For a personal injury lawsuit, the State of Florida recognizes two broad categories. These include cases for personal injuries caused due to negligence, and personal injuries that were caused deliberately. The latter falls under the category of intentional torts.
Negligence vs. Intent
Let’s suppose, for example, that you are driving down a street in Lakeland, Florida, and your car is struck by a vehicle driven by someone who was texting while driving, and thus failed to see a stop sign. Currently, total restrictions on cell phone use while driving in Florida primarily only apply to school zones and active construction zones, while texting is allowed only while stopped at a red light. This means that the driver could be found liable for your injuries due to his or her negligence.
On the other hand, if someone decides they don’t like one of your bumper stickers, or is frustrated because you are not driving fast enough and runs you off the road, causing you to crash into a pole or a tree, this is clearly a case of an intentional tort. In this case, the driver could be charged in criminal court with vehicular assault — but this is a separate issue.
The Burden of Proof
Most of the time, the difference between negligence and intent is not clear. The argument here is similar to the one used against the doctrine of “hate crimes” — intent is highly subjective and very difficult to prove in a court of law. As the injured party or plaintiff, the burden of proof is on you to demonstrate that the defendant acted with malicious intent.
If intent cannot be proven with a preponderance of the evidence, it does not necessarily mean that the plaintiff loses his or her case; the defendant can still be found liable on the grounds of negligence. However, courts tend to grant higher awards in cases where the act is found to be intentional, and they will even grant punitive damages in such cases.
Here is another scenario: you are driving along a multi-lane highway when you notice two vehicles (A and B) ahead of you; they appear to be involved in a “road rage” incident. Suddenly, the driver of vehicle A deliberately veers to one side, forcing vehicle B toward the shoulder of the road. This causes vehicle B to flip sideways, and you crash into it as a result.
Although the driver of vehicle A did not intend for you and your vehicle to come into harm, his intentions toward the driver of vehicle B are patently clear, and you wound up getting hurt in the process. Under the legal doctrine of transferred intent, you could sue the first driver for an intentional tort, even if you were not the intended target of his actions.
This doctrine also has a parallel in criminal law. If Person A shoots Person B and the bullet goes through the latter and also kills Person C, Person A could face two counts of murder, even though he or she did not intend to harm Person C.
Looking for a Negligence Lawyer in Lakeland, Florida?
Navigating the world of negligence claims can be complicated; but that’s what we’re here for.
If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident in Lakeland, Florida, due to someone else’s negligence, turn to the team of qualified and experienced negligence attorneys at O’Toole Law Group. We can help you establish a legal case of negligence by proving the at-fault party’s responsibility, and that his or her negligent behavior was what caused your injuries. Contact us today to discuss your options.