Not All Colorado Personal Injury Cases Arise From Negligence
Personal injury cases typically involve torts, wrongful acts that cause harm or injury to another individual. While most personal injury cases in Colorado are based on the theory of negligence – the failure to use proper care which results in injury to another person – some compensable harm is done intentionally.
Intentional Tort: An Explanation
Whether a tort is intentional or not depends on the wrongdoer’s state of mind at the time. An often-used example of an intentional tort is a simple punch to another person’s face – the person doing the punching intended to do harm by making a fist and hitting someone in the face.
An intentional tort is no accident, however, the person who performs the action need not intend the harm that occurred. For example, if a passenger pretends to grab the steering wheel of a moving automobile and in reacting, the driver overcorrects and hits another vehicle and kills the occupant, the person who committed the intentional tort (pretending to grab the wheel) did not intend to kill anyone, but intended to perform the act that precipitated the harm.
Types of Intentional Torts
There are numerous types of intentional torts, such as:
- Assault – a threat or physical act that creates a reasonable expectation of imminent harmful or offensive contact (absent physical injury).
- Battery – an act that results in harmful or offensive physical contact.
- Conversion – the act of converting someone else’s property for one’s own personal use.
- False imprisonment – restraining another person or restricting their movement against their will, without legal authority or justification.
- Trespass to land – entering the land of another without a lawful reason.
- Trespass to chattels – interfering with the personal property of another person.
- Intentional infliction of emotional distress – acting abominably or outrageously with the intent of causing someone to suffer severe emotional distress.
- Fraud – intentionally lying to someone else for the purpose of monetary gain.
- Defamation – saying something false about another person that causes them to suffer harm.
- Invasion of privacy – under Colorado law, invasion of privacy includes intrusion upon someone’s solitude or seclusion, public disclosure of private facts, and appropriation of someone’s name or likeness, but not false light invasion of privacy.
Some intentional torts, such as assault, battery, and wrongful death, can also be considered crimes, and criminal charges can be brought against the wrongdoer by the local, state, or federal government; in such instances, however, the burden of proof is different. In Colorado, personal injury cases must be proven by a preponderance of the evidence, while crimes must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
Proving an Intentional Tort in a Colorado Personal Injury Case
To recover damages for an intentional tort, the victim must show that the other person acted with intent to perform an act that caused the injury or damages. The following elements must be proven:
- It must be shown that the defendant acted with purpose or knowledge that the act committed could have reasonably caused injury or harm to another person.
- The defendant must have performed an act that resulted in the injury – merely thinking about it is not enough.
- Actual Cause. The victim must show that “but for” the defendant’s intentional actions, the harm would not have occurred.