What is an Intentional Tort? – Legal Definition & Examples

What is a tort? A tort occurs when one party harms and causes damage to another party. It is a civil wrong that involves the law determining liability and the damages associated with it. There are three categories of torts under tort law:

  • Negligent torts
  • Intentional torts
  • Strict liability torts

In this article, we’ll be discussing intentional torts. You’ll understand what the intentional tort definition is, intentional tort examples, and types of intentional torts.

What is an Intentional Tort

One way to define an intentional tort is when a person commits an act with the intent of harming or causing damage to another person. This type of tort differentiates itself from the other two – negligent and strict liability torts – primarily by the mindset or intent of the wrongdoer. In a negligent tort, the person committing the tort did not intend to inflict harm. A strict liability tort means the person is liable, regardless of intent or precautions taken.

Types of Intentional Torts

Below is a general list of intentional torts:

  • Battery or assault: Battery is when someone causes harm to another through physical contact (i.e. punching someone in the face). An assault occurs when someone threatens to cause harmful contact (i.e. points a gun towards someone). Present in both cases is the intent to cause harm.
  • False imprisonment: When a person with no legal authority restricts another individual from moving freely without their consent. The wrongdoer can restrict movement through physical means, threats, or abuse of authority.
  • Intentional infliction of emotional distress: This type of intentional tort occurs when an individual suffers emotional distress due to an intentional or reckless act from another party.
  • Trespassing: Two forms of trespass exist: trespass to land and trespass to chattels. Trespass to land is an intentional act of entry or usage of another individual’s property. Trespass to chattels involves the unlawful interference with another person’s personal possession (i.e. car, animal, computer, instrument, etc.).
  • Fraud: Fraud is the intentional act of deceiving another person to harm them or for personal gain.
  • Conversion: Conversion involves the unlawful act of taking another individual’s personal property, depriving the owner from their right to use it. For example, if a thief steals your bike, dismantles it, and sells its parts, rendering you unable to enjoy it, the intentional tort of conversion took place.

Crimes vs. Intentional Torts

In some cases, an act of intentional tort could also be charged as a criminal offense. A good example would be the act of battery. 

Which of the following is an intentional tort vs. crime?

Let’s say Person A physically attacked and robbed Person B in an alleyway. As a result, Person B lost her valuables and sustained serious injuries. Because battery is a criminal offense, the state attorney will charge and prosecute Person A. If found guilty, Person A could hold a criminal record, owe monetary fines, or face incarceration.  At the same time, Person B could file a separate civil lawsuit against Person A. This lawsuit is brought upon by one private citizen against another. The aim of the lawsuit is so that Person B can seek compensation for the damages inflicted by Person A.

Differences between criminal cases vs civil cases

While there is overlap, criminal cases and civil cases (i.e. intentional torts) are quite different. Criminal cases involve an offense against the state or against society. Sentencing is therefore meant to punish the wrongdoer through fines or prison time. In contrast, civil suits involve an offense against another individual or private party. The primary goal of civil cases is to compensate the victim or to ‘make them whole.’ Additionally, the standard of proof for crimes vs. torts are also different. Criminal cases require the plaintiff to prove ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ – the highest standard of proof. Civil cases generally use ‘preponderance of evidence,’ or, more likely to be true than not true, which is a much lower burden of proof.  Because of this difference in standard, it’s entirely possible for the defendant to be found not-guilty for criminal charges but yet still liable for damages in a civil suit.  

When Should You Contact an Intentional Torts Attorney

You should contact an attorney when you suffered injuries or property damage due to an intentional tort. Unlike the other types of torts, an intentional tort requires you to prove intent (or, in some cases, ‘recklessness’).  Proving intent can be a challenge in intentional tort cases. Often direct evidence through email conversations, text messages, or a video confessing the intent to commit a tort is rare. More often, you’ll need to use circumstantial evidence to prove intent. Circumstantial evidence is indirect evidence where you must utilize inference and reason to prove a fact.  An intentional torts attorney will help you assess the evidence and provide you the best legal options. They’ll walk you through the whole civil lawsuit process and fight on your behalf, so you have the best chance for recovering your losses.

Valiente Mott

Valiente Mott represents personal injury victims in seeking the compensation they deserve. If you were injured in an incident caused by negligence or recklessness, contact us today! Our Las Vegas personal injury attorney experts offer a free consultation on your case, and you only pay if we win. 

Awards & accolades