What Is The Legal Definition Of “Unintentional Tort?”

We all make mistakes. That much is true. Unfortunately, even accidents can have devastating consequences for one party or the other — and legal ramifications for whichever party caused the accident in the first place. Read on to discover the meaning behind “unintentional tort” and potential legal penalties.

According to Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute, the definition of “tort” means that an act has occurred “that gives rise to injury or harm to another and amounts to a civil wrong for which courts impose liability. In the context of torts, ‘injury’ describes the invasion of any legal right, whereas ‘harm’ describes a loss or detriment in fact that an individual suffers.’”

Unintentional tort occurs when an individual or organization unintentionally causes harm to another. Intentional tort occurs when an individual or organization purposely behaves in a particular way — whether intending to cause harm or not. Intentional tort is far more likely to have criminal consequences than unintentional tort. 

Intentional torts include assault and battery, fraud, invasion or privacy, defamation, etc.

Unintentional torts include car accidents, medical malpractice, animal attacks, workplace accidents, etc.

During courtroom proceedings involving either unintentional or intentional tort, you may hear the term “strict liability.” This term means that person is financially liable for an accident either way. The person liable for an accident does not need to be found to be directly at fault. This is not always the case. Usually, personal injury attorneys handle these types of cases. Contact one to discuss the details involved in yours.

Unintentional tort can result in injury or property damage (and almost always financial loss). When sued for an accident, defendants must be found guilty of negligence. Without negligence, the injured party usually has no case. In the most extreme cases, a judge might find the defendant guilty and then apply statutory damages. These are applied when the negligence was so great that the judge believes additional punishment is necessary. (These are separate from criminal charges, however.)