Intentional Injuries Can Give Rise to Civil Liability
Jun 27, 2018 - Personal Injury
Personal injury claims are often associated with negligence claims, not with intentional injury claims — and perhaps for good reason. After all, it’s more common for a defendant to fail to adhere to a legal duty (i.e., to act in an unreasonable manner that exposes others to a risk of injury) than to outright intentionally or maliciously cause another person injuries. In fact, intentional injuries are more often associated with criminal prosecution as opposed to civil liability.
Still, despite these perceptions, intentional injury claims are actionable, in Pennsylvania and elsewhere. If you have been injured due to the intentional acts of the defendant, then you have a right to sue and recover damages.
Intentional injury claims are unique, however, and deserve special consideration. Let’s cover some of the basic issues.
Civil and Criminal Litigation
When defendants act intentionally to cause injury (i.e., physical battery), they may not only be civilly liability for damages, but may also be exposed to significant criminal liability for their wrongful actions.
The prospect of criminal litigation can give injured plaintiffs pause. It’s important to note, however, that there is no reason to avoid pursuing civil litigation simply because of an ongoing criminal litigation. You are entitled to pursue a civil remedy in court whether or not the defendant is criminally liable. Further, it’s worth pointing out that criminal litigation will not have a negative influence on your civil case.
Intentional Misconduct May Be Plead in the Alternative
If you’ve been injured due to the defendant’s intentional misconduct, you have additional layers of claims to fall back on in the event that the court does not find that the defendant had the requisite intent.
Suppose, for example, that you are injured in a car accident by the defendant. The defendant swerved into your lane and slammed your car into the divider, causing severe injuries. Over the course of litigation, you argued that the swerve was intentional. However, you could also argue (in the alternative) that even if the defendant’s conduct was not intentional, it was at least reckless or negligent. This will ensure that you can recover damages in the event that the court does not find “intent.”
Availability of Punitive Damages
Normally, injured plaintiffs are entitled to sue and recover compensatory damages for their various losses. Compensatory damages (i.e., lost wages, medical expenses, pain and suffering, etc.) are intended to put the injured plaintiff in a position that approximates their position prior to the accident.
In some cases, however, the court may choose to award additional punitive damages, which multiply the compensatory damages (and can lead to multi-million dollar verdicts). Punitive damages are not compensatory — they are intended to punish the defendant for their egregious acts, and to discourage others from doing the same.
Punitive damages are somewhat rare, however. The court will only award punitive damages where the defendant’s conduct was intentionally malicious, or where the defendant’s conduct indicated a reckless disregard for the safety of others. For example, if the defendant drank a bottle of alcohol and went driving near a busy schoolyard, causing collision injuries, such behavior might qualify for an award of punitive damages.
Contact a Skilled Allentown Injury Attorney for Additional Guidance
If you have suffered damages in an incident where the defendant intentionally caused your injuries, then Pennsylvania law may entitle you to significant damages to compensate you for your losses. Depending on the circumstances, the court may also award punitive damages as a method for discouraging the defendant (and others) from such egregious behavior.
Here at Drake Hileman & Davis, PC, our team of attorneys has over three decades of experience representing the interests of injured plaintiffs in a range of litigation, including cases that involve intentional misconduct. We are committed to comprehensive and client-oriented legal representation — as such, we approach each case with an eye towards its unique challenges. This approach is particularly important in cases where the defendant has engaged in intentional misconduct, given the possibility of punitive damages.
Call (888) 777-7098 today to schedule a free and confidential consultation with an experienced Allentown injury attorney here at Drake Hileman & Davis, PC.