Intentional Torts: The Pursuit of a Viable Recovery

The point of the personal injury process is to obtain full and fair financial compensation for injured individuals, most of whom have been injured through no fault of their own. Under Virginia law, the way in which the injury occurred can often mean the difference between a viable claim and a claim where financial recovery is either impossible or impractical to obtain.

Negligence: Unintended Harm

Undoubtedly, automobile collisions are the most common mechanism through which our clients are injured, although the attorneys at Allen & Allen also assist people who have been injured in a variety of other ways. We represent people who have been bitten by dogs, who use defective or improperly designed products, who have fallen because of negligently constructed or maintained properties, or who have been injured in many other circumstances.  While the method and manner underlying the injury may change, the common theme in virtually every personal injury case is negligence.

Negligence is defined as “a failure to exercise the standard of care that a reasonably prudent person would have exercised in a similar situation.” As applied to the examples above, if a person fails to exercise appropriate care in restraining a dangerous dog and someone is injured, a personal injury claim is appropriate. Similarly, if a company fails to exercise appropriate care in the design or manufacture of a product and someone is injured, a personal injury claim is well-founded. The failure to act in a reasonable or prudent manner is what gives rise to the claim for monetary damages.

Negligence is analogous to our commonly-held definition of an accident. In every one of the examples listed above, the resulting harm to the injured party is unintended. The careless dog owner does not specifically intend for their dog to bite someone. The imprudent manufacturer of a product does not intend for their consumer to get hurt. The absentee landlord does not intend for their tenant’s balcony to collapse. While each of these unfortunate occurrences is clearly preventable, the resulting consequence is unintended.

Intentional Torts: Purposeful Harm

Unfortunately, there are also cases in which the offending party does intend to harm another person. Most commonly thought of in the criminal context, these intentional torts include assault, battery, false imprisonment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. When a person acts with the intent to injure another and actually causes injury, the single largest obstacle for a personal injury attorney is often identifying a viable source of financial recovery.

The vast majority of tort claims brought under a theory of negligence are resolved through the payment of money by an insurance company. That same insurance coverage may not be available to pay for intentional acts. Virginia’s Supreme Court has consistently held that an injury that was caused intentionally is not an “accident” or an “occurrence” that would be covered under the liability section of an insurance policy. In addition, the general rule is that there is no duty to control the conduct of third persons to prevent criminal acts; therefore the owner or occupant of a premises may not have a legal obligation to pay monetary damages to the victim of a crime on that property.

When evaluating potential intentional tort cases, a careful examination of the facts and circumstances surrounding the offending act must begin immediately. This investigation requires an attorney:

  1. to identify the relationship between the target defendant and a relevant third party,
  2. to look for a ‘special relationship’ between the offending party and the victim, and in certain cases,
  3. to determine if any similar conduct was committed on a prior occasion and was thereafter made known to an employer, business owner, or landlord.

If the intentional act occurs under circumstances in which insurance coverage is not available, immediately identifying attachable personal assets that can be collected may be the only way to obtain financial compensation in the aftermath of injury. The attorneys at Allen & Allen have experience pursuing meaningful recovery for the victims of intentional torts. If you or someone you know has been injured by the intentional conduct of another call us for a free consultation.