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How Does Negligence Differ From an Intentional Tort in a Personal Injury Lawsuit?

Tort Law text write on a paperwork and gavel isolated on office desk. Dictionary definition of word negligence, selective focus.

Negligence differs from an intentional tort by one primary factor: intent. Personal injury cases fall under what is known as tort law. It is important for victims to know the basics of tort law to understand what type of case their claim falls under when filing. Filing for the wrong type of claim can lead to failure to recover the damages owed.

This basic knowledge can also help the injured party find the right lawyer for his or her case. Knowing some of these basics can also help the potential filer create a list of questions to ask any potential attorney. Having a list of questions to ask an attorney prior to hiring the lawyer or firm can help with the decision-making process. One of the first questions should include, “how does negligence differ from an intentional tort in a personal injury lawsuit?”

An estimated 2.2 million Americans were injured in 2021 in various accidents or incidents. Although it’s hard to know the exact number of these injuries that were caused by another party’s negligence, over 16 thousand personal injury cases were filed in that same year. When harm has been done to a person or their property because of another individual’s actions, the victim can try to recoup expenses caused by this through a personal injury lawsuit.

What Is Tort Law?

A tort is the civil legal term for when a person commits an act that injures or harms another person or his or her property. The action that caused harm may have been performed on purpose, but it is also considered a tort when the damage is caused by a lack of action or care. This lack of action that injures people or interferes with property is also known as negligence. Tort law is the civil avenue that a victim can take when one of these two types of torts occurs.

Tort law was created to help provide financial relief to an injured party when harmed by another, which then causes them unexpected expenses or creates a need for repairs to private property. Harm can also include emotional distress, although this can be harder to prove than a physical injury. A personal injury lawyer can help the plaintiff gather the correct proof for this type of claim to recover the correct amount of money.

Though both intentional torts and negligence are filed under tort law, there’s a difference in how the claims are treated and the amount of damages awarded to the plaintiff. In both cases, it is up to the plaintiff in the suit to prove that harm was done to win the claim. A personal injury lawyer can help the victim navigate the case and determine what he or she will need to prove each type of claim in court.

What is considered proof in an intentional tort may not be the same as what is needed in a negligence claim. Knowing what will be needed for court can help avoid any surprises or undue stress to the plaintiff. A lawyer can also help the filer know what details of the case should not be shared on social media or discussed with insurance companies.

What’s the Difference Between Negligence and an Intentional Tort?

When determining what category of tort an action falls under, the first question to ask is the state of mind of the responsible party at the time of the incident. Even if the person was not meaning to harm anyone, he or she is still held legally responsible when something happens to others or their property. Negligence can be determined by the following criteria:

  • Duty of care is determined in each specific situation, but in the general sense involves regular, ordinary maintenance and care that prevents injuries. Care is also defined as failing to act in the way any ordinary person would avoid an accident.
  • Breach of the duty of care is when the defendant fails to do uphold the regular duties established by society to keep a standard of care that is expected to avoid harm to others.
  • The breach of care must have caused the plaintiff to suffer harm.
  • The harm suffered by the victims must have led to damages. Damages must be able to be solved with some sort of monetary compensation, and may not be speculative. It is important to keep track of all related expenses and history of any medical treatment that was necessary. 

While negligence can be a lack of action that has caused an accident, this is not the case with an intentional tort. An intentional tort can include not only battery and assault, but also trespassing. Trespassing is regarded as both going onto or into private property and the use of personal possessions without permission. This could also include conversion, which is when someone takes another person’s property and converts it for his or her use without the knowledge of the owner. Holding a person against his or her will is also an intentional tort, referred to as false imprisonment. If the victim has a solid case for either kind of tort and has the evidence necessary to prove his or her case, then he or she can begin the legal proceedings to file a personal injury claim.

How Does Negligence Differ From an Intentional Tort in a Lawsuit?

Negligence cases take place in a civil hearing and not a criminal one, and that can mean the language that is used will differ when a case is filed. Intentional tort cases may involve criminal charges. A civil case will be handled differently from a criminal case. The type of tort that is involved can determine what damages that can be sought in the lawsuit. The civil case involves monetary compensation recovered from the defendant to compensate the victim. A criminal case is intended to punish a defendant for his or her actions. When the harmful act is an intentional one, the damages tend to be more than in a negligence case.

What Damages Are Available in a Tort-Based Lawsuit?

Negligence cases are typically not eligible for punitive damages and instead are awarded what is known as compensatory damages. Compensatory damages attempt to place the plaintiff back into the financial position he or she was in prior to being injured. Knowing the difference between these two types of torts can help claimants successfully win all damages asked for in the claim.

Damages can include:

  •  All medical expenses for treatment and recovery.
  • Property damage to land or material items.
  • Wages lost for missed work.
  • Pain and suffering, which can include additional inconveniences the plaintiff experienced due to the accident.
  • Intentional torts may also include punitive damages to discourage the harm of others. 

When the plaintiff outlines the case to his or her attorney prior to the filing process, they should do so with specifics and without exaggeration. This will help determine what steps will need to be taken to provide proof for the claim. Having overwhelming proof for a case can mean that the case may not even have to go through a lengthy court process. A lawyer may help the victim get a personal injury structured settlement to avoid going through or prolonging the court process. There is no set time frame for a case to conclude if it goes to trial, and the process can vary state to state. This can mean that a settlement to get the matter solved outside of court can be the best outcome to pay any expenses in a timely manner.

When Do You Need a Personal Injury Lawyer for a Tort Claim?

Knowing when to hire a personal injury lawyer can help the victim move forward quickly to get back on track with his or her life, as well avoid missing the opportunity to recover damages, as waiting too long can mean that the case can no longer be filed. Many accidents can leave the injured party with lost wages after missing work and large medical bills, both of which can put him or her behind with regular expenses.

A personal injury lawyer can keep a claim on track and ensure a victim files within the applicable deadlines. They can also help fill out all the proper forms that might be needed if the injured party was left with permanent disabilities and require special needs that might occur during the court proceedings. 

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