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What Is the Difference Between Intentional Torts and Negligence?

Posted in Personal Injury

As the injured victim of a personal injury accident in New Mexico, you may have the right to bring a claim against one or multiple parties for causing your damages. A successful claim could pay you compensation for your economic and noneconomic losses. Your type of lawsuit or insurance claim will depend on the facts of the case. In general, a plaintiff can file a claim based on one of two allegations: an intentional tort or negligence.

What Is an Intentional Tort?

Tort is the legal term for wrongdoing. An intentional tort is a willful, knowing and deliberate wrong a perpetrator commits on purpose. It can refer to crimes such as assault, battery, abuse, fraud, theft, false imprisonment, kidnapping, trespassing and homicide. In most cases, a defendant who commits an intentional tort does so with the intent to harm, injure or otherwise cause damages to the victim. An intentional tort could be premeditated or something the offender decides to do on the spot. Either way, the perpetrator could be civilly liable for his or her intentional wrongdoing or misconduct in addition to facing criminal charges.

What Is the Difference Between Intentional Torts and Negligence?

What Is Negligence?

While an intentional tort is on purpose, negligence occurs by accident. It is the unintentional failure of a defendant to fulfill his or her duty of care. It can happen due to carelessness or thoughtlessness by the defendant. Negligence is the grounds on which most plaintiffs in New Mexico base their personal injury claims. A defendant may be financially responsible for negligently causing your injuries if you or your Albuquerque personal injury lawyer can prove the four required elements.

1. Duty. The defendant owed you a duty to exercise the amount of care that a reasonable and prudent person would have in the same circumstances.

2. Breach of duty. The defendant did something – or failed to do something – that constituted a breach of his or her duty of care to you. This is the act of negligence or carelessness.

3. Causation for damages. The defendant’s actions caused your injury. Your lawyer must establish a causal connection between your damages and the defendant’s negligence.

4. Losses incurred. The defendant’s negligence gave you compensable damages. You must have specific losses if you wish to file a claim in New Mexico.

You or your lawyer will need to prove these elements are more likely to be true than not true during a civil claim. Most attorneys base personal injury claims on evidence of negligence such as eyewitness accounts and expert testimony.

Criminal Case vs. Civil Case

In cases involving intentional torts, the defendant could face a criminal trial on top of civil liability. Prosecutors in Albuquerque may press criminal charges against the defendant for his or her crime. Meanwhile, your lawyer can pursue monetary damages through a civil claim against the defendant. These are two separate types of claims with different legal processes and outcomes. The purpose of a criminal case is to punish the defendant for his or her intentional tort, while the purpose of a civil case is to force the defendant to pay for your damages.

Does the Burden of Proof Change?

The burden of proof remains the same between a claim based on negligence and one based on an intentional tort. You or your lawyer will need to prove the defendant is more likely than not responsible for your damages, regardless of whether that responsibility stemmed from a careless act or the intent to harm you. The burden of proof in a criminal case against the defendant, however, is enough evidence to establish guilt for the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.

Even if a criminal case does not result in a conviction, you could still win your civil case against the same defendant due to different burdens of proof. Obtaining compensation will require proof of the defendant’s negligence or willful intent to harm you. Use a New Mexico personal injury attorney to represent you during a claim in New Mexico for your best chances at success.