There are a lot of bad people out there with very little regard for human life. Perhaps it is a cultural sickness brought about by the glorification of violence, perhaps there are simply bad people among us. Personal injuries also happen due to the intentional act of another. Tort law still applies, and a personal injury lawyer can still help you recover for these “Intentional torts.”
The two most common types of intentional torts are known as assaults and batteries. Assault is use of the threat of force or harm that causes fear in the victim. In this situation, the force or violence does not have to be used, instead it is the fear of harm that is the justification for damages. Battery is the actual use of harmful force or violence. It does not have to cause a physical injury in all circumstances, sometimes a battery may result from an offensive touching. Many people confuse these two terms. In many cases, someone is charged with both assault and battery because both a fear of harm and actual harmful force actually occurred in the same incident.
The major difference between intentional torts and personal injury actions for negligence lies in the intent element. In negligence, someone did not intend to harm you. In intentional torts such as battery, someone did intend to harm you. The law recognizes the seriousness of intentional torts in that the state may separately prosecute in a criminal trial. Civil lawsuits for personal injury frequently use the evidence produced at the criminal trial. Remember that a criminal trial seeks the perpetrator’s freedom, in that jail time is the result the prosecution seeks. A civil trial seeks money as a remedy. Because freedom is more valuable than money a criminal trial is held to a higher standard of proof for a conviction.
A civil case for personal injury may seek punitive damages against someone who commits an intentional injury. This is additional money the victim asks from the jury in order to punish outrageous behavior. Intentional torts, by their nature, often involve a lot of really emotional evidence, such as gruesome pictures of injuries, blood, violence, etc. that draw a lot of sympathy from juries. This evidence may cause an outraged jury to award a huge amount in punitive damages – hundreds of thousands, or even millions of dollars. However by law, the punitive damage must bear some proportionality to the actual injury and actions that occurred. The news media always sensationalizes large verdicts, often coupled with commentary about how tort awards are outrageous and this area of the law needs to be reformed. The bad news is that judges have the power to reduce jury awards and frequently do so. Sometimes the judge’s decision is correct, but a cynical person may feel that many judges simply hate “Their” courtroom producing a sensational verdict that then draws a media circus and reduce the award simply as damage control.
The other bit of bad news involves our favorite people, you guessed it, insurance companies. The vast majority of insurance policies do not cover intentional torts or acts, period. In negligence actions, usually the party that ultimately has to pay is the insurance company – whether it’s homeowner’s insurance, auto insurance, or even malpractice insurance. In actions for intentional tort, the actual perpetrator is generally the only person you can pursue. (Again there are exceptions, and hence it is always a good idea to go in for a free legal consultation)
The problem with going after perpetrators directly is that they often don’t have very much money. A million dollar award is largely useless if the defendant doesn’t even have the money to cover your court costs. You may be able to seize and sell the defendant’s assets, but even then there are many games he or she may play, including declaring bankruptcy or even fleeing the country. This is why attorneys mostly try to prove a theory of intentional tort only when the defendant is wealthy or another “Deep pocket” is in play.
One special situation that has recently drawn attention is the area of intentional injuries caused by nightclub and bar staff (“Bouncers.”) A professional and well-trained bouncer is a must for any reputable establishment. However, many bouncers are simply large, poorly trained, and even violent individuals. They frequently use excessive force, and cause severe injuries to people who are especially vulnerable because they are intoxicated. There is a very important legal principle: employers are responsible for the actions of their employees, when on the job and acting within the scope of their employment. In most cases, an intentional tort is not remotely within the scope of employment, and thus the employer is off the hook. A nightclub has specifically hired these individuals in a capacity that involves physical force, and thus bears a financial responsibility for injuries they cause. A bouncer, unless acting in self-defense or the defense of another, has no more right to strike or injure you than anyone else does! Giving a goon or a thug a title does not justify his or her conduct! The Crime Doctor website is an excellent resource for those wishing to learn more about this subject.