Tort law is the largest category under civil litigation, covering a wide variety of cases. When it comes to personal injury, torts are classified as intentional, unintentional, or, in some cases, strict liability. Understanding how torts work in civil litigation is key in order to protect your rights as a personal injury plaintiff.

What Is a Tort?

A tort is a legal term for a wrongful action (or the failure to take action when required) that causes harm to another person. When it comes to personal injury cases, the harm can be physical, mental, or emotional. Harm also includes economic damages such as medical expenses, loss of income, diminished earning capacity, expenses for household help, home health care, and medical appliances, such as braces, walkers, and crutches.

The party that commits a tort is called a tortfeasor. Tortfeasors can be individuals, businesses, manufacturers, and even government entities. The party that is the victim of the wrongful action is called the claimant or plaintiff.

What Kind of Actions Are Considered Intentional Tort?

Torts are divided into three categories – intentional, unintentional, and strict liability. An intentional tort occurs when the tortfeasor deliberately acts in a way that causes harm to another party. An intentional tort can have civil consequences and criminal penalties in some cases.

Examples of actions that can be considered intentional torts include violent acts such as assault and battery, as well as crimes against one’s property such as trespassing or the illegal use of someone’s property without their consent. Deliberate infliction of emotional distress, invasion of privacy, and fraud are also examples of intentional torts.

What Counts as an Unintentional Tort?

Unintentional torts are usually based on negligence. The tortfeasor inadvertently or accidentally acts in a negligent manner, breaching their duty of care to others and causing damages. However, the tortfeasor had no deliberate intent to cause any harm.

Common personal injury cases such as slip and falls, car accidents, dog bites, and workplace accidents are all examples of unintentional torts. Even though the act was unintentional, the tortfeasor may still face the consequences and have to reimburse the claimant for damages.

Are There Different Penalties Issued for Intentional and Unintentional Torts?

Unintentional tort plaintiffs may be entitled to monetary compensation for economic and non-economic losses, but the tortfeasor may likely not face any criminal penalties (with a few exceptions). However, the tortfeasor in an intentional tort may not only face civil consequences such as paying damages compensation to the plaintiff but may also be issued mandated court orders, fines, jail time, and other criminal penalties depending on the severity of the action committed. In addition, plaintiffs in some limited circumstances may be entitled to punitive damages. If you were a victim of someone else’s wrongdoing, speak to a personal injury attorney as soon as possible to discuss your case.