Home Criminal Law What is an Intentional Tort in Tort Law?

What is an Intentional Tort in Tort Law?

muccilegal August 15, 2022

If you have been harmed in any way by someone else, whether they intended to harm you or not, you may have been the victim of what is called in Massachusetts law a “tort”. It is important to know something about torts if you have been hurt in any way by someone else and more specifically whether you can take legal action against that person. Torts are varied and some may be the subject of criminal prosecution as well as a civil claim, but not all torts are intentional or even due to the negligent actions of the person who harmed you. A personal injury attorney can help you decide whether you have grounds to take legal action against the person who harmed you and what compensation you should demand.

The legal definition of a tort

A tort in law is some kind of wrongful act which causes physical or emotional harm to another person. There are several different sub-categories of tort.

Many torts are due to acts of negligence. For example, a speeding driver may crash into another vehicle, causing injuries to the occupants of both vehicles. The driver of the speeding car could be considered negligent as he/she had been driving above the speed limit, an act which led to others being harmed.  Torts of this type are common in Massachusetts as they are in all other states, too. They often lead to personal injury claims against the person at fault as long as proof of negligence can be demonstrated. Even if a driver falls asleep momentarily and causes a crash, then this may also be due to negligence (the driver should not have attempted to drive if feeling sleepy). This would still be a tort. Not all car accidents are torts however. A driver who swerves to miss an animal crossing the road but hits another vehicle was probably not negligent.

Battery is a serious intentional tort

Intentional torts are acts which are done on purpose. However, even though the act leads to some kind of harm being done, it doesn’t mean that all intentional torts are done with the intention of harming another person. For example, say someone suddenly points a toy gun at a stranger as a prank. This person suffers a heart attack because of their fragile state of health. The prank is still an intentional tort, but the harm done was not intentional as the person’s predisposition to heart attacks was not known about in advance.

Then there are more serious intentional torts which involve deliberate, planned acts of harm against another. For example, someone who bashes someone else and breaks their teeth has committed an intentional tort. It wasn’t a prank and there was a deliberate intention to harm the other person.

When a product has been determined to be defective, then this may be considered a strict liability tort as the defective product can cause injury or harm to the person who has purchased and used the product.

Civil lawsuits following an intentional tort

Compensation for a tort in a personal injury claim

In tort law, someone who has been the victim of a tort has the right to seek compensation by suing the person at fault in a civil court. For the legal claim to compensation to be successful, there must be sufficient evidence that the defendant showed negligence in their actions (e.g. like the speeding driver in the example above) or carried out the act on purpose, e.g. caused harm, whether that person deliberately aimed to hurt the other person or harm was caused anyway.

A civil lawsuit of this type usually involves a claim for financial compensation, the amount of which will depend on the particular circumstances of the case. Compensation is usually classified as “economic damages” or “non-economic damages”. For example, economic damages may include:

  • the full cost of medical treatment;
  • lost earnings due to an injury;
  • damage to property;
  • predicted future costs due to long term or permanent injury.

Non economic damages sought may include:

  • an amount in compensation for the pain and suffering experienced, often calculated as a percentage of the cost of medical treatment;
  • compensation for loss of consortium where the victim of the tort has suffered sufficient injuries to
  • punitive damages, awarded when the action of the defendant was shown to be particularly egregious or malicious.

If someone has died due to an intentional tort of any kind, then the deceased’s immediate family may still file a form of personal injury lawsuit called a wrongful death claim. Compensation demanded may include funeral expenses, medical costs up to the point of death, if this took place after the event occurred and financial compensation for living expenses if the deceased was a breadwinner.

Intentional torts may also lead to criminal prosecution

Many, but not all, intentional torts may also be considered crimes and the person who committed the tort may be pursued by law enforcement officers and prosecuted if sufficient evidence exists to prove beyond a doubt that they committed a criminal offense. The speeding driver in the example above may not have committed a crime, although this depends on other criteria such as how fast they were driving, whether the driver was driving aggressively, or was under the influence of alcohol or drugs. If someone bashes you or shoots at you and you are injured in any way, then they may be prosecuted for the crime of battery or assault.

Note that any prosecution pursued because of a crime alleged to have been committed will not necessarily help you obtain compensation, although a conviction for reckless driving, assault, etc. could be used as evidence in any personal injury case you bring against that person yourself. Just because someone has been convicted of a crime which led to you being injured or harmed in any way will not automatically result in financial compensation being awarded to you. You have to pursue a civil case against that person separately, even though the two legal actions are intertwined in the sense that the same evidence for both the civil and criminal cases is used.

Examples of intentional torts

In addition to the examples of intentional torts already mentioned, there are many others. These include:

  • fraud;
  • invasion of privacy;
  • intent to inflict emotional distress;
  • false imprisonment;
  • defamation; and
  • trespass.

If you have suffered harm as a result of an intentional tort in this state, you are advised to discuss the circumstances with an experienced personal injury lawyer to determine whether you should file a personal injury claim against the party that inflicted harm on you.

For more information, visit our website Mucci Legal or contact us for a free legal consultation today.


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