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What Is an Intentional Tort?

February 6, 2021 By Cerussi and Gunn P.C. Legal Team

Most personal injury cases in New Jersey arise from unintentional accidents, such as motor vehicle collisions and slip and falls. In some cases, however, an injury claim arises when one person deliberately harms another. These types of cases are called intentional torts.

Negligence vs. Intentional Tort

Negligence is the basis for most injury claims in New Jersey. If someone is negligent, that person has been careless or wanton, resulting in harm to another person. In personal injury law, an individual or party can be legally responsible for a victim’s injuries or losses even if he or she did not mean to inflict them. If that party was negligent, he or she will still bear financial responsibility for related injuries and losses.

Negligence consists of four elements:

  1. Duty of care. An obligation to treat the plaintiff the same way a reasonable party would in similar circumstances.
  2. Breach of duty. Any violation of the duty of care committed by the defendant.
  3. Proximate cause. A causal connection between the defendant’s action or omission and the plaintiff’s injury.
  4. Damages suffered. Compensable damages inflicted by the defendant’s breach, such as injury, medical care, lost income, or pain and suffering.

An intentional tort is not a careless or unintentional breach of the duty of care. It is a knowing, willful and deliberate action or omission meant to harm or injure a victim. While a defendant may not realize he or she is being negligent or breaching a duty of care, a defendant does recognize the wrongful or dangerous nature of his or her actions in an intentional tort but commits the act anyway. Either way, the defendant could be held liable.

Can You File a Personal Injury Claim for an Intentional Tort?

Yes, as an injured victim, you have the right to file an injury claim for an intentional tort just as you would if you were injured by negligence. Any wrongdoing committed against you, intentional or unintentional, will give you grounds to hold the at-fault party legally and financially responsible in New Jersey.

The legal process for a claim based on an intentional tort is very similar to a claim based on negligence. It will still be your burden as the plaintiff to prove that the defendant more likely than not caused your injuries. The evidence available, however, may differ. You may be able to use the defendant’s arrest or criminal conviction against him or her if the defendant broke a law in causing you harm.

You will also have the same statute of limitations for an intentional tort vs. a negligence claim in New Jersey: two years from the date of your injury. However, if the defendant is involved in a criminal case against him or her at the same time as your civil lawsuit, most courts will toll, or extend, the deadline so the clock does not start ticking until after the resolution of the criminal case.

What Are the Most Common Intentional Torts?

There are many different examples of intentional torts that can lead to serious physical injuries, deaths, property damage and related personal injury lawsuits in New Jersey. Any action or behavior committed by a defendant with the deliberate intent to harm, injure or kill a victim constitutes an intentional tort.

Common examples of intentional torts in New Jersey are:

  • Physical assault and battery
  • Sexual assault
  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Emotional and mental abuse
  • False imprisonment
  • Fraud
  • Trespassing
  • Theft
  • Defamation
  • Vandalism/property damage
  • Murder

While intentional torts can describe crimes or violations of the law, this is not a requirement. An intentional tort can also describe a wrongdoing that is not a crime. Whether or not a defendant has committed a crime, you may be able to seek reimbursement through the civil justice system in New Jersey as an injured victim.