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  • Writer's pictureRobert Schuerger II

Intentional Tort Vs Negligence in Personal Injury Cases - What Victims Need to Know

When dealing with a Nashville, TN personal injury lawsuit, the question is not simply whether or not the defendant's actions caused the injury, but also whether there was intentional infliction of harm. In other words, the jury has to decide between intentional tort vs. Negligence in personal injury cases.

However, after being injured, most victims approach a personal injury lawyer for help in fighting for their rights and getting compensatory damages for any sustained injuries. Not many people realize that a simple negligence lawsuit can be complicated because of Tennessee's tort law.

As such, it is up to the personal injury attorney to explain the difference between a negligence lawsuit and an intentional tort claim.

Victims seeking fair compensatory damages can do so by filing a personal injury case. Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys is ready to go to war and make sure the negligent person is held legally responsible. They are able to answer questions like what is duty of care in personal injury law?

What Is a Negligence Claim?

What Is a Negligence Claim?

According to the law in Nashville, TN, negligence is when harm is caused to the victim due to the defendant's failure to act with reasonable care and caution. Any conduct that is deemed to be below a reasonable standard of care for others around the at-fault party is regarded as negligence.

In other words, the law requires everyone to behave in ways that guarantee the safety of others. Any violation of that duty of care which results in someone being injured means the negligent party must be held liable.

Common examples of negligent torts are:

  • Property damage during an accident caused by carelessness that leads to a driving error

  • Medical negligence cases whereby doctors fail to take reasonable care and caution

  • Slips and falls caused by wet floors or tripping hazards left on the path

  • Wrongful death claims in which the negligent party failed in their duty of care to the victim

When making negligence claims, or negligence torts, the injury claim must satisfy the following factors:

  • Duty of Care

It must be shown that the negligent party has a duty of care towards the victim, meaning they had the responsibility to exercise reasonable care and caution, and to guarantee the safety and well-being of the victims. An example is the duty of care that a driver has when driving their vehicle along a road being used by other motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians.

  • Breach of Duty of Care

The plaintiff must prove that the defendant's negligence constitutes a breach of duty of care in that they did not act with the level of care and caution required. A driver, for example, will be found to have breached duty of care by driving without paying attention to road signs and traffic lights.

  • Causation

Causation is when the breach of duty of care directly leads to the accident and harm suffered by the plaintiff, such as when driving without paying attention leads to the driver missing a road sign and running over pedestrians at a designated crossing area.

  • Damages

The victim must show that the actions of the negligent party resulted in them suffering physical, emotional, psychological, or property damages, such as pedestrians suffering serious injuries after being run over during a car accident.

What Is an Intentional Tort Claim?

An intentional tort is when the injury claim is compounded by the fact that the defendant deliberately harms the victim. Intentional torts can be claimed in cases where, for example, it can be shown that the driver intentionally caused the accident in a fit of road rage. Many states in the US recognize a wide range of cases as intentional tort claims, such as those involving:

  • Defamation of character

  • Intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED)

  • False imprisonment

  • Trespassing

  • Conversion (when the defendant takes the claimant's property as their own)

  • Battery

  • Assault

  • Deliberate infliction of emotional distress

A personal injury claim must involve an intentional act for it to be classified as an intentional tort. Without the element of intent, tort law cannot be applied, and the wrongful act will be classified as negligence.

Intentional Torts and Negligence - What's the Difference?

Negligent torts are when the at-fault party fails to provide the required duty of care, and this careless behavior leads to the victim being injured. Intentional torts, on the other hand, require wrongful intent on the defendant's part. It is the element of intent that separates intentional torts and negligence cases.

Even in cases where the defendant did not intend for all the damages that happened to the victim to occur, if there was an intent to cause harmful or offensive contact, it will be regarded as an intentional tort claim, and not simply negligence.

An intentional tort example, where the defendant did not intend for all the damages to occur, is when they hit the victim and it later gets classified as assault and battery.

In most cases, intentional tort lawsuits will have a lot more damages and serious consequences to the accused compared to negligent torts. The best injury attorneys in Nashville can help victims determine which class their personal injury claim falls under.

Difference Between Negligence and Intentional Tort Damages

Both intentional torts and negligence cases fall under civil claims/lawsuits rather than criminal charges. As such, they will be heard in a civil court, with damages awarded to the victim as compensation.

Damages tend to differ between negligent torts and intentional tort cases, which is why victims need to approach a personal injury attorney as soon as possible so that they can decide the best approach for their lawsuit.

Damages for Intentional Torts

Damages awarded to victims in intentional tort cases are usually broader and a lot more generous than those in negligent torts. These damages are usually given to victims as compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, wrongful death, etc.

The reason why intentional torts usually attract more damage is because of the need to punish the culprits and deter such behavior in future perpetrators. This is why it is important to be able to prove wrongful intent in such cases.

Damages for Negligence

If the victim can demonstrate that they have suffered actual harm as a result of the actions of the negligent party, they will be entitled to receive damages even if those actions were unintentional. Depending on the nature of the personal injury claims, victims may be awarded compensatory damages and/or punitive damages.

Compensatory damages will simply be awarded to return the victim to the same state they were before the accident, which means they will be compensated for any economic losses they may have suffered. With punitive damages, the courts will deem it necessary to punish the defendant further due to the nature of their malicious, wanton, and reckless behavior.

The Doctrine of Joint and Several Liability

Another important factor to consider when comparing negligent tort law and intentional tort cases is that of joint and several liability. In a negligence case, personal injury law requires that the defendants only pay their portion of the damages. However, intentional torts require that all of the defendants involved pay all of the damages.

A good example is a negligence claim in which the victim was hit by two drivers at the same time. The jury then assigns one driver 40% of the blame, and the other driver 60%. In this case, both drivers will only pay their percentage of blame in damages to the victim.

If the same scenario was an intentional tort in which both drivers have intentionally harmed the victim, they will have to pay the full amount of damages each, and later on seek reimbursement from each other. However, the victim will not get double the amount of damages.

Are Intentional Torts the Same As Crimes?

It is not always the case that an intentional tort is regarded as a crime, but many are, such as assault, battery, and theft. However, the burden of proof for criminal charges is "beyond a reasonable doubt," which is something the prosecutor will have to consider before elevating an intentional tort to a criminal case.

How Can an Attorney Help in a Personal Injury Lawsuit?

How Can an Attorney Help in a Personal Injury Lawsuit?

Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys also have more information on things like assumption of risk in a personal injury case. An experienced personal injury attorney can help victims in the following ways:

Providing Legal Advice

There can be a lot of confusion regarding the difference between negligence and intentional tort. An attorney can explain what tort law is, and help victims decide how best to approach their civil claim.

Determining Fault

When a victim is harmed by the actions of another person, it is up to the attorney to help them seek monetary compensation by filing a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault party, and helping to determine who is at fault for the personal injury accident.

Fighting for Maximum Compensation

It is not always easy for victims to get the compensation they deserve, especially when going against a defendant who is determined to avoid being found liable in an intentional tort case. As such, victims need a good lawyer to fight for their rights in court.

Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys Can Fight for Victims Filing Negligence or Intentional Tort Claims

When a person commits wrongful acts that cause harm to other people, whether intentionally or due to negligence, they need to be held responsible for their actions. Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys has been dealing with intentional tort law and negligence cases in Tennessee for many years. Victims can reach out to its Nashville law firm today, and request a free consultation.


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