Negligence and intentional torts are the two legal theories for tort claims. Not all tort claims are based on negligence or a lack of reasonable care. Intentional or purposeful conduct can also be the basis of a tort claim.
Negligence vs. Intentional Torts
Intentional conduct is something that happens on purpose. The offender either knows the exact outcome that they intend to have, or they do something knowing what the outcome is likely to be. On the other hand, negligence is when harm occurs because of the lack of reasonable care.
A tort claim can be based on either intentional or negligence theory. It’s essential to understand the difference between negligence and intentional torts and the types of intentional torts that may be the basis for a legal claim.
The Two Types of Torts
The two types of torts are negligence torts and intentional torts. Negligence is conduct that is too risky that results in harm to someone else. A negligence tort occurs when someone gets hurt because of the carelessness of someone else.
On the other hand, an intentional tort occurs when someone acts intentionally. The actor either wants to hurt someone on purpose or know the likely outcome of their actions. A victim of either of the two types of torts may deserve financial compensation for their damages.
What’s an Intentional Tort?
An intentional tort is a bad act, done on purpose, that hurts someone else. It is a legal wrong. The victim must suffer actual harm in order to have a legal claim. If the victim has a valid legal claim because of an intentional tort, they deserve financial compensation for their physical and emotional damages. An intentional tort is a violation of civil law that causes harm to the victim, which is actionable for compensation.
Types of Intentional Torts
Here are the types of intentional torts:
Assault – Assault is putting someone in fear of battery. It’s more than just a threat, although a threat can be the tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress. An assault is placing someone in fear of an imminent, unlawful bodily touching.
Battery – Battery is an unlawful bodily touching of someone else. It’s a harmful or offensive touching. Hitting someone can be a battery, but it can be any kind of inappropriate touching without consent, including sexual assault.
Fraud – Fraud occurs when someone intentionally cheats someone else. Dishonesty, with the goal of taking money or property from someone else, is fraud.
Defamation – Spreading false information about someone else is defamation. Libel is writing lies about someone else, while slander is speaking about someone else in ways that are untrue. Defamation is not the same as offering an opinion of someone; it’s also not the same as sharing information that is true. The intentional tort of defamation occurs when you spread falsehoods about someone else, either knowing that they are untrue or recklessly disregarding the truth.
Interference with a Contract/Business Relationships – When a contract exists, or when business relationships exist, a person can’t do things to interfere with the contract purposefully. An example would be an employee who steals client lists and then opens a similar business. Stealing trade secrets may be another form of this intentional tort.
Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress – The tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress occurs when a person intentionally harasses, bullies, threatens and otherwise menaces another person. The victim must suffer severe emotional harm.
Trespass to Land – A person commits trespass to land when they interfere with another person’s land or real property. Usually, this means entering onto someone else’s property without their permission.
Trespass to Chattel – Trespass to chattel is interfering with someone else’s personal property. It can mean taking someone else’s stuff. It can also be preventing someone else from using their own property.
Conversion – Conversion is the taking of someone else’s property with the intent to deprive the owner of its use. To put it another way, conversion is theft. It occurs when the offender takes the victim’s property and doesn’t intend to give it back. Conversion is similar to trespass to chattel.
Invasion of Privacy – Invasion of privacy occurs when a person violates someone else’s reasonable expectation of privacy. Each individual has a reasonable right to be left alone. When someone intrudes on another person’s rights, it may be the intentional tort of invasion of privacy.
What’s the Difference Between Negligence and Intentional Torts?
The difference between negligence and intentional torts is the state of mind of the actor. With negligence, the person doesn’t have to be doing something wrong on purpose. However, in the case of an intentional tort, the victim must purposefully do the thing that causes harm. They don’t have to necessarily intend the harm that occurs, but they must intend to do the thing they’re doing. Negligence doesn’t require purposeful action. Merely acting below the care of a reasonable person can be enough to amount to negligence.
From a legal perspective, intentional torts and negligence are the same, but different. They’re both types of torts. The victim may bring a claim in order to get the compensation that they deserve. However, the proofs will vary because of the different states of mind necessary for the two types. That can change the nature of the evidence that the plaintiff must gather to win their case.
In addition, types of compensation may vary between the different types of torts.
Joint and Several Liability in Intentional Torts
Remember that if there are multiple defendants involved in an intentional tort claim, joint and several liability applies. Nevada Revised Statutes 41.141 clarifies that even if there is an allegation of comparative negligence, joint and several liability still applies among tortfeasors. Be sure to look to all defendants to collect an intentional tort judgment.
Intentional Torts and Crimes
An intentional tort may also be a crime. Whether or not the police file charges does not interfere with the victim’s right to bring a civil claim. A criminal case is not about compensating the victim, and a higher burden of proof applies for a criminal trial than applies in a civil case. A victim may initiate an intentional tort civil claim independently of any criminal charges. Even if there are charges pending, the statute of limitations continues to run on any civil claim.
Affirmative Defenses to Intentional Torts
Affirmative defenses to intentional torts include:
Consent – A person may allow someone else to commit an action that, without consent, would be an intentional tort. For example, suppose a person allows someone else to take an item of personal property, and the other person accepts. In that case, the original owner can’t then claim conversation or trespass to chattel. Similarly, an assault or battery may not be a tort at all if the other person consents to the touching.
Self-Defense – It’s legal for a person to act in self-defense when their fear of harm is reasonable. If a person is about to hit someone else, the victim is within their rights to perform a defensive maneuver even if it results in harm to the original actor. Of course, self-defense must be based on a reasonable evaluation of the likely harm.
Defense of Others – Just like a person has the legal right to defend themselves, they also have the right to defend someone else. If a person sees a battery about to occur, they can step in and defend the victim.
Necessity – A person has a necessity defense when the harm of the tort is less than the harm that would result if they didn’t take action. An example of a necessity defense would be when a boat is sinking. The captain of the boat can dock on someone’s private property, or the boat can sink. If the boat captain chooses to dock on the other person’s land, they likely have a valid necessity defense to a claim of trespass to land.
Affirmative defenses to intentional torts are often based on the facts. The parties may disagree as to whether the defendant has a valid affirmative defense. Whether you are the plaintiff or the defendant, it’s critical to understand the possible defenses that may be raised. Carefully prepare to question witnesses, present the facts and prove your case.
Work With Experienced Personal Injury Attorneys
If you have sustained injuries and wonder which of these legal concepts apply to your circumstances, schedule a free consultation with an experienced injury law firm today. A personal injury lawyer can evaluate your case and discuss the different standards and elements that may apply.
Our Las Vegas personal injury attorneys can help you better understand the nuances between these legal concepts and what methods would be best for building your case in your personal injury lawsuit. This information can help you pursue justice in the Nevada courts in a way that maximizes your recovery from the defendant or their insurance company.
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