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How Do Intentional Torts Differ From Negligence?

In common law jurisdictions, such as New York State, the term ‘tort’ is used to describe “civil wrong.” In effect, it is a legal action for civil wrongdoing, other than a breach of contract. A personal injury lawsuit is a type of tort claim. Most personal injury cases are based on the theory of negligence—but some parties may have an intentional tort claim. In this article, our Albany personal injury lawyers highlight the differences between an intentional tort and negligence. 

Know Your Terms: Intentional Tort & Negligence

If you are considering bringing a civil claim to recover financial compensation, it is useful to know the difference between negligence and intentional torts. Here is a brief explanation of the two legal terms: 

  • Negligence: Negligence is the failure to exercise appropriate care. It is more than just a “mistake”—the core concept of negligence is that someone had a legal duty to take certain precautions but failed to do so, thereby causing harm to another party. In New York, negligence has four required elements: duty, breach, causation, and damages. A negligent party can be held legally liable for the harm that they caused to another party. 
  • Intentional Tort: As defined by the Cornell Legal Information Institute, an intentional tort is “a type of tort that can only result from an intentional act of the defendant.” To bring a successful intentional tort claim, a plaintiff will have to prove that the defendant acted with either general or specific intent to cause harm. 

Examples Of Intentional Torts In New York

An intentional tort can result in severe harm to an injured victim. As noted previously, an intentional tort is a civil wrong that was done on purpose. Some notable examples of intentional torts include: 

  • Assault & battery:
  • Sexual assault;
  • False imprisonment; and
  • Intentional infliction of emotional distress. 

Intentional Tort: Criminal Cases and Civil Cases Are Separate Legal Actions

In some cases, an intentional tort could result in criminal charges against the defendant. As an example, a person who injures an innocent person in an unjustified physical attack may be arrested on assault and battery charges. Depending on the nature of the attack, the defendant could face serious felony charges. 

If the victim suffered a serious injury, they could also file a civil lawsuit on the basis of an intentional tort. In this claim, the victim can seek financial compensation for their damages, including for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. It is important to emphasize that criminal cases and intentional tort cases are two separate legal actions. 

You May Be Eligible To Recover Punitive Damages An Intentional Tort Claim

In New York, personal injury compensation is generally attached to the actual economic or non-economic damages suffered by the victim. Put another way, damages are usually purely compensatory in nature. A plaintiff must prove their losses to be eligible to recover financial support for their losses. 

However, intentional tort claims may be an exception. In some intentional tort claims, New York courts will allow the victim to pursue punitive damages against the defendant. Punitive damages are a specialized type of legal compensation that is not tied to a specific loss suffered by the victim—instead, these damages are designed to punish the extremely wrongful conduct of the defendant. Punitive damages are still awarded to the plaintiff (injured victim). 

Contact Our Albany, NY Personal Injury Attorneys For Free Legal Guidance

At Powers & Santola, LLP, our New York personal injury lawyers provide aggressive, results-driven legal advocacy to victims and their families. If you have any questions about intentional torts, we are here to help. Contact our firm now to schedule your free, no obligation appointment with an attorney. From our legal offices in Albany, Rochester, and Syracuse, we represent injured victims throughout New York State, including in Saratoga County, Schenectady County, Rensselaer County, Oneida County, Washington County, Madison County, and Otsego County.

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