A tort is a wrongful act or omission that causes someone else to suffer loss or harm, resulting in legal liability for the person who committed the act. The wrong must be of a sort that the law can compensate with money damages

That might sound restrictive until you realize that courts frequently award damages for abstract losses such as grief or “loss of enjoyment of life.” Intentional torts and negligence are two types of torts.

What Is a Tort of Negligence?

A negligence tort is based on carelessness. You might sue someone for negligence (or demand a private settlement) if they injure you through careless behavior.

The Hypothetical “Reasonable Person”

The law demands that every competent adult behave as a “reasonable person” to prevent harm to others. The “reasonable person” is a hypothetical person who always acts with prudence, self-restraint, and reasonable care.  

The Four Elements of a Negligence Claim

To win a negligence claim, you must prove the following four facts:

  • The defendant owed you a duty of care (to act as a “reasonable person” would). This might mean, for example, stopping for red lights.
  • The defendant breached their duty of care, meaning they failed to meet the duty’s demands. This might mean running a red light, for example. Breach of a legal duty of care amounts to negligence.
  • You suffered damages, normally meaning a physical injury and/or financial losses.
  • The defendant’s negligence caused your damages. For example, you might have broken your leg in a car accident because the defendant ran a red light.

To win your claim, either in court or at the settlement table, you have to prove all four of these facts. It’s difficult (but certainly not impossible) to win a negligence claim in Maryland because you will lose if you were even 1% at fault for your own injuries.

Examples of Negligence-Based Personal Injury Torts

Following are a few examples of common negligence-based torts:

  • A slip and fall accident;
  • A car accident;
  • Medical malpractice;
  • A dog bite; or
  • An injury caused by a defective product (product liability).

Overall, most personal injury claims are based on negligence.

What Is an Intentional Tort?

Once you know what a tort is, the term “intentional tort” is almost self-explanatory. It is important to note that the perpetrator must intend only their act and its natural and normal consequences, not a remote possibility or a freak accident. 

In fact, in most cases, the perpetrator must specifically intend only the act itself. This is not always true, however. To face liability for battery, for example, the perpetrator must intend to harm the victim.

Examples of Intentional Torts

Following are examples of some of the most common intentional torts:

  • Battery: Punching someone in the nose.
  • Assault: Pointing a gun at someone’s head might constitute this.
  • False imprisonment: Locking an adult in their bedroom for an extended period of time.
  • Intentional infliction of emotional distress: Falsely and deceitfully telling someone their loved one died in an accident, for example.
  • Trespass: Entering someone’s property without their permission. It can also refer to, for example, taking someone’s car out for a joyride without their permission. 
  • Defamation, including libel (written) and slander(spoken): Recklessly spreading a false rumor that someone committed a sex crime, for example.

None of these torts necessarily involve the infliction of physical injury, although battery frequently does.

Ambiguous Cases: Is It a Negligence Tort or an Intentional Tort?

In personal injury law, distinguishing between negligence torts and intentional torts is crucial, because it affects the type of damages (if any) that you might qualify for. It also affects the kinds of legal strategies that either side might rely on. 

Below are five simple fact patterns that illustrate scenarios where this distinction might matter.

1. Car Accident

  • Negligence: A driver is late for work and, in a hurry, runs a red light, accidentally hitting your car.
  • Intentional Tort: A driver, in a fit of road rage, purposefully rams your car in an attempt to harm you.

2. Slip and Fall

  • Negligence: A store employee carelessly fails to promptly clean up a spilled liquid on the floor, and you suffer a slip and fall accident as a result.
  • Intentional Tort: A disgruntled employee deliberately spills oil on the floor of a store for the purpose of causing a customer to slip, thereby damaging the store’s reputation. You slip down and suffer an injury.

3. Dog Bite 

  • Negligence: A dog owner carelessly leaves their gate open, and their dog bites you as you pass by.
  • Intentional Tort: A dog owner ‘sics’ their dog on you in the heat of an argument between you. This is an example of the owner using their dog as a weapon.

4. Workplace Injury

  • Negligence: A stingy employer fails to provide adequate training for using heavy machinery, causing you injury.
  • Intentional Tort: A co-worker, acting on personal animosity, intentionally sabotages your equipment, causing it to malfunction and injure you. 

5. Medical Malpractice

  • Negligence: A surgeon mistakenly cuts an artery during surgery due to a momentary lapse in concentration.
  • Intentional Tort: A medical professional administers a harmful substance to you for the purpose of harming you. This is very rare.

These examples illustrate the difference between carelessness (negligence) and malice (intentional tort).

Torts That Can Also Be Prosecuted as Crimes

The following torts can also be prosecuted as crimes under particular circumstances, some of which were mentioned above:

  • Vehicular homicide;
  • Battery;
  • Assault.;
  • Theft (trespass to chattels);
  • Criminal trespassing (to land and buildings); and
  • Arson: Intentional burning of someone’s property.

There are many other torts that, under the right circumstances, also qualify as crimes.

A Maryland Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help You Decide Which Type of Claim To Assert

If you file the wrong type of claim in a personal injury lawsuit, the court might dismiss your lawsuit. Even if it doesn’t, you can expect problems winning compensation. An experienced Maryland personal injury lawyer can help you work it out before you file a lawsuit or seek a settlement.

Contact the Baltimore Personal Injury Lawyer Law Firm of WGK Personal Injury Lawyers Today For Help

For more information contact the Baltimore personal injury law firm of WGK Personal Injury Lawyers to schedule a free initial consultation.

WGK Personal Injury Lawyers
14 W Madison St, Baltimore, MD 21201, United States
(410) 837-2144

WGK Personal Injury Lawyers – Dundalk Office
7329 Holabird Ave Suite 3, Dundalk, MD 21222
By appointment only
(410) 970-3080