the judge will see if the defendant is liable for not upholding a duty of care. However, usually, this varies depending on how intense the injury is and what happened.

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What Is the Most Common Form of an Intentional Tort?

The most common form of an intentional tort is assault and battery because it only requires showing an intentional act and not necessarily an intention to harm.

How Do You Prove an Intentional Tort?

To prove an intentional tort, you must show that the defendant intended to harm you and that their actions were the cause of your damages. 

Is Intentional Tort a Crime?

No, an intentional tort is not a crime. A crime is an act that is punishable by law, whereas an intentional tort is a civil wrong. However, some intentional torts, such as assault and battery, may also be crimes.

What Are the Defenses to Intentional Torts?

The defenses to intentional torts vary depending on the specific tort, but some common ones include consent, self-defense, and necessity.

Do You Want To File an Intentional Tort Claim?

If you've been a victim of an intentional tort, you may be able to seek compensation. Contact the Schmidt & Clark, LLP law firm and have a free consultation with a personal injury attorney to discuss any sensitive or confidential information and learn more about your legal options. 

Our firm's personal injury attorneys can also establish an attorney-client relationship to represent you in court or in negotiations.