Intentional Tort vs. Negligence: What You Need to Know

Photo of author

By Richard

There are numerous reasons why people may suffer an injury. It can either be accidental or due to the malicious acts of others. Whatever the reason may be, it is important to seek the services of a reputable law firm, like Nicoletti Law Firm, to make sure your rights are upheld and you receive due compensation for your losses.

As said earlier, there are two possible ways for an individual to suffer an injury. The US justice system classifies them into two legal categories. They are: 

  • Intentional torts
  • Negligent torts

Before we dive into what they each mean, it is important to understand the meaning of the term “tort.” A tort is an act that causes injury to another person. The lack of action in responding to a certain situation also falls under this category. Tort is applicable for cases that involve negligence and intention as well.

Intentional Torts

Like the name suggests, these are acts committed by a person with the intention of harming another. The harm can be physical, emotional, or reputational.

When talking about intentional torts, the following cases are usually included:

  • Assault: An act that puts an individual at risk of serious harm with or without physical contact. Actions like pointing a loaded gun at someone, brandishing a knife, or a motorist speeding at a pedestrian and stopping threateningly close to them are considered assault. 
  • Battery: Battery is defined as a harmful or offensive act committed against another person. Actions without physical contact are considered battery as well.
  • Conversion: Commonly known as theft, conversion is when an individual takes another’s property, with or without force, and claims it as their own.
  • Trespass: Trespassing is the act of entering a property without the permission of the owner.
  • False Imprisonment: The act of holding someone captive without legal authority or justification.
  • Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (IIED): The act of causing emotional distress with the intention of harming them.
  • Defamation: The act of damaging a person’s reputation. This can be done either through written (libel) or spoken (slander) means.

Intentional Tort vs. Negligence: What You Need to Know

Image source

Negligent Torts

Almost all personal injury cases follow the concept of negligence. Negligence is the failure of an individual to act in a manner that doesn’t cause harm or injure another person, something that a reasonable person would do. To determine liability, the victim has to prove that the at-fault party acted in a negligent manner.

There are four elements of negligence that the victim has to prove.

  1. Duty of care: The duty of each citizen to act with reasonable care to avoid hurting others.
  2. Breach of duty of care: The at-fault party owed a duty of care but their action was something that a reasonable person wouldn’t do.
  3. Causation: The at-fault party’s breach of duty of care led to the accident/incident.
  4. Damages: The accident/incident caused by the at-fault party’s breach of duty of care caused actual damages to the victim.

Intentional Tort and Negligence: Major Differences

Although both sound similar on paper, there are a few differences that make them unique.


Accidents/incidents that are caused by negligence are often based on carelessness. In some extreme cases, the concept of gross negligence might come into play.

This is not the case with intentional torts. These are crimes committed with the intention of harming others.

Burden of Proof

In both types of cases, the burden of proof is on the victim. The required percentage, however, is where they differ.

In personal injury cases, the preponderance of evidence is used as the evidentiary standard. This means that the victim has to prove that the chances of the claim being true are greater than 50%.

Intentional torts, on the other hand, follow proof beyond a reasonable doubt. It is the responsibility of the victim to prove that the at-fault party committed the crime without leaving any room for doubt to arise.


The punishment awarded to the at-fault party also varies.

In negligent torts, the aim is to award monetary compensation to the wronged party. Once the at-fault party (or their insurance company) pays the compensation, they will be let go without much issue.

Intentional torts, meanwhile, carry criminal consequences. Victims are usually awarded jail terms that could go from a few months to a few years, depending on the circumstances of the crime.

Final Thoughts

Whether intentional or unintentional, a person’s actions have consequences. The victim who has suffered losses or is injured due to someone else’s action or inaction must approach the law. They must hire a relevant lawyer to get a fighting chance at justice. With this, they can move closer to normalcy while punishing the at-fault party.

Images Courtesy of DepositPhotos