top of page
  • Writer's pictureRobert Schuerger II

Intentional Tort vs. Negligence in Personal Injury Cases – The Difference

What happens when a person is injured by someone else? According to the tort law classification, this harmful conduct can be considered a civil wrong.

In Indiana, those harmed by another individual's actions can seek justice through a personal injury lawsuit. The injured person can bring legal action against the individual who caused the injury to recover compensation for financial, physical, and emotional damages.

However, the terms intentional torts and negligent torts often emerge when it comes to recovering financial compensation for injuries caused by someone else.

Is negligence an intentional tort? What type of legal action should victims bring to earn compensation in personal injury cases? Here's everything injured parties should know to fight for their rights!

What Is an Intentional Tort?

What Is an Intentional Tort?

The term "intentional tort" describes a deliberate and wrongful act that injures someone. This action is not accidental, meaning the defendant in an intentional tort claim purposefully harms another person.

Assault and battery are two of the most common intentional torts. Both offenses involve intentionally harming or threatening to harm another person.

Unlawful or false imprisonment, theft, and trespassing could be considered intentional torts. Deliberate infliction of emotional suffering could also fall into this category. It happens when a person performs an act with the intention of causing extreme fear to another person.

What Is Negligence?

Negligence occurs when a person fails to act with reasonable care and caution, which harms another individual. Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys can also explain assumption of risk in a personal injury case.

People are legally required to exercise a reasonable level of care to ensure others' peace and safety. This is known as "the duty of care."

When someone breaches that duty of care and harms another person, the negligent party is responsible for the injured people's damages. Victims should file a negligence claim to recover compensation in that case.

An injured person who wants to recover financial compensation for the harm suffered should satisfy the following elements:

  • Duty of Care: People have a legal duty to exercise reasonable care and be cautious to avoid injuring others.

  • Breach of Duty: The defendant failed to exercise a sufficient level of care as they should by committing an act or omission incompatible with what a reasonable person would have done.

  • Causation: The defendant's breach of duty is the actual and proximate cause of the harm suffered by the person who brought the legal action against them.

  • Damages: The plaintiff must prove that they suffered physical and psychological harm or monetary loss due to the defendant's breach of duty.

Differences Between Intentional Torts and Negligence

The main difference between intentional tort and negligence lies in the motive for the act that harmed another person.

Intentional tort occurs when the defendant commits an intentional act that harms another individual, but negligence happens when someone fails to exercise sufficient caution.

However, in intentional tort claims, plaintiffs do not have to prove that the defendant planned all the damages that resulted from their actions but rather that there was intent behind their act.

Available Damages

Another significant difference lies in how victims are compensated. The type and amount of recoverable damages varies depending on the type of tort alleged.

In an intentional tort case, the damages available are usually more generous than in negligence claims. Most plaintiffs can recover compensation for medical bills and other healthcare expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

These are known as "compensatory damages" and are designed to bring victims back to the financial position they were in before the injuries caused by the defendant's wrongful actions.

People who file an intentional tort claim could also be awarded punitive damages. However, they must prove that the defendant had wrongful intent to perform the action or cause harm.

Punitive damages are not intended to compensate victims but to punish people for purposefully harming someone else and deter individuals from committing the same act.

In a negligence claim, plaintiffs could also recover compensatory and punitive damages, but the amount is usually smaller.

How Personal Injury Law Impacts These Claims

Personal injury cases must be handled under several laws, but each state has different legislation to protect victims, including Indiana.

An injured person planning to file a personal injury claim against the party that caused the accident or harm they suffered should understand both federal and state laws to build a solid case and recover fair compensation.

Federal Personal Injury Laws

In 1946, the U.S. Congress passed the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTAC). This legal provision protects people who have sustained injuries caused by a government agent's negligence or maliciously wrongful act.

Under the FTAC, people can file a federal personal injury lawsuit if an acting government agent is responsible for their injuries.

Indiana Personal Injury Laws

Most Indiana personal injury cases settle before going to court after negotiations between both parties at mediation meetings or through written letters knowing what is duty of care in personal injury law. However, a claimant can file a lawsuit if the insurance company refuses to make a fair settlement offer.

Indiana is an "at-fault" or "tort" state. That means the party that caused the accident or injury can be found liable for the damages victims suffered.

However, since this state uses a comparative fault doctrine, plaintiffs can also be found partially liable for their injuries if they contributed to the accident.

The compensation of a plaintiff who contributed to your injuries should be reduced by their percentage of fault. If it is 50% or more higher, victims can no longer recover compensation.

Do Victims Need the Help of a Personal Injury Lawyer?

Do Victims Need the Help of a Personal Injury Lawyer?

A person who suffered injuries caused by someone else's negligence should understand the "intentional tort" and "negligence" definitions in order to determine the best course of action for their cases.

If they need professional help to discover which of the two legal concepts applies to their cases, victims should contact a seasoned injury lawyer in Indianapolis IN.

An experienced personal injury attorney can help victims understand the nuances between intentional torts and negligent torts, build a solid case, negotiate a settlement, pursue compensation, and more.

At Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys, we are committed to helping injured people fight for their rights. Contact us today!


bottom of page