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Types of Intentional Torts

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There are various types of intentional torts in law. Some of them can be personal, such as assault, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, or false imprisonment. Intentional torts may be trespass to property or conversion. If you have suffered harm from an intentional act or omission by another person, you may be able to file a civil lawsuit to recover compensation for your losses.

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What Are Intentional Torts?

If a wrongful act is done on purpose, this can be considered an intentional tort. The person committing the wrongful act need not intend to cause harm, such as playing a prank. There may be instances where harm is intended, such as domestic violence.

What Is a Tort?

Any wrongful act resulting in harm to someone else is considered a tort. A court will impose liability on the person who has committed the wrongful act. There are three basic types of torts, under which a wide range of actions and injuries may occur. According to tort law 101, these three basic types are:

  1. Negligent tort. This type of tort does not result from the intentional action of the at-fault person. Rather, they happen when the person fails to comply with a reasonable standard of care owed towards others. If someone is negligent, resulting in your suffering harm, then there may be a negligence tort for which you can hold that person liable.
  2. Intentional torts. Intentional torts happen when the at-fault person knowingly acts or omits to do something, resulting in harm.
  3. Strict liability. These torts do not need to prove fault. The person may be liable for committing an act, regardless of his or her mental state or intent. Litigation is concerned with a harm or specific outcome happening in certain circumstances. An example of this would be producing and selling defective products.

One way to differentiate between intentional and negligent torts is to consider the mental state of the person committing the tort. For negligence, the person did not need to intentionally cause harm or act purposefully. To prove an intentional tort, you will need to prove intent. You will have to prove that the person acted purposefully or knowingly.

For example, you may be in a car accident with another driver who was speeding, causing the accident due to the excess speed. You might win a negligence case against the driver, on the basis that he or she failed to act reasonably by speeding, resulting in the accident. You would not need to show that the driver intended to cause a crash. If you wanted to make an intentional tort claim, you would have to prove that the other driver intended to hit your car.

The intentional tort definition requires the at-fault person to make an intentional decision to act or fail to act in a certain way. This intentional act, or failure to act, must cause harm. The person suffering the harm must suffer damages for which he or she can be compensated.

Another example is when a person commits battery by punching you in the face. In this instance, the person intended to slam his or her fist into your face. He or she also intended to cause you harm, which you then may have suffered from the punch in the face by way of injury, or pain and suffering.

Examples of Intentional Torts

With an intentional tort, the person carrying out the wrongful act is entirely aware of his or her actions. There are similarities between intentional torts and crimes, since many acts that comprise intentional torts can also be charged as crimes. For example, the family of a murder victim may sue the perpetrator in civil law for wrongful death, regardless of whether the perpetrator was criminally charged. You may be wondering – what are the most common intentional torts? Below are some common acts that can be considered intentional torts.


Battery is a legal term for touching another person intentionally, violently, and without justification. It may be hitting someone, causing injury. It may be offensive contact, such as sexual battery. Likewise, it can cover a range of activities, from punching someone, to firing projectiles into a body (such as firing a gun), or performing medical procedures without consent. Battery in law has two meanings. Aside from being used in torts, it is also a term used in criminal law, for a similar act.


Assault can be a threat of unwanted or damaging physical contact, inspiring fear. In other words, it is attempted or threatened battery, when no battery takes place, causing you to fear immediate danger. An example may be pointing a gun, or threatening to punch someone. Similar to battery, assault is a term that is used for both an intentional tort and a crime.

False Imprisonment

False imprisonment is forcing confinement without the legal authority to do so. An example is detaining someone, or restricting his or her movement against his or her will. The person being falsely imprisoned must be aware of it, or else prove that actual harm occurred, for there to be a tort. False imprisonment does not have to be physical. A false statement, such as pretending to be a cop as a means of making the person feel that he or she needs to remain in place, counts as false imprisonment.


Trespassing means using someone else’s property without the owner’s permission. It comes in two forms, trespass to land and trespass to chattels. Trespass to land is entering, or refusing to leave, someone else’s land without permission. Trespass to chattels is using a person’s land without permission.

Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

This is when someone engages in extreme or outrageous conduct with the intention of causing mental or emotional harm. Intentional infliction of emotional distress can be difficult to prove in court, unless accompanied by physical injury, although physical injury is not a requirement.


Defamation is when a false statement is presented about someone else knowingly and presented as fact, causing reputational harm. This can either be libel, which is written, or slander, which is spoken words.

Invasion of Privacy

The exact definition of invasion of privacy varies by state. Nevertheless, there are four types of conduct that are generally considered to be an invasion of privacy:

  • Invasion of solitude. This is where someone interferes with your right to be left alone, or your right to solitude.
  • Private facts are publicly disclosed.
  • False light. This happens when someone publishes facts about you that are not defamatory, but are still untrue. This then creates a false implication about you.
  • Appropriation. This is when someone else uses your likeness for profit, without your consent.


Conversion happens when your property is taken by someone else, who then converts it to his or her own property, or damages or destroys it. Conversion deprives you of your own property. The criminal counterpart to conversion is theft.


Fraud is the legal term for when someone lies to you, intending to deceive you, with the goal of taking money or property from you. To prove fraud, you have to show four elements. First, the person knew that he or she was making a false statement. Second, the person knew that you would believe the false statement. Third, you would rely on the information. Fourth, you would be harmed by your reliance on the information. Fraud is a term used for a civil tort, as well as a specific crime.

How Do You Know When an Intentional Tort Takes Place?

Each type of tort has its own requirements, so proving that an intentional tort will vary from case to case. There are some specific factors to consider when attempting to determine whether an intentional tort has taken place.

It must first be decided whether someone else acted with intent to make contact with you. If this is so, then you should consider if it occurred to that person that the contact would cause you some form of injury or harm. If so, then decide whether the contact did cause you injury, harm, some form of damage, or severe emotional distress. Finally, examine whether you provided consent for the contact.

A personal injury attorney can help you if you have been the victim of an intentional tort. He or she can investigate the circumstances of your case, such as deciding who committed the intentional act, where and how it happened, and any witnesses. Your attorney can investigate formative issues regarding the intentional tort and advise you on your claim. He or she can help you seek medical help, and begin building a medical history, including your health before the event, the consequences you have suffered as a result of the act, and your long-term prognosis. Your attorney will assist in collecting any other relevant evidence to build your case, can negotiate a settlement on your behalf, or initiate legal proceedings.

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