Personal Injury Lawsuits for Intentional Acts

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When most people think about personal injury or wrongful death lawsuits, they think of accidents, negligence, and carelessness. While it is true that most personal injury actions involve negligence as the basis of fault, they can also involve intentional conduct. These are often referred to as “intentional torts” and may include assault, battery, defamation, false imprisonment, fraud, and trespassing.

Perhaps one of the most famous civil cases concerning intentional wrongdoing involved former NFL player OJ Simpson and the 1994 killings of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman. Simpson stood trial in criminal court and was acquitted on October 3, 1995. He was found not guilty, but Goldman’s father filed a civil suit against Simpson. On February 4, 1997, a jury found Simpson responsible for the deaths and awarded the Goldman family $33.5 million in damages.

This particular case brings up a key difference between criminal and civil trials. In criminal court, a defendant must be found guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt. The jury verdict must be unanimous and there can be no question of the defendant’s guilt. The burden of proof in civil court is different. In civil court, fault must be proven based on a preponderance of the evidence, or the theory that it is more than likely true that the defendant was to blame. Because Simpson was acquitted of murder, he could not be tried again in criminal court (under the double jeopardy clause of the Fifth Amendment). Trial in civil court, however, is not considered double jeopardy and the lesser burden of proof worked in the Goldman family’s favor. The jury unanimously found Simpson to be at fault for the deaths of Goldman and Brown.

Compensation for an Intentional Tort

The financial compensation recovered in a personal injury lawsuit is meant to make up for the damage that was caused. Depending on the situation and the extent of injuries, this could add up to hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars.

In a case involving an intentional act, compensation may include:

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost earnings
  • Future medical care
  • Loss of potential/future earnings
  • Emotional trauma
  • Pain and suffering

The at-fault party must also have the ability to pay. The case involving OJ Simpson was unique in that he was a former professional athlete and actor who, in 1994, had an estimated net worth of $11 million. Although a civil lawsuit could be filed against virtually any person who caused you harm, there is the question of whether they would have the wherewithal to pay for the damage they caused. Most people would not be able to cover tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages, not to mention millions of dollars. This brings about an important issue: can other parties be held accountable for intentional wrongs, even if they did not directly commit them?

Assaults & Attacks on Another’s Property

When assaults or attacks happen on another’s property, the property owner could be held liable if they failed to reasonably protect the victim’s well-being. An example may be a parking garage that has faulty lights and no security cameras. If a woman was assaulted while walking to her vehicle at night, there’s a chance that the owner of the parking garage could be legally responsible.

An in-depth look at the circumstances surrounding an attack will reveal who is to blame. This may be more than one party, and part of achieving a successful result in a civil lawsuit is identifying all at-fault parties and sources of compensation. At Handler, Henning & Rosenberg LLC, our Pennsylvania personal injury lawyers have the resources and know-how to handle complex injury, wrongful death, car accident, and work injury cases that involve intentional misconduct. Find out how we can help you – call (888) 498-3023 today!

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