No Accident: Personal Injury Claims for Intentional Torts
Most of the cases I handle as a personal injury attorney arise out of the negligence or reckless conduct of the defendant. That driver who hit you may have run a red light, but he didn’t intend to t-bone your car, just like the giant pharmaceutical company whose wonder drug turned out to be less-than-wonderful didn’t intend that you suffer adverse health consequences, though they may have been grossly negligent in their testing or marketing of their product.
But when someone throws a punch, commits a sexual assault, fires a gun, or otherwise does an intentional act with the clearly foreseeable result of causing an injury or death, the injuries are no less serious or traumatic than those caused by negligence. When someone hurts you by committing such an “intentional tort,” you are no less entitled to seek and obtain compensation for your injuries than you would be for an accident caused by carelessness.
Civil Personal Injury Lawsuit v. Criminal Prosecution
Many intentional acts that can be the basis of civil personal injury or wrongful death lawsuits are also criminal offenses. The punch that led to your broken nose can also lead to a conviction for battery, and the loss of a loved one to a gunshot wound could also lead to the death penalty for the individual charged with murder for that act.
The outcome of a personal injury lawsuit based on an intentional tort does not necessarily depend on the outcome of any criminal case based on the injury-causing act. They are two independent proceedings with different rules. What a prosecutor must prove to obtain a criminal conviction in Texas is different than what an injury victim must prove to obtain compensation.
First, the elements of a crime and the basis for imposing civil liability for an injury are completely different. Intent and a violation of a specific section of the Texas Penal Code are things which a prosecutor may have to prove, while causation and damages are bases of liability that a personal injury attorney would have to prove, for example.
Second, prosecutors must prove all of the elements of their case “beyond a reasonable doubt.” In a civil lawsuit, however, the standard is lower – a plaintiff only need prove all of the elements of their claim by a “preponderance of the evidence.” These different standards mean that someone could be acquitted of a criminal offense and still be held liable for damages in a personal injury lawsuit arising from the same act.
The Example of O.J.
Perhaps the most famous example of how an individual who allegedly committed an intentional tort can be acquitted in a criminal prosecution but still be held liable in a civil suit is the O.J. Simpson case.
While he was found not guilty of murder, because the jury concluded that California prosecutors had not proven their case beyond a reasonable doubt, a different jury hearing the wrongful death lawsuit filed by the victims’ families found Simpson liable for their deaths and entered a $33.5 million judgment against him.
If Someone Hurt You On Purpose, We Can Help
If you have suffered injuries or lost a family member due to someone’s intentional acts, regardless of whether or not criminal charges were filed, we may be able to help. At Greening Law, P.C., we have been obtaining compensation for injury victims in Dallas and throughout Texas for decades. If you or a loved one has suffered a serious injury as a result of an intentional tort, please give us a call a call at (972) 934-8900 or fill out our online form to arrange for your free consultation.