Intent is a basic component of the law in both criminal and civil cases in North Carolina. In criminal cases, intent is typically necessary to establish the level of criminal activity such as determining whether a crime is a misdemeanor or a felony. Individuals can violate the law unintentionally on occasion and still be guilty, and those who do so in a premeditated fashion could be charged with a more severe crime. This applies in tort cases as well, especially when the action of the respondent is a willful act to injure a victim. Proving intent can enhance the value of a civil tort lawsuit as well when it can be established that the respondent defendant did so in a malicious and predetermined manner with intent to harm without a reasonable duty of care towards the attacked plaintiff.

Definition of Intent

The definition of intent is set by precedent law from the case R v Mohan [1976] and states that it is a decision to bring about a prohibited consequence. Intending to do harm is not necessary for intent to be present in any tort case as well as a criminal case, but the real understanding goes beyond the precedent definition to a split between malicious intent and willful intent. Malicious intent is clear desire to inflict harm and injury to the target, but willful intent can be merely deciding to attack an individual with no particular outcome expected. Malicious intent in an intentional tort situation usually refers to physical harm where willful intent harms non-physically such as in a defamation case or a fraud case. These are still nonetheless intentional acts that are both criminal violations and grounds for a lawsuit based on general negligence. Malicious intent could easily be determined as “gross” negligence when it is evaluated in a trial by a jury.

How Intentional Tort Cases are Adjudicated

The first step in pursuing damages for an intentional tort is filing criminal charges against the assailant if the police have not already done so. Being represented by a personal injury law firm can sometimes help influence police officers to investigate the case when they are reluctant and there is no documented evidence. Malicious intent cases often will include a physical altercation when a plaintiff is also the victim of an attack and suffers a significant injury. Photos of the injuries are good evidence in this case. Non-physical willful intent will require more investigation for the criminal charge, but it should still be pursued because it serves as solid evidence for the civil tort lawsuit when pursuing financial damages for medical treatment or general damages compensation for mental anguish following the attack.

Examples of Malicious Intentional Torts

The first type of intentional malicious tort is assault and battery. The charge level for any crime will be determined by the material facts of the case, which will also be used to determine the extent of injury and damages that may be allowed when the civil suit is adjudicated. This is largely determined by the reckless nature of the criminal attack. Another example of malicious intent without actual bodily harm is false imprisonment, which is forcefully restricting a victim’s movement or ability to go free.

Examples of Willful Intent Torts

Willful intent to harm someone can occur with simple acts like defamation or fraud, or even trespassing with intention to steal or damage personal property. These are criminal actions as well with the exception of defamation or slander, but they are still financially recoverable offenses that can be prosecuted in civil court. An individual’s reputation is a valuable product as well, and those who violate this principle can easily be held liable for an extensive sum of money when the case is settled.

Burden of Proof in an Intentional Tort Lawsuit

Just as in any other injury case, the personal injury law firm representing the injured plaintiff must prove that an injury of some sort occurred and the defendant is connected to causation. This injury can be mental as well as physical, and it could also be monetary damage in a fraud or trespassing case. Case decisions are made on the “preponderance in a totality of circumstances” standard in civil cases, but they are still held to the stronger “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard necessary to convict an individual of a crime in the criminal case. Willful intent cases can result in a defendant going free in the criminal case just to be required to still pay financial damages to the victim after the case is totally settled. The most famous example of this occurrence is the infamous O.J. Simpson murder case where he was not convicted of murder but was still liable for wrongful death injury on his property in the premises liability civil tort case.

Contact Our Office for More Information

Anyone in North Carolina who thinks they may have been a victim of an intentional tort should contact our office as soon as possible because time is of the essence in both a criminal filing and a personal injury lawsuit. Our personal injury law firm can evaluate your case thoroughly and advise on the possibility of a potential intentional tort lawsuit along with helping determine a course of action and potential filing of criminal charges if they have not already been filed.