How is an intentional tort different from negligence?

January 14, 2010

Most Texas personal injury lawsuits are based on a claim of negligence. When a person is negligent that means they failed to exercise the care that a reasonable person would under the same circumstances.

A person who is negligent did not intend to cause harm, but they are still held legally responsible because their careless actions injured someone.

With an intentional tort, by contrast, there was an intent to cause harm. The defendant knowingly and purposefully committed an act that resulted in an injury to the plaintiff.

Intentional torts include things like assault and battery, libel, intentional infliction of emotional distress, slander and false imprisonment. It is often, but not always, the case that an intentional tort is also a criminal act.

To illustrate the difference between negligence and an intentional tort, let’s look at an example with two different scenarios. The plaintiff is a woman named Sally, and in both cases, she is suing because of a broken wrist.

Scenario #1: Sally is walking down the aisle of ABC Grocery store when she slips and falls on a puddle of water. The owner of the store was negligent for not cleaning up the spill. Even though the store owner did not intend for Sally to get hurt, he is still liable for her broken wrist because his negligence lead to her injury.

Scenario #2: Sally is walking to her car when she is assaulted by a man who wants to steal her purse. The assailant shoves her to the ground, and she breaks her wrist as a result of the attack. The police later catch the assailant, and Sally sues him for her injuries.

In both cases the end result is the same – Sally winds up with a broken wrist. Both defendants can be held liable for Sally’s injuries, but for different reasons. The store owner is liable because he failed to clean up the spilled water, which a reasonable person would have done. The assaulter is liable because they intentionally caused harm to Sally by shoving her.

Whether your case is one of negligence or one based on an intentional tort, a Texas personal injury lawyer can help you get full and fair compensation for your injuries. If you have been injured due to someone else’s actions, whether negligent or intentional, contact a Texas personal injury lawyer today.

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