A tort is a civil wrong. It works like this: if someone commits a tort against you through misconduct for which the law provides a remedy, you can sue for money damages. 

In actual practice, most personal injury claims are based on negligence (carelessness). An intentional tort, by contrast, occurs when someone deliberately harms you. 

Common Types of Intentional Torts

Assault, battery, false imprisonment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress are four of the most commonly asserted intentional torts. There are other intentional torts, such as conversion and trespassing, that are strictly property offenses that do not involve physical force or restraint. 

Assault, battery, false imprisonment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress are the most common intentional torts that can most easily be classified as personal injury claims.  

To win an assault claim, you must prove:

  1. The defendant acted intentionally.
  2. The defendant caused the victim to apprehend an imminent harmful or offensive contact.  
  3. The victim’s apprehension must have been reasonable.
  4. The defendant must have had the apparent ability to carry out the threat of harm.
  5. The victim did not consent to the defendant’s actions.

Pointing a gun at the victim might constitute assault, for example, even if the defendant did not pull the trigger, and even if the gun was unloaded (as long as the victim reasonably believed the gun was loaded). 

The legal elements of the intentional tort of battery are:

  1. The defendant acted intentionally. 
  2. The defendant’s act resulted in harmful or offensive contact. That might mean punching you in the nose (harmful) or fondling you (offensive).
  3. The victim did not consent to the defendant’s actions. If you agree to a boxing match, for example, you cannot sue your opponent for knocking you out.
  4. The defendant’s act is what caused the harmful or offensive contact.
  5. The defendant’s actions must have actually caused you harm—pain, humiliation, or physical injury, for example.

In the above example with the gun, cocking the gun would likely constitute assault, while pulling the trigger would likely constitute battery. Texas has no criminal offense called “battery,” and instead includes this offense within its law regarding assault.

The legal elements of the tort of false imprisonment are:

  • Intentional restriction of the victim’s freedom of movement. The restraint can be physical (locking someone in a closet, for example), but it need not be. Threatening to shoot someone if they leave a room can be false imprisonment, for example.
  • The victim did not consent to the confinement. Engaging in consensual bondage, for example, does not constitute false imprisonment.
  • Without lawful authority: A police officer making a lawful arrest, for example, does not commit false imprisonment. A knowingly unlawful arrest, by contrast, might constitute false imprisonment. 
  • The victim must have been aware of their confinement. Locking someone in a bedroom while they are passed out drunk would not constitute false imprisonment as long as they were free of restraint by the time they woke up.
  • The victim must have suffered some form of harm due to the false imprisonment. “Harm” might mean emotional distress, physical injury, or both. Even economic loss or harm to reputation can constitute harm.

False imprisonment is often asserted in domestic violence cases.

The legal elements of IIED in Texas are: 

  1. Intentional or reckless behavior: The defendant must have either intended the victim to suffer emotional distress, or consciously disregarded a high probability that the distress would occur.
  2. The defendant’s conduct must have been extreme and outrageous. The victim must bear a heavy burden of proof here—merely offensive behavior is not enough.
  3. The defendant’s conduct must have directly caused the victim’s emotional distress.
  4. The victim must have suffered severe emotional distress. The standard is very high here, too. Annoyance, anger, or humiliation is not enough. Typically, it must result in a physical symptom or the need for psychiatric intervention.

A classic example would be when a cruel prankster calls up a father, falsely tells him that his daughter has died in a car accident, and asks him to come to the morgue to identify the body.

Proving an Intentional Tort

In personal injury law, evidence matters more than the truth does. That is to say, truth without evidence is useless. Following are some of the types of evidence you might need to win an intentional tort claim:

  • Text messages or emails that demonstrate the intentional nature of the tort.
  • Evidence of the defendant’s past behavior, especially if it amounts to a pattern of conduct.
  • Documentation that establishes the victim’s losses, such as medical or employment records.
  • Expert witness testimony from mental health experts, medical experts, and more.
  • Medical records, including records of psychiatric treatment.
  • Physical evidence such as medical reports and photographs of injuries.
  • Police, accident, or investigation reports.
  • Psychological evaluations (especially for IIED claims).
  • Victim testimony about the event and its impact.
  • Video or audio recordings of the incident.
  • Documentation of changes in the daily life of the victim.
  • Personal accounts or therapy notes detailing the emotional and psychological effects of the incident.
  • Eyewitness testimony to the defendant’s offensive conduct.

You might need to file a lawsuit and seek to obtain this evidence through the pretrial discovery process.

You Don’t Need a Dime To Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer

If someone harms you by committing an intentional tort against you, you will probably need legal assistance to win your claim. 

Fortunately, since successful personal injury claims generate income, almost all personal injury lawyers charge their legal fees on a contingency fee basis. This means you pay nothing upfront, and you only pay anything in attorney’s fees if you win. The contingency fee system allows anyone with a strong claim access to the legal system.

For more information, contact the Houston personal injury law firm of Attorney Brian White Personal Injury Lawyers by calling (713) 500-5000

Attorney Brian White Personal Injury Lawyers

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Houston, TX 77098
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