You commit a tort when you wrongfully harm someone in a manner that entitles them to financial compensation. At some point, you have probably been the victim of a tort. Most torts are based on negligence, not intentional acts. As the name suggests, however, an “intentional tort” is a deliberate injury. Compensation for intentional torts is usually higher than compensation for other kinds of torts.
Civil Claim vs. Criminal Prosecution
You can file an intentional tort claim even while a criminal prosecution is pending against the same defendant for the same conduct. Importantly, it is much more difficult to win a criminal prosecution than to win a civil claim.
Even if the defendant wins an acquittal in criminal court, you could still win your civil claim. A civil claim is a way of extracting justice from a defendant when the evidence is not strong enough to win a criminal prosecution.
The question of intent is critical to a civil claim. Below is a brief explanation of some of the forms of intent that are relevant to civil claims:
- “Intentional” (deliberate) means the defendant specifically intended the result or, in some cases, they acted with reckless disregard for the inevitable consequences of their actions. Think of a road rage accident or a bar fight. Punitive damages are definitely possible.
- “Reckless” means you knew the risk of harm and acted anyway, as in a DUI accident. Acting recklessly often results in a claim for punitive damages.
- “Negligent” means that although you did not realize the risk your actions created, a reasonably prudent person would have recognized the risk and modified their behavior accordingly. Negligence is the most common form of intent used in civil claims.
You are “strictly liable” if your intentions are irrelevant to the question of liability. This might happen if a company manufactures a defective product, for example.
Examples of Intentional Torts
Following are some examples of common intentional torts.
False imprisonment occurs when one person restrains another in a bounded area, against their will, and without justification. For example, locking someone in a room or tying them to a chair could constitute false imprisonment. The perpetrator need not be an officer of the law.
Trespass to Land
Trespass to land occurs when one person intentionally enters land that belongs to another without justification or excuse. It is no defense against this tort that “there was no harm done”, although it may be relevant to the amount of compensation.
Trespass to Chattels
A chattel is an object of personal property. That could mean a car, a dog, or a diamond ring. This tort occurs when someone interferes with the owner’s ownership rights. Destroying someone’s property is an example of trespass to chattels. Taking someone else’s car out for a joy ride is also trespass to chattels, even if the defendant returned the car later.
Many forms of conversion amount to a civil version of theft of a chattel. If someone steals your car, sells it, and spends all the money, for example, they have committed the crime of theft. They have also committed the tort of conversion.
An important difference is that you bear liability for conversion even if you didn’t realize that the property you took belonged to someone else.
You assault someone when you cause the deliberate apprehension of immediate physical harm. Pointing a loaded gun to someone’s head is battery if they know about it. It doesn’t matter whether the gun was loaded as long as the victim believed it was. Counterintuitively, pointing a gun at the back of someone’s head is not assault if the victim was unaware of it.
A battery occurs when you make offensive or harmful physical contact with someone. Punching someone in the nose is a good example, but so is offensive touching that might constitute sexual assault under criminal law.
The main types of damages you can pursue in response to an intentional tort include:
- Economic damages for things like your medical bills and out-of-pocket costs
- Non-economic damages for things like your pain and suffering as well as your emotional distress
- Punitive damages.
Nominal damages are possible when you suffer no harm due to the tort, but claimants rarely seek nominal damages.
Do You Need a Las Vegas Personal Injury Lawyer?
Some intentional torts are trivial, entitling the claimant only to nominal damages. If your claim is substantial, however, a Las Vegas personal injury lawyer could greatly benefit you. Since personal injury lawyers only charge you if they win, you can definitely afford one.