What is an Intentional Tort?

Alexis W.

An intentional tort is a type of civil wrong in the United States, in which a person deliberately violates a legal duty to another party. Torts are private actions that one individual can bring against another individual. They are distinct from crimes, which must be prosecuted by the federal government.

Man holding computer
Man holding computer

Under the United States system, tort law allows a victim of another person's actions to receive monetary compensation for damages those actions cause. If a person commits a tort, he is referred to as a "tortfeasor." The victim of that tort can bring a private civil action against the tortfeasor to recover actual monetary damages, and in some cases also to recover punitive damages.

Torts in the United States are divided into two types: intentional torts and negligence. If a person commits an intentional tort, this means that he intentionally violated a legal duty he owed to the victim. This is different from a negligent tort, in which the tortfeasor violated the duty to exercise reasonable care in his actions with others.

The distinction between an intentional tort and a negligent tort is important for several reasons. First, if an individual wants to sue for an intentional tort, he must prove that the tortfeasor acted with "intent." This is a separate legal requirement that the plaintiff must fulfill, in addition to proving all the other facts of the case and proving actual damages.

Intentional torts also increase the possibility that the tortfeasor will have to pay punitive damages. Punitive damages are damages designed to punish the tortfeasor, as opposed to merely compensating the victim. Punitive damages can sometimes be several times the amount of actual damages the victim incurred.

In addition, a person generally cannot purchase insurance to indemnify himself against intentional torts. This means, for example, that while a person's car insurance would pay the damages he negligently caused if he was sued, his car insurance would not pay if he intentionally ran someone over with his vehicle. It is not possible to purchase insurance to protect against liability for intentional torts as a matter of public policy.

Intentional torts include assault, battery, false imprisonment, conversion, and various trespass actions. Certain other actions in which a person intentionally wrongs another may also be considered intentional torts. An individual who faces a lawsuit for committing an intentional tort may also face criminal charges for his actions, but the criminal proceedings are separate legal proceedings with a higher burden of proof than that required to prove the tort action.

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Discussion Comments



This kind of thing still goes on in the workplace, regardless of the laws which have been set in place. Bullying is a common practice, and only now is legislation being established to avoid this kind of thing.


Laws against intentional torts, blackmail, and libel, are established to protect people's reputations and to prevent business and political tactics from damaging personal matters. These laws are good, because they place an importance on holding family values and family orientation above work values and political ambitions. If people were allowed to freely slander and manipulate each other by threatening their reputations, the work environment would be brutal and unproductive.


The issue of whether or not a tort was intentional can be difficult to assert. This is why a strict liability is often applied to the mere commission of a tort, regardless of intention. The application of strict liability can vary according to how serious the commission of a tort is.


A quasi intentional tort is a tort which is often unintentional or is nonchalantly but directly damaging to someone's privacy or psychological well being. This may take the form of a doctor accidentally revealing damaging information about a patient which causes them to lose their face or to have their reputation damaged. Most doctors and psychiatrists know that this can ruin their career, and are extensively trained to avoid this kind of malfeasance. It is the self-respecting patient's job, however, to be sure that they visit qualified doctors and counselors.

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