Intentional Torts: When Someone Deliberately Harms You

Intentional Tort

When someone deliberately hits you or perpetrates some other deliberate wrongful act against you that causes you injury or other harm, they have committed what’s called an intentional tort. The same holds true if they deliberately fail to do something and the failure causes you injury or other harm. Finally, if they deliberately do something that infringes on one of your legal rights, this, too, amounts to an intentional tort. In all of these situations, you have the right to sue the person who committed the intentional tort and ask the court to award you economic damages.

Intentional Tort Examples

Tort law covers a huge spectrum of specific wrongs. Law schools devote entire semesters to tort law to prepare new lawyers to represent clients in these types of lawsuits. Keep in mind that torts are divided into the following three categories:

  1. Intentional torts, where the defendant knew or should have known that their action(s) or omission(s) would injure or harm the other person
  2. Negligent torts, where the defendant’s action(s) were unreasonably unsafe
  3. Strict liability torts, where the defendant is held legally accountable for their act(s) or omission(s), whether or not they intended to harm or injure the other person

While the list of intentional torts is nearly infinite, common intentional torts include the following:

  • Assault
  • Battery
  • Conversion
  • Defamation
  • Domestic violence
  • False imprisonment
  • Fraud and/or deceit
  • Intentional infliction of emotional distress
  • Invasion of privacy
  • Medical malpractice
  • Negligence
  • Negligence per se, i.e., strict liability
  • Personal injury
  • Private or public nuisance
  • Product liability
  • Trespass to land and/or property

O.J. Simpson Case

Sometimes a person’s alleged deliberate act(s) can be both a crime and an intentional tort. In such a situation, they can be criminally prosecuted by the state as well as civilly sued by the victim or their family. One of the prime examples is the infamous O.J. Simpson case that began back in 1995. Simpson, a Heisman Trophy winner in college, an NFL football legend, and a well-known actor in both movies and commercials, was accused of murdering his former wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ron Goldman.

In what became known as the Trial of the Century, the jury ultimately acquitted Simpson at the end of his lengthy, nationally televised trial. The Brown and Goldman families subsequently sued Simpson for the wrongful deaths of Nicole and Ron. In this civil trial, the jury found Simpson responsible for the deaths and awarded the plaintiffs $8.5 million in compensatory damages, plus an additional $25 million in punitive damages.

Intentional Tort Lawsuits

When you sue someone for having committed an intentional tort, you are held to the preponderance of the evidence standard to prevail. This means you must present evidence at trial that will convince the jury that the defendant’s act(s) or omission(s) more likely than not caused your damages. A preponderance of the evidence amounts to a 51% certainty in the minds of the jury.

What you specifically will have to prove, i.e., the specific intentional tort’s elements, to win your lawsuit will depend on the type of intentional tort action you file and the nature of the defendant’s act(s) or omission(s). For instance, some intentional torts and what you need to prove in these respective types of cases include the following:

  • Assault: that the defendant’s intentional act(s) put you in apprehension of imminent harm or offensive contact
  • Battery: that the defendant’s intentional act(s) contacted your body in a harmful or offensive manner to which you did not consent
  • False imprisonment: that the defendant’s intentional act(s) resulted in your confinement without your consent or the authority of law
  • Intentional infliction of emotional distress: that the defendant’s intentional act(s) were outrageous in nature and so severe that a reasonable person would expect them to adversely affect your mental health
  • Product liability: that the defendant manufactured or sold a defective product that injured you when you used it

Intentional Tort Damages

You can expect to recover two, possibly three, types of damages if you win your intentional tort lawsuit. The two types of damages to which you are entitled are economic and noneconomic. The jury will award you the third type of damages, i.e., punitive damages, only if it determines that the defendant’s action(s) that caused your harm or injury were especially outrageous or egregious.

Economic damages include such things as the following:

  • Your past, present and future medical expenses
  • Past, present and future rehabilitation expenses
  • Past, present and future physical therapy expenses
  • Your past and future lost wages
  • Your lost earning capacity

Noneconomic damages include such things as the following:

  • Your pain and suffering
  • Mental and emotional distress
  • Loss of your enjoyment of life

The purpose of economic and noneconomic damages is to “make you whole”. This mean they’ll compensate you for the losses you suffered due to the defendant’s intentional tort. The purpose of punitive damages is to punish the defendant for their outrageous act(s) and/or to deter them or others similarly situated from committing such act(s) in the future.

Why You Need an Experienced Intentional Tort Lawyer

Intentional tort claims can become very complicated very quickly, especially medical malpractice claims. In addition, since there are so many kinds of intentional torts, only a lawyer deeply experienced in this area of the law can do the following:

  • Assess your situation
  • Determine the type of intentional tort committed against you
  • Determine who was at fault, and therefore who has civil liability for having committed the act(s) or omission(s) that damaged you
  • File an appropriate lawsuit on your behalf
  • Aggressively negotiate with the defendant’s insurance company in an attempt to obtain a favorable settlement for you
  • Strenuously advocate for you in court if and when a jury trial becomes necessary

Work With an Experienced Local Lawyer

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