Can I Sue If Someone Intentionally Hurt Me?

When someone’s wrongful act causes you harm, it is considered a tort. When that action is intentional, you generally have the right to pursue legal action against the perpetrator.

Since intentional torts may also be crimes, it is important to discuss your case with a personal injury attorney. Criminal prosecution takes place separately from a civil lawsuit, and you may have some strategic decisions to make if the perpetrator will be facing both.

Defining intentional torts

“Tort” is the legal term for a wrongful act that gives rise to a civil claim. Accidents can be a type of unintentional tort, while intentional acts can be intentional torts.

The general rule for intentional torts is that one who intentionally causes injury to someone else is legally responsible for the harm he causes unless the actions were justifiable.

It is not, however, necessary that the person intended for something bad to happen. Intending the action that caused the harm is enough intent to trigger legal liability. Instead, in Pennsylvania, doing something knowing that injury is a substantially certain result is enough to make the action an intentional tort.

Proving intent

Intent can be either general or specific.

“General intent” refers to acting with substantial certainty that certain consequences will occur. “Specific intent” is acting with the purpose of causing certain consequences.

If, for example, a defendant throws rocks at cars, there may be a general intent in that he wishes to hit the cars but not necessarily to cause an accident or an injury. If he instead threw a brick at someone’s head, there is a specific intent to cause an injury.

Intent, whether general or specific, requires evidence. The type of evidence you would need to prove your case is related to the type of action involved.

If you were injured in a fight and there were witnesses or surveillance video, either of these might show that the defendant intended to harm you. In a defamation case, you may have emails or other writing that show intent.

Each case is unique. Your attorney can help you review what evidence is available in your case and determine how to present it.

Types of intentional torts

Intentional torts can be both physical and non-physical.

Some common forms that intentional torts can take include:

  • Assault – Making a threat or an attempt to injure someone
  • Battery – An intentional offensive, non-consensual touching; hitting, punching, striking with an object, or shooting someone are all included
  • Defamation – Making untrue statements to damage someone’s reputation
  • Infliction of emotional distress – Using extreme behavior to scare or threaten someone
  • Invasion of privacy – Intruding on someone’s right to be left alone

These are just a few examples. If you believe you have been intentionally harmed, discuss the situation with an attorney.


If someone has physically harmed you on purpose, the action may have been an assault.

An assault can be both a crime and a basis for a lawsuit. A criminal charge is to punish the wrongdoer while a lawsuit is to reimburse the victim.

When an action is both a tort and a crime, it can add a layer of complexity to the situation. Depending on the timing of the proceedings, the defendant may refuse to answer questions due to the right to refuse self-incrimination. The standards of proof are also different.

When you choose a lawyer with experience in assault cases, you stand a better chance at proving your case while balancing the challenges of criminal prosecution.

Damages available for an intentional tort

When someone intentionally hurts you, the law recognizes your right to be made whole. This means you should be restored to the same position you would have been in if you had not been harmed.

Whether your injury is physical, emotional, or reputational, the remedy is monetary. An attorney will help you determine the scope of damages available in your case, and it can include:

  • Medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering for a physical or emotional injury
  • Lost profits or other losses caused by damage to reputation
  • Punitive damages if the defendant engaged in extreme behavior

Discuss your case with a lawyer

When you are the plaintiff in a lawsuit, you have a substantial burden when it comes to proving your case. Your best bet is to work with a Pittsburgh personal injury attorney who knows the lay of the land.

At Chaffin Luhana, our attorneys have recovered over $1 billion on behalf of clients. Our team is dedicated to helping you be made whole, so we only get paid when you do.

Call today to discuss your case. Consultations are free.