Many areas of personal injury litigation involve torts, or acts committed by one party that cause harm to another. Of course, there are many types of torts that can lead to civil action. And often, with personal injury suits, those torts are unintentional. However, it is important to understand the distinction between intentional and unintentional tort litigation. The consequences of that designation can mean the difference between winning damages for injuries and not.
Typical tort claims are simply accidental occurrences, events that may have caused harm, but without purpose, intent or malice. They happen as a result of negligence, carelessness or ineptitude. But they are not the result of intent to harm.
Intentional torts are, as the name suggests, actions taken on purpose by the “tortfeasor” (an individual that commits a tort) that cause a variety of harm and/or injury (physical or emotional). The intent in these cases is, indeed, to cause harm. (Such cases are often also designated as crimes, spurring both civil and criminal court actions.)
For instance, a pedestrian is crossing a busy intersection and is hit by a distracted driver who was texting a friend while driving. Clearly, in this case, any injuries suffered were unintentional. The driver's action occurred out of neglect not intent.
But say, for instance, the same pedestrian is hit by a former spouse who, prior to the accident, had demonstrated a pattern of threats and violence against that pedestrian. It could very well be argued that the actions were intentional. The difficulty is proving that the intent of the driver was in fact to hit the pedestrian. And though intent may seem obvious in this case, proving the state of mind of the "tortfeasor" is a very difficult task.
After all, the only person who can be truly certain of an individual's state of mind is that individual. And because in civil suits, litigants must demonstrate a preponderance of the evidence, proving intent, even in the second example, can be an uphill battle.
So a lot is at stake in these cases. A broader scope of damages may be available in intentional tort cases. But it is often easier proving liability in negligence-related tort cases than proving intent in intentional tort cases. Furthermore, insurance coverage is typically not available for intentional torts and the financial resources to compensate the kind of damages an intentional tort case can bring are usually rare to come by. And with intentional tort cases, damages are always contingent on proving intent.
Often, one stands a better chance of winning actual damages by pursuing a negligence claim (thereby invoking insurance coverage) than an intentional tort case. Because of the many questions and complexities that arise in these cases, anyone who suffers tort injuries should consult a practiced personal injury lawyer like the attorneys of Panio Law Offices.
We understand Illinois personal injury law and have a wealth of experience negotiating damages, researching evidence, documenting injuries and proving liability in these cases.
If you have a personal injury case you'd like to discuss with us, please don't hesitate to call (708) 928-8680. We can help.