Transferred Intent in Personal Injury Law

As you pass two men on the street, one man tosses a bottle at the other man out of anger. He misses the intended victim and instead hits you in the head. Is he liable for your injuries even if the man didn't intend to hurt you? Most likely yes because the man's intent to commit a tort has been transferred under the transferred intent doctrine. Read on to learn about transferred intent in personal injury law.

What Is Transferred Intent?

Transferred intent is a legal theory that can apply to both torts (personal injuries) and criminal law. Under personal injury law, a person is liable when he or she causes: (1) intended harm to a person other than the one intended, (2) different harm to an intended person, or (3) different harm to a person other than the one intended.

In torts and personal injury cases, transferred intent applies to the following types of torts: assault, battery, false imprisonment, trespass to chattel, conversion, and trespass to land. The person is legally responsible as long as he or she knew such action would harm someone.

Applying Transferred Intent in Personal Injury Cases

In an intentional tort case, you are required to show that the defendant intended to commit the act that caused you to suffer. You're required to show that the defendant specifically intended to harm you. As long as you can show that the defendant intended the alleged act and the harmful results were certain to occur, you can file a lawsuit under the intentional tort claim. If your claim is successful, you could receive compensation for your medical expenses and any pain and suffering that resulted.

Defenses to Intentional Torts

Depending on the type of tort claim, there are several defenses that may apply, allowing the defendant to avoid liability for his or her conduct. One of the most common tort defenses is self-defense. The defendant is not liable for conduct that was meant to protect him- or herself from the plaintiff's attack. If the plaintiff started a fight or harmed the defendant first, the defendant likely won't be liable for responding to the plaintiff's attack.

Another common tort defense is consent. If the plaintiff consented to the defendant's conduct, the plaintiff cannot sue the defendant for the consented conduct. For example, if you consented to participate in a boxing match, you cannot sue the other person for getting hurt from the match. So before using the transferred intent doctrine, make sure none of the tort defenses apply to your case.

Exception: Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

There's another type of intentional tort, called the intentional infliction of emotional distress, that may be relevant to your case. The tort of the intentional infliction of emotional distress refers to an intentional outrageous conduct that causes the victim in emotional trauma. Unlike other intentional torts, transferred intent doctrine does not apply to intentional infliction of emotional distress, except in the following situation: (1) the victim's immediate family member is hurt from defendant's conduct, (2) the victim was present at the scene, and (3) the victim's presence was known to the defendant.

Get a Free Claim Evaluation

Dealing with legal theories like transferred intent can be difficult and complicated. If you have a transferred intent issue, consider talking to an experienced attorney through a free claim evaluation before filing a lawsuit. An experienced attorney can give you advice and guide you in establishing liability in your injury case. Professional knowledge and research can make a big difference in the success of your claim and the amount of damages you recover for your injuries.

Next Steps

Contact a qualified personal injury attorney to make sure your rights are protected.

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