Negligent vs. Intentional Injuries - When Can You File a Lawsuit?
Most of the clients we serve in our Panama City personal injury law office were hurt in a car crash or other form of accident. These claims are typically based on negligence principles, meaning the defendant did not use a proper degree of care or otherwise failed to act as a reasonable person would have under a similar situation. However, not all injuries are accidents, and many local residents are injured by someone else's intentional wrongdoing. In most cases, injuries that are caused intentionally result in criminal charges. There are usually few options for those hurt to recover via the civil law.
However, in some limited situations, civil injury claims may exist when the injury stems from conduct that could also lead to criminal charges, regardless of whether the prosecutor actually brings that criminal charge. Our firm’s focus, as always, is on the victim, and we help the victims of injury obtain monetary compensation through the civil court system when third parties are negligent in some way.
The Availability of Civil Claims for Injuries
Civil claims for intentional injury arise when a purposeful action (or, in some situations, inaction) causes physical harm. However, in most cases there is no real possibility of recovering for the loss because the possible defendants do not have personal resources to pay for an award and no insurance exists to cover the situation. For example, consider an argument that escalates and leads to one person severely injuring another in a fight. While the injured party likely has a technical claim against his attacker, unless the attacker has significant personal wealth, there is little chance that resources exist to provide compensation.
The exceptions prove the rule on this issue. A famous example where a civil lawsuit was filed is the successful wrongful death case brought by the families of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman after the criminal court failed to convict O. J. Simpson on murder charges. Essentially, the only reason why this case was different was because Simpson had significant personal wealth.
In some unique situations, negligence may occur in conjunction with intentional conduct that does open the door to a civil lawsuit and recovery.
Who can be sued for intentional injury? The most obvious defendant is, of course, the person who committed the intentional act. In some cases, however, there may be other defendants. One example would be a claim against a property owner who failed to provide adequate security that is filed after the plaintiff was assaulted by a third party on the premises. Considering all possible defendants is critical, especially since the perpetrator of the act may not always have the financial means to pay the full amount of a civil judgment.
Another common example involves cases of abuse or mistreatment at institutions. Sexual assault or physical abuse at nursing homes includes the intentional misconduct of employees. In these cases, a civil suit may still be appropriate, implicating the owners of the facility in their negligence, perhaps involving poor hiring practices or oversight of employees.
If you were injured or lost a loved one due to someone else's intentional wrongdoing, schedule a free consultation with our Panama City injury attorney to learn more about your legal rights and determine if civil lawsuit is appropriate.