When you are injured by another person, the harmful conduct generally falls within a broad legal classification called torts. A tort is a wrongful act that injures or interferes with another’s person or property. Torts can either be intentional (performed purposefully) or negligent (caused by a lack of reasonable care). To illustrate these differences, let’s look at two scenarios.
How your claim proceeds and the damages that are available to you depend on the type of tort alleged in your claim. For a better understanding of the differences, let’s compare intentional torts and negligence.
The Tort of Negligence
Personal injury claims are frequently based on a negligence claim. Negligence is conduct that falls below a reasonable standard of care for the safety of those around you. A key difference between an intentional tort and a negligence claim is the actor’s state of mind. A person who is negligent did not intend to cause harm, but they are still held legally responsible because their careless actions injured someone.
Four things together determine negligence. A negligence lawsuit will succeed only if the plaintiff proves all four of the following elements:
Intentional torts, on the other hand, occur when a person intentionally acts in a certain way that leads to another person's injury. There are several intentional torts recognized by most states, including battery, assault, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, trespass to land, trespass to chattels and conversion.
Difference in Available Damages
Tort cases are heard in a civil proceeding. This legal process is very different from a criminal proceeding. A civil case seeks compensation for the victims of harmful acts, not to punish the wrong doer. The type of tort being alleged will affect the type of damages that are recoverable.
Damages available for intentional torts tend to be broader and more generous than in negligence cases. Typical damages include recovery for medical expenses, lost wages, or pain and suffering. Intentional torts can allow for punitive damages, since society wishes to deter its members from intentionally harming each other. Proof of wrongful intent is required to recover.
To recover in a negligence case, the person bringing the claim must have suffered actual harm as a result of the defendant’s actions. There are two categories of damages that a plaintiff may be able to recover: compensatory damages and punitive damages. Compensatory damages are designed to return the plaintiff to the position he was in before being injured by the defendant’s negligence. Punitive damages may be awarded if the defendant’s conduct was reckless, wanton, or malicious.
Have Your Injury Claim Reviewed for Free
When you’re injured, it may seem unimportant whether the harm you suffered was caused intentionally or negligently. But when you are seeking compensation, pursuing the proper legal claim can make the difference between success and failure. Receive a free claim review from an experienced personal injury attorney to discuss the elements of your claim and get a head start on the path to recovery.
Contact a qualified personal injury attorney to make sure your rights are protected.