Accidental vs. Intentional Injuries in New Jersey

Posted By Brandon J. Broderick, Attorney at Law

26 Jan. 2017

In the past three decades, the states have enacted strict laws that prohibit people from intentionally harming others. For example, in the 1970s, a simple scuffle between high school students would probably result in a trip to the principal’s office and maybe a week of detention.

If a similar fight took place on school grounds today, the teens could be arrested and charged with assault. Or, suppose a fight broke out at a bar. Twenty or thirty years ago, a bouncer may have thrown the two arguing men out of the bar.

If the same type of fight took place in a bar today, the two men could end up in jail, facing criminal charges, fines, and the lifelong stigma of a criminal record. So, with the above in mind, we want to take a look at what separates criminal cases from personal injury ones, or accidental vs. intentional injuries.

Was There ‘Intent’ to Cause Harm?

Unfortunately, people get injured all the time. Sometimes they hurt themselves, sometimes others hurt them, and sometimes the injuries are a direct result of an accident, such as a car accident or a workplace accident.

When someone is injured, it may give rise to a criminal case, a personal injury case, or it may give rise to both. Often it comes down to intent or the lack thereof. If someone intentionally harms someone else, he or she commits a crime and they can be prosecuted in criminal court – this is often referred to as criminal responsibility.

If someone accidentallyinjures or kills someone else, it may or may not be considered illegal. For example, if a doctor is operating on someone and they “accidentally” nick a nearby organ, which causes the patient to bleed to death, the surgeon won’t necessarily be prosecuted in criminal court.

In the case of the surgeon’s medical negligence, the patient’s surviving family members would have the right to file a wrongful death claim against the surgeon, even though the surgeon was not charged with manslaughter.

Essentially, we can all be held legally accountable when we injure someone else, even if it was a complete accident. In these cases, the injured party can file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault party, whose negligence caused the victim’s injuries.

When the At-Fault Party is Arrested

What if the at-fault party does get arrested for injuring another person? Even when an at-fault party is arrested for a crime, such as Driving While Intoxicated (DWI), the arrest and criminal prosecution do not bar the victim from filing a personal injury lawsuit against the drunk driver.

Let’s look at another scenario: Suppose a woman was sexually assaulted at her work. Not only did she receive medical treatment, she was able to work for months because of the trauma, and she experienced Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) afterward.

Whether or not the woman’s attacker is caught, there’s a strong likelihood that she could file a personal injury lawsuit against her employer for damages. Basically, there are many situations where a crime victim can still file a personal injury claim, regardless of the fate of the offender.

Were you injured due to someone else’s intentional or accidental actions? Either way, contact our firm to discuss filing a claim for compensation!

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