What’s the Difference Between a Negligence Tort and an Intentional Tort?

tort lawWhen one person commits a wrongful act against another and that wrongful act results in damages, the state of North Carolina allows the injured person to file a suit to hold the at-fault person liable for harm.

That being said, knowing which type of claim to pursue can be confusing, and understanding the difference between a negligence tort and an intentional tort becomes important.

An experienced injury attorney such as Harry Albritton of Irons & Irons P.A. can guide you through the process and help you to recover the compensation award you deserve.

What Is a Tort?

A tort refers to a wrongful act or an infringement of a person’s rights. When a tort is committed, the wronged person can pursue a claim for civil liability. Criminal claims and torts/civil actions are completely separate and distinct.

What Is Negligence?

Negligence is the failure to take proper care in doing something. As such, a negligence tort typically is the result of a person’s carelessness or neglect; the tort is not committed with any wrongful aim or purpose. For example, failing to repair a hazardous condition on one’s property is considered negligent, assuming that the property owner did not intend for the hazardous condition to cause anyone harm. 

What Is an Intentional Tort?  

An intentional tort, on the other hand, is a tort that’s the result of the at-fault party causing harm or damages to another with intent. For example, if an angry driver intentionally rams the vehicle of another (as opposed to causing the crash by accident), a tort is committed.

Intentional torts are often viewed as more serious in the eyes of the court, as intentional torts imply that a defendant wanted to cause another person harm or damages, rather than causing harm accidentally.

Intentional torts don’t usually involve injuries, although they can. For example, defamation or slander may be viewed as an intentional tort, as could assault with attempted battery, even if no actual battery–and therefore no physical injury–occurs.

When Can I File a Lawsuit? 

If you have been harmed by the actions of another party, you can file a lawsuit against them for damages regardless of whether the harm was a result of negligence or an intentional tort. In order to win your lawsuit, you will need to prove that the party owed you a duty of care, breached the duty of care (either via an act of negligence or an intentional tort), that the action taken by the defendant was the proximate cause of harm, and that actual damages were suffered (economic losses or/and noneconomic losses).

Punitive Damages in an Intentional Tort Case

In addition to recovering compensation for economic (medical bills, lost wages, property damage costs) and noneconomic (pain and suffering, disability, diminished quality of life) damages, in some cases, especially intentional tort cases, punitive damages may be available.

Rather than compensating a victim for harm suffered, punitive damages are designed to punish the defendant for their egregious actions, as well as serve as a deterrent for other potential tortfeasors in the future.

Per North Carolina Code Section 1D-1, punitive damages may be awarded when a defendant has committed an “egregiously wrongful” act. Punitive damages are available in both negligence-based and intentional tort cases.

The Benefits of Working with a Skilled Personal Injury Attorney in North Carolina

Many people ask, “Is negligence an intentional tort?” While the answer is that these types of torts are distinct, both may result in civil liability for any damages suffered by the plaintiff. Working with a personal injury attorney is important, as an attorney will know what type of evidence you need to bring forth your tort case, what types of damages are recoverable, and what steps to take next.

Call Attorney Albritton Today 

Understanding the difference between an intentional tort vs. negligence can be confusing, and makes working with a skilled attorney of the utmost importance. A North Carolina injury lawyer like Harry Albritton with Irons & Irons P.A. can review your case for free today and provide you with the legal advice you need to make a smart decision moving forward. Please call our team today to learn more.


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