What qualifies as an intentional tort?


An intentional tort is a wrongful act or failure to act, done with the perpetrator's awareness, and resulting in another person's injury or harm, or damage to somebody else's property. Actions such as battery, fraud, assault, defamation of character, trespassing, patent infringement, copyright violations, qualify as intentional torts.

As the name suggests, the defining characteristic of intentional torts, is "intended harm": that is, the possibility that the defendant may have acted out of negligence, is excluded. Since there is intention behind a wrongful action, the law of tort liability may not apply. Nor will the tortfeasor receive coverage for intentional wrongdoings by their insurer.

Intentional Torts Excluded from Liability Policies

Many insurance companies specifically exclude intentional torts from the liability insurance policies they offer, since the possibility of being indemnified for paying for damages, is close to zero. Neither do lawyers commit themselves to defending a person responsible for an intentional tort, unless they know for sure that the tortfeasor will have enough money to pay the compensation and all required fees at the end of the lawsuit.

It is important to point out that the exclusion does not typically apply to cases where defamation of character has been caused. In fact, many Homeowners' policies offer coverage against defamation cases, such as slander or libel.

Legal Defence of Intentional Torts

In the relatively few cases when attorneys do commit themselves to defending a tortfeasor in court, they will usually try to find evidence that the defendant has caused harm to the third party as a result of negligence.

Tortfeasor attorneys usually deny the allegations that there has been any intention behind the torts committed by their clients. Attorneys do so in an attempt to make their clients' liability coverage available to them, which happens only if the tortfeasor is found to be guilty of negligence. Another way to go around intentional tort liability, is plead that the third party shares responsibility for the tort.

Was this question and its answer useful?
Not a bit
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Very useful
Have a question about insurance? Ask the experts